Cookies 7: Melomakarona

MelomakaronaGreek families can’t celebrate Christmas – or New Year’s – without them.

Melomakarona, an ancient but delicious cookie, is also known as phoenikia and is thought to have come from the Phoenicians.

These honey-soaked cookies are easy to make and even easier to enjoy. Here’s a recipe from the Food section of the Washington Post, submitted by Katy Skoulas.

Mama Katy’s Melomakarona

Makes about 80 cookies

Ingredients:

For the dough

2 cups vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cognac

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

6 to 7 cups flour, or as needed

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch ground cloves

For the syrup

2 cups honey

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

For assembly

1 1/2 cups finely crushed walnuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

For the dough: Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 or 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

For the dough: Combine the oil, sugar, cognac, orange juice and citrus zests in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed to dissolve the sugar.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves on a large piece of wax paper. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture to the bowl until a very soft dough forms.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix in flour as needed until the dough is quite stiff; you should be able to take pinches of it and roll them into walnut-size balls. The balls can be smooth or coarsely shaped. Place them 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.

Bake 2 sheets at a time for a total of 25 minutes; about halfway through the baking, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. The cookies will be barely browned and firm to the touch. Keep them on their baking sheets. Repeat to use all the dough.

For the syrup: Combine the honey, sugar and water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then cook for 5 minutes, using a slotted spoon to skim off and discard the foam that forms on the top. Cook for a few minutes; the syrup will thicken slightly and deepen in color. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to keep the syrup warm.

For assembly: Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Lay a large piece of wax paper on the counter for the finished cookies. Spread the crushed walnuts on a large shallow plate and sprinkle with the cinnamon, stirring to combine.

Place 6 or 7 of the cookies at a time in the saucepan; allow them to sit long enough (2 to 3 minutes) to absorb some of the syrup, turning them as needed to coat evenly. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cookies to the rack for a minute or two, then transfer them to the walnut mixture; roll to coat evenly, then transfer to the wax paper to cool completely. Repeat to coat all the cookies; place the cookies in small paper baking cups. If desired, sprinkle any remaining nut mixture on top of the cookies.

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