Melomakarona Christmas cookies

Recipe Corner: Melomakarona: Greek Christmas Cookies

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The melomakarona is an egg-shaped Greek dessert consisting of flour or semolina, sugar, orange zest and/or fresh juice, cognac (or similar beverage), cinnamon and olive oil. During rolling they are often filled with ground walnuts. made mainly from flour, olive oil, and honey. Along with the kourabiedes, it is a traditional dessert prepared primarily during the Christmas holiday season. They are also known as Finikia in some Greek regions.

Analida Braeger, the creator at Analida’s Ethnic Spoon food blog loves these traditional Greek Christmas cookies. “The Greek Church in my town hosts an annual Greek Festival during the first week of July. It’s always very hot outside, but no one seems to mind. Sometimes the traffic is backed up over a mile away. The grounds are packed with thousands of people eating mouthwatering Greek food, drinking ouzo, dancing to traditional music, and shopping for Greek products, foods, and wares. One item that has stood out for me year after year were these famous melomakarona cookies,” she says.

“After I had my share of savory Greek foods at the festival, it was time for the desserts. These sweet cookies were served on a plate with three other Greek desserts. They stood out because they smelled and tasted just like honey. Once I returned home, I knew I had to learn how to make the recipe. Now I’m able to share them with you, and I know you’ll want to make and enjoy them all year long. Melomakarona is a combination of the two words ‘meli,’ which means honey and ‘makarona.’ ‘Makarona’ comes from the ancient word, ‘makaria’ and means blessed,” she adds.

Rob Waters writes, “Few countries love honey and revere beekeepers more than Greece, and perhaps no country has a deeper history in this craft. It’s woven throughout Greek mythology and cooking.”  In Greek mythology, bees were supposed to be the messengers of the gods and honey to be a source of wisdom and poetry. Honey was rumored to provide unbelievable powers. Therefore, in the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer it was mentioned, that the gods of Olympus lived on honey (nectar) and honey wine (ambrosia). In Greek the word “nectar” means “victory over death,” and Ambrosia stands for “immortality.” It is said that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty, used honey and beeswax for her beauty masks.

“These cookies are moist, crisp and bursting with flavor. Your home will be filled with the smells of Christmas with orange, honey, cinnamon, and cloves. Everyone will enjoy them, and trust me, these cookies will disappear in a blink,” says Analida.

“I have a few tips for you to make sure they turn out perfect every time,” says Analida. “First, you’ll want to make sure your syrup is totally cooled when your Greek cookies come out of the oven. I recommend making it first. You can even make it the day before. It will keep just fine in the fridge.”

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“When it’s time to form the dough into cookies, be gentle with it. If you apply too much pressure or overwork it, the oil will start to seep out and your mixture might separate.

Shape the dough into flattened egg shapes and carefully use a fork to make a crosshatch pattern. This will help the cookies to absorb the syrup. For the best flavor, I recommend using authentic Greek honey. Chefs say it’s the best-tasting honey in the world. I agree with them…”

Analida Braeger and her husband, Tom

Ingredients:

Cookie dough:

1 medium orange, zested

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup olive oil

1 cup vegetable oil

6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon  baking soda

1 pinch salt

3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup brandy, optional

 

Soaking syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 cup honey

1 1/2 cups water

1 stick  cinnamon

4 whole cloves

2 slices lemon rind

 

Garnishes:

1 cup  walnuts, finely chopped

1 teaspoon cinnamon for lightly dusting over cookies

 

Preparation:

Prepare the cookie dough:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the sugar for the cookie dough in a bowl and press the orange zest into the sugar with a fork until well combined. Place the sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a beater blade on slow, add the olive and vegetable oils until well combined.

Add the orange juice and brandy to the mixing bowl and continue to mix until well combined.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour to the mixing bowl one cup at a time. The mixture will start to pull away from the edge of the bowl and form a soft dough. It should be somewhat dense and not loose, runny or sticky.

Using a cookie scoop that holds approximately one tablespoon take a slightly heaping scoop. Drop the scoop into your palm, roll a ball then squeeze to an egg shape.

Place the dough ball on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press with a fork to make a crisscross pattern. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. The bottoms will be more brown.

Make the syrup:

While the cookies are baking, make the syrup in a sauce pan. Add the honey, sugar, water, lemon rind, and cloves to the pan. Stir to combine and set the heat to medium-high.

Bring to a boil then set the heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes, uncovered. Allow to cool, remove the cloves and lemon rinds and get a large slotted spoon ready to soak the cookies.

Soak and garnish the cookies: Once the first batch of cookies come out and the second is baking, soak each cookie in the syrup. Drop them in for 10-15 seconds. Flip them over and soak for another 10-15 seconds. It is fine to soak them while they are still warm. Repeat for each batch.

Remove them from the liquid with a slotted spoon and place on a tray. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts while they are still wet and sticky from soaking. Lightly press the walnuts into the tops. Lightly dust some cinnamon on top of each cookie, if desired.

See ethnic recipes from around the world at Analida’s Ethnic Spoon with easy to follow step by step photos and instructions. Food, culture, history and languages, simmered and stirred. For Analida’s Recipe Index, go to: https://ethnicspoon.com/recipe-index/

Also see:

“Honey in mythology and ancient Greece” at:

https://www.terra-greca.be/uncategorized/honey-in-mythology-and-ancient-greece/#:~:text=In%20Greek%20mythology%2C%20bees%20were,and%20honey%20wine%20(ambrosia).

https://www.zingermanscommunity.com/2020/10/trea-wildflower-honey-from-greece/

https://www.dianekochilas.com/5-uses-for-greek-honey/

https://www.themediterraneandish.com/melomakarona-greek-cookies/

For this recipe, go to:

https://ethnicspoon.com/melomakarona-greek-christmas-cookies/

 

Analida’s Ethnic Spoon recipes have been featured on Business Insider, Buzzfeed, Food Gawker, PopSugar, Yummly and many other sites.

Note: A portion of Analida’s website revenue is used to fight world hunger as part of her family’s Catholic Christian faith and mission. Please consider a sustaining gift to  <https://www.marysmealsusa.org/en/> Mary’s Meals, and read their story of hope they bring. Matthew 25:40: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Go to:  https://www.marysmealsusa.org/en/

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