By Yiannis Devetzoglou
Melomakarona are small, amazingly aromatic, syrupy cookies. Each bite is so deliciously Christmassy and will become an instant personal favorite! If there was one Greek cookie that just says “Christmas,” melomakarona would be it.
Though the name is hard to pronounce, melomakarona are not very hard to make. This is an oil-based, cake-like cookie recipe that produces moist flavored with orange and brandy, bathed in sweet honey syrup and topped with chopped walnuts. Typical ingredients of the melomakarono are flour or semolina, sugar, orange zest and/or its fresh juice, cognac, cinnamon and olive oil. Immediately after baking, they are immersed for a few seconds in cold syrup made of honey and sugar dissolved in water. Finally, they are decorated with ground, as well as bigger pieces of walnut. Dark chocolate-covered melomakarona are also a more recent variation recipe, but it is not the traditional one.
Kourabiedes resemble a weightless shortbread, buttery, crumbly, sweet, but not too sweet, typically made with almonds and topped with a lot powdered sugar. Usually the dough is flavored with brandy, vanilla, mastic or rose water. Like snowballs kourabiedes are shaped either into crescents or balls, then baked till slightly golden. They are usually rolled in powdered sugar while still hot, forming a rich butter-sugar coating.
Where you can find the best of the best
Kourabiedes and melomakarona can even be found in kiosks at this season. We have tasted lots of them and here is some of the most traditional money can buy “a piece of art”.
Kourambiedes are just perfect! Not too sweet, with a seductive aroma of fresh butter and just the right amount of coarsely ground almonds. There are regular and bite-sized versions.
You can find two versions of Kourambie, one with powdered sugar, and another fully covered in dark chocolate but both crisper, sweeter and made without nuts. (Pastry Shop, Dimosthenous 147, Kallithea, tel. +30 216-700.6518).
Melomakarona are traditionally made, full of flavor, sweet like a childhood memory.
* Pavlou (Pastry Shop, Papadiamantopoulou 24, Ilissia, tel. +30 210-7774.012).
* The bakers (Bakery, Leof. Vouliagmenis 270, Agios Dimitrios, and 5 more shops) offers the best Melomakarona.
For those who are fans of orange-blossom water, Kyveli’s bite-sized cookies are superb (https://cheesecake.gr). And for those who wish to avoid sugar. Apart from the traditional recipe, make another one, without sugar in the actual cookie and just a sprinkle of coarse sugar on top, as well as a third version suitable for diabetics, which uses fructose instead of sugar and does not have a powdered sugar coating.