You can’t properly celebrate Christmas in a Greek home if there are no kourabiedes and melomakarona on the table. Custom calls for these two traditional sweets that can turn any family gathering into an almond and cinnamon honey-drizzled sensation made in heaven. If you haven’t already bulk-ordered from your mum or loyal Greek baker, Greece’s favourite chef Akis Petretzikis has two easy recipes that will help you make the most delicious Christmassy desserts that will crumble in your mouth at first bite.
250 g butter, at room temperature
75 g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rosewater
300 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50 g almonds, raw
150 g almonds, toasted and ground
pinch of salt
– To decorate:
1. Preheat oven to 175° C (fan)
2. In a large bowl, add the butter, icing sugar, vanilla extract, and rosewater.
3. Whisk thoroughly until the mixture becomes fluffy and all ingredients are well combined.
4. Add the flour and baking powder, toasted ground almonds, and salt.
5. Mix with your hands until the ingredients are completely combined.
6. Shape the mixture into round balls that are 25 g each. Make a small indentation in the center of each biscuit with your finger.
7. Transfer to two baking pans lined with parchment paper.
8. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden.
9. When ready, remove from oven and set them aside to cool for at least 30 minutes.
10. Then spray with rosewater and dust with icing sugar.
* Note: To toast the almonds in the oven, simply preheat to 180°C (fan) and bake for 10-15 minutes.
These amazingly aromatic little cakes are a traditional Greek Christmas sweet called melomakarona. Your house will be filled with aromas of orange, honey, cinnamon, and cloves. Each bite is so deliciously Christmassy; it will become an instant personal favourite.
For the syrup
500 ml water
800 g granulated sugar
150 g honey
3 cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
1 orange, halved
400 ml orange juice
400 ml sunflower oil
180 ml olive oil
50 g castor sugar
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
grated zest of two oranges
1 kilo all-purpose flour
200 g fine semolina
– For the syrup
1. Boil all of the ingredients for the syrup, apart from honey, until sugar melts. Remove from heat. Add the honey and mix till combined.
2. Let the syrup cool for 3-4 hours: it must be cold by the time the biscuits come out of the oven. You can prepare the syrup the day before.
– For the biscuits
1. Preheat the oven to 190° C (fan).
2. To make the biscuits, prepare two separate mixtures.
3. For the first mixture, add all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix using a hand whisk.
4. In a separate bowl, add all of the ingredients for the second mixture.
5. Combine the first and second mixtures.
6. Mix gently by hand for a very short time (10 seconds at most). If you mix longer the mixture will split or curdle.
7. Mould biscuit dough into oval shapes, 3-4 cm long, 30 g each. Try to keep them as similar as possible.
8. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until they are crunchy and dark golden brown.
9. As soon as you remove them from the oven, soak the hot biscuits in the syrup for 10 seconds.
10. Allow them to drain on a wire rack.
11. Drizzle with honey and chopped walnuts.
* Note: Be careful not to overwork the biscuit dough: the oil may start to seep out and then they won’t turn out crispy. The orange used for the syrup should be a whole fresh orange, cut in half.