One of the most popular traditional Greek Christmas delicacies is the melomakarono. A delicious, honey soaked biscuit (cookie) with spices and walnuts.
Christmas in Greece is not Christmas without melomakarona (plural for melomakarono) and kourabiedes. I shared a recipe for those little sugar dusted guys last year, and now I’m going for their honey syrup soaked partners. These traditional cookies make their appearance around the beginning of December and stay around until after the New Year. There is no home in the country that doesn’t have a tray of each on the dining table for the whole festive period. Many people make their own melomakarona but they are also very popular to buy in bakeries and patisseries. For some reason they feel a little intimidating, but actually they aren’t difficult at all to make. The tricky part for most is getting the syrup right, sometimes they might be too dry, sometimes they might be too gooey. I think the method I’ve used is pretty spot on, so please give them a go and enjoy a bit of Greekness this Christmas!
This recipe is by my friend Artemis’ mother. Artemis posted it on her blog Wonderfoodland, and you can see the original post here. I have changed the quantities and I’ve used a slightly different recipe for the syrup (by chef Vangelis Driskas).
And finally, something very important. Please keep the syrup that you have left over in the pan. I will be posting a very interesting recipe for using it up later on!
200 ml olive oil
100 gr sugar
4 Tbs brandy
4 Tbs orange juice, freshly squeezed
zest of 1 small orange
1 tsp cinnamon
390 gr all purpose flour + a bit more if needed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
60 gr walnuts, very finely chopped
For the syrup
200 ml honey
200 ml sugar
200 ml water
1/2 an orange
Preheat oven to 180C fan assisted. Beat the olive oil, sugar, brandy, orange juice, orange zest and cinnamon with a stand mixer for a good 10 minutes.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl, then add to the liquids after beating. Mix only until smooth. The dough will be oily and wet, but not sticky. It will hold together even though you might think it’s too wet. If it doesn’t hold together, add some more flour. Take 2 tablespoons worth of dough and shape into a ball. Then curl your fingers around it so it takes an oblong shape. Place the cookie onto a lined baking tray and repeat with the rest of the dough. Space them apart a bit because they will rise. With a fork prick the cookies down their length. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until dark golden all over. Mine took 17 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely. I left them overnight and made the syrup the next day.
To make the syrup, put the honey, sugar, water and half orange into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 7-8 minutes. Turn the heat very low, remove the orange and dunk a third of the cold biscuits in at a time. They need to be in for about a minute, max a minute and a half, and flipped over during this time. So pop them in and start taking them out after a minute. That way by the time you get to the last ones in the pan you won’t have gone over the time too much. Don’t do more than about 8 cookies at a time. Remove them from the syrup using a slotted spoon or fork, and place them on a plate. Don’t stack them just yet. Sprinkle very generously with most of the walnuts. Let cool for about half an hour and then turn each one over. This way the syrup will be distributed evenly in the biscuit. Leave for a few hours then turn back over, re-sprinkle with the rest of the walnuts and stack them onto one plate. Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap). They keep at room temperature for ages.
Note: I have a feeling that leaving the biscuits out overnight before soaking them in the syrup helps them absorb it better. Just like it’s best to use dry bread for bread pudding. If you don’t have time for that, at least make sure they are stone cold before moving to that step.
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I never thought to include Brandy in my melomakarona. I’ll have to try it next year. These look amazing!
I’d say it’s one of the main ingredients! Mine are all gone now.. Shame they are only eaten at Christmas, although I think that’s what makes them special 🙂 Have a great 2016!