The Origin Of The Greek Honey Cookies
These Greek Honey Cookies or as we call them in Greece Melomakarona, go way back in time. At first, they used to be called "Makaronia" (Ancient Greek word for dead soul pie). They were served, during medieval times in a form of a dry piece of the pie (without syrup and honey) at a dinner that followed a funeral. Later on, they became a Traditional Greek Christmas Cookie.
And how they ended up representing such a happy time like Christmas after being a funeral cookie? That's because of the addition of honey ("Meli" in Greek) which since Ancient Greek times, used to be a symbol of longevity and creation. Exactly what people hoped the new year would bring them.
Today, there is no Christmas without them. They are in every Greek home during Christmas time, along with Kourabiethes (Greek almond shortbread cookies).
What Do They Taste Like?
Imagine a bigger, oval-shaped gingerbread cookie, that has been soaked in syrup, then coated with honey and plenty of chopped walnuts (only without the ginger). They are bursting with flavors and aromas. Soft on the inside, so sweet from the honey, and then a nutty walnut crunchiness kicks in. Their dough also contains plenty of olive oil, honey and fine semolina (to make them more crumbly).
In my 25 years of Greek Christmas celebrations, I never came across a person who would say he doesn't like "Melomakarona". And that's a really good point to prove how delicious these Greek Honey Cookies really are.
How To Make The Greek Honey Cookies
The dough takes only 5 minutes to make and it only requires some hand mixing. You then shape it into oval-egg shaped cookies. Using either a knife or a hand grater you create criss-cross lines (to make them even more pretty). Then lay on a parchment paper-covered pan and bake until golden brown.
And right as they come out of the oven, you dip them in batches in warm honey syrup (that you've prepared while they were baking). Transfer them to a cooling rack, to drain excess syrup. Then serve drizzled with plenty of honey and ground walnuts on top!
And here's a quick pic tutorial to help you out...
Melomakarona always go hand in hand with Kourabiethes. A Greek-style shortbread cookie that's flavored with brandy, filled with toasted walnuts, and coated with icing sugar.
Traditional Greek Honey Cookies (Melomakarona)
For The Cookie Dough:
- 125 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 125 ml olive oil
- 125 sunflower oil
- 50 ml honey
- 80 ml water
- 100 grams (½ cup) sugar
- 1 + ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground clove
- ⅓ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 orange zested
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 550 grams (4 + ⅔ cup) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 125 grams (⅔ cup + 1 tbsp) fine semolina
For The Syrup:
- 600 grams (3 cups) sugar
- 100 ml honey
- 450 ml water
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 4-5 dried cloves
- 1 orange peel
- ground walnuts
- In a mixing bowl combine flour, semolina and baking powder. Set aside.
- In another bowl add the remaining Cookie Dough ingredients and whisk well for 2 minutes. Untill everything is fully combined and the mixture starts to thicken.
- Start to add the flour mixture in batches. Mix the dough by hand until all of the flour mixture gets incorporated and the dough stops sticking on your hands. If it still leaves fragments on your hands dust a bit more flour in. The dough is should feel very soft and oily.
- Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge while you make the syrup.
For The Syrup:
- In a medium-sized cooking pot add all of the ingredients for the syrup.
- Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once it starts boiling reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes. Until it gets a syrupy consistency.
- NOTE: Do not stir syrup. Just shake the pot a few times.
Make The Cookies:
- Preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper on your oven's tray pan.
- Take a piece of the dough in your hands (about 40-45 grams). Squeze it a bit to remove any air and knead to a round ball.
- Give the ball an oval shape and flatten it slightly. Add to the pan.
- Shape the remaining dough into cookies the same way.
- With a knife make criss-cross lines on each cookie.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the cookies get a light brown color. Don't let them get too dark though as they won't absorb the syrup properly.
- Using a draining spoon dip the cookies into the syrup (about 5-6 cookies each time).
- Soak the cookies for a few seconds on each side and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool and drain any excess syrup. To know if the cookie has absorbed enough syrup hold one in your hands and press it gently between your fingers it should feel very soft and about to break apart. That's the desired texture for Melomakarona. Once they cool they will get firmer.
- Serve the Melomakarona cookies topped with plenty of honey and chopped walnuts on top.
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