No Greek home is complete around the Christmas holidays without two kinds of cookies that are synonymous with a Greek Christmas— the white powdery butter cookies known as kourambiedes and melomakarona, those honey-dipped, walnut covered treasures.
We didn’t have to go very far to find a perfect— yet simple recipe for melomakarona (also called finikia in some parts of Greece).
We headed to Estiatorio Loi, the Midtown Manhattan eponymous restaurant of Maria Loi who was quick to share her secrets— and her original recipe that her mother passed down to her.
The secret to the perfect cookie, according to Loi is to drop the cookies into the honey straight out of the oven when they’re still piping hot. Many people make the mistake to cook the cookies first and then drop them for soaking into the honey.
Ingredients – Cookie Dough:
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ teaspoon of baker’s ammonia
2 cups olive oil
5 cups AP flour
½ teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups of fine semolina flour
1 cup of confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup of cognac
2 tablespoons of orange zest
Pinch of salt
Ground walnuts, for garnish
Ingredients – Syrup:
4 cups water
4 cups white sugar
2 cups honey
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
peel of one orange
Add all the syrup ingredients to a medium saucepan, stir to combine, and cook over high heat until the sugar dissolves and it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, reserve.
Add the orange juice, baker’s ammonia, and olive oil to a large mixing bowl, and mix to fully combine.
In another large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, semolina flour, and sugar; add orange zest and salt, and mix to fully combine.
Form a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients bowl, and slowly alternate adding the cognac and the orange juice-olive oil mixture. While adding the liquids, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients, lightly kneading to combine into a soft dough.
Portion out the dough using a tablespoon, and form them into cookies. Bake at 360o F for about 20-25 minutes.
Optional: If you feel so inclined before baking, lightly press one of the sides of the cookie on the side of a box grater with the small holes, or a mesh strainer, to create a design on the surface.
Remove the melomakarona from the oven; while hot, dip a few of the cookies at a time in the reserved syrup – allow them to absorb the syrup, then remove with a slotted spoon onto a pastry rack.
Place cookies on a platter, sprinkle with ground walnuts, serve and enjoy!