A new tradition is born! While doing an internet search for kourabiedes, the Greek cookies my family eats on special occasions, I stumbled upon several recipes for melomakarona- Greek Christmas cookies. And I simply cannot figure out why we haven’t been baking them every year. They’re simply everything you want in a Christmas cookie: citrus-y, bright, sweet, nutty and warm with cinnamon and clove. You could easily make them vegan by subbing in thick, Grade-B maple syrup for honey.
You make them by throwing together the hardest, most terrible olive oil shortbread, then pouring copious amounts of spiced honey syrup over it. The little cookies eagerly drink the syrup and it gives them a soft, delicate texture.
A few notes: I made them using what I had, so no, this recipe is not strictly traditional, but it is close. You can make them look more authentic by forming the dough into eggs instead of balls. They get better with time! The honey preserves the shortbread and I’ve read that they will last up to a month, though you’ll be hard pressed not to eat them all within a couple days.
Greek Christmas Cookies (Μελομακάρονα)
-makes about 80 small cookies
for the shortbread:
1 cup good olive oil
1 cup grapeseed oil
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup bourbon
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
zest of 2 unwaxed oranges
7 cups AP flour*
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
For the syrup:
1 cup honey (the runny variety)
1 cup raw cane sugar
1 1/4 cups fresh ginger tea
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick (didn’t use it, didn’t miss it)
5 whole cloves
rind of half a small lemon
For the garnish:
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1. Whisk together the oils, sugar, and juice in a small bowl until well combined.
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pour wet into dry and fold together until a dough forms.
3. Refrigerate your dough for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350. Pinch off pieces of dough that are about a heaping Tablespoon in size- I believe each of mine weighed 22g. Roll into balls and press down gently on the top with a fork like you would if you were making peanut butter cookies.
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly golden all over.
6. While the cookies bake, make the syrup. Bring all the ingredients to a boil, skim off any foam, then simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Arrange cookies on a vessel with a lip. While the syrup is still warm, pour it- all of it!- evenly over the cookies.
8. Flip them over to get a good, sticky surface on the top, then put them back flat side down. Sprinkle them with the crushed walnuts and a light dusting of cinnamon. Let them sit in the syrup until it’s all soaked about (should take an hour or so).
*You may need more flour if your dough looks overly oily. Don’t panic if the oil separates out of the dough after you refrigerate it. Just gently fold it back in.