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 orange juice fresh
- 250 grams / 8.8 oz olive oil (or half olive oil half sunflower oil for lighter flavor)
- 50 grams / 1.7 oz honey
- 80 ml water
- 100 grams (½ cup) sugar
- 1 + ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground clove
- ⅓ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon vanillin powder or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 orange zested
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 125 grams (⅔ cup + 1 tbsp) fine semolina
- 550 grams (4 + ⅔ cup) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
For The Syrup:
- 600 grams (3 cups) sugar
- 100 grams / 3.5 oz honey
- 450 ml water
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 4-5 dried cloves
- 1 orange peel
- ground walnuts
- In a large mixing bowl add all of the cookie dough ingredients except the semolina, flour, and baking powder. Stir the mixture very well using a whisk until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the semolina and stir to incorporate it into the mixture as well.
- In a separate bowl combine the flour and baking powder. And add to the bowl as well.
- This time mix with your hands for a couple of minutes. In the beginning, it's going to look like the dough needs more flour. But as you mix, it will come together.
- You'll end up with a very soft and oily dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside while you prepare the syrup.
For The Syrup:
- In a small-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 5-6 minutes. Until it gets a syrupy consistency.
- NOTE: Do not stir syrup.
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). Squeeze it a bit to remove any air and shape it into 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. If needed cook for 2-3 minutes more until they get the desired color. But be careful to not overbake them.
- Using a draining spoon dip the cookies into the syrup in small batches at a time.
- Let the cookies soak for a few seconds on each side and then transfer them to a cooling rack. To cool and drain any excess syrup. NOTE: To check if a 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.
- You can store them either in an airtight food container or a serving plate covered with parchment paper, at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
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