These healthy sesame seed cookies are a favorite here in Greece during Greek Lent. The 40 days of fasting before Easter. These Sesame cookies or in Greek Koulourakia, are free of dairy, made with olive oil, and flavored with orange.
They're as crunchy as they can get with beautiful earthy flavors.
In Greece when we say Koulourakia we usually refer to chunky cookies with a hole in the middle. Though we also call our Easter cookies the same way (Koulourakia Pashalina) which are not necessarily made with a hole in the middle but in all different shapes as you can see in this recipe for Easter Koulourakia.
How Do These Sesame Seed Cookies Taste Like?
Their texture is similar to that of biscotti, and their flavor is nutty. Because of the sesame and also from the olive oil. They have a more earthy sweetness because they're sweetened with honey and brown sugar but also thickened orange juice.
Thickened orange juice is simply fresh orange juice that has been reduced down to ⅓. Therefore looking a bit like a light orange syrup. Using thickened orange juice gives a stronger orange flavor to the cookies.
How To Make Sesame Seed Koulourakia
Simply mix together all of the ingredients inside a bowl as instructed in the recipe below. Then take small pieces of the dough and shape them into small cords. Roll these cords over sesame seeds. Then lightly wet the tips of your fingers with a little bit of water and press the ends of the cords to stick together and form a round holed cookie.
Bake in a parchment-covered tray pan until they get a deep golden/lightest brown color. Then you have to let the cookies cool down completely at room temperature before storing them in an airtight container or cookie tin.
The moment these cookies get out of the oven they are going to be softer than their final texture. As they have to cool down completely to get really crunchy. This is done by letting the cookies air-dry uncovered for a couple of hours at room temperature (at least 3) for real crunchy results.
Sesame Seed Cookies With Olive Oil (Koulourakia)
- 150 ml (¾ cup) olive oil
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) water
- 250 ml (1 cup) orange juice fresh
- 2 oranges zested
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 5 tablespoons brown sugar
- 100 grams (about ¼ cup) honey
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 500 grams (3 cups + 2 tbsp) all purpose flour (may need a bit more)
- 150 grams (10-12 tbsp) sesame seeds
- Add the fresh orange juice to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Drop the heat to medium and cook until juice reduces down to 70-80 ml (⅓ of a cup). The cooked orange juice is going to look like a light syrup. The purpose of this is to give a stronger orange flavor to the cookies.
- In a large mixing bowl add the orange juice and all of the remaining ingredients except the flour and sesame. Stir vigorously with a whisk for 2 minutes.
- Add the flour in batches and mix the dough with your hands. You should end up with a soft and elastic dough that's easily kneadable. If the dough still leaves fragments on your hands add a little bit more flour to it.
- Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rest at room temperature for 15-20 while you preheat the oven.
- Preheat oven to 170°C / 338°F.
- After resting time has passed, take small parts of the dough (about a tablespoon) and shape them into a round ball. Then on a clean surface start to roll the ball into a small cord about 17 cm (6-7-inch) long.
- Add sesame seeds to a large flat dish. Place a small glass with water next to it.
- Roll the dough cord over the sesame seeds pressing lightly as you go to help the sesame seeds stick on the dough. Dip your fingertips in the water and wet the ends of the cord very slightly, then press the two ends of the cord to stick together and form a holed cookie.
- Transfer cookie to a sheet pan or baking pan covered with parchment paper.
- Repeat the process until you have enough cookies to fill the pan. Leaving about 2-3 cm space between each cookie. Ideally bake the cookies in two batches so each batch bakes properly all over.
- Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes. Or until the cookies get a deep golden/ light brown color on top. The sesame seeds won't get much if any color at all.
- Once the cookies are baked, remove the pan from the oven but leave the cookies on the pan until they're cool enough to the touch. As you will need to carefully transfer the cookies with your hands to avoid all the sesame falling off of them.
- Let cookies cool down for a few hours at room temperature. While the cookies are still warm they're going to feel soft in the center. You have to let them cool down and air-dry for at least 3 hours at room temperature. Then store in a cookie tin or airtight food container to keep nice and crunchy. As there is no dairy in these cookies they won't spoil. So you can keep for up to a few months if kept closed airtightly.
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