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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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Thanksgiving Around the World

Thanksgiving

Photo UC Davis Health System

Few holidays have more of a food-focus than Thanksgiving.  

Ask any child what the most remarkable thing about Thanksgiving is and they’ll tell you it’s the quantity of food that is consumed around the dining room table, from the massive turkey to the creamy pumpkin pies.  

But it is important to remember that the real message of Thanksgiving – for harried parents and hungry kids – is gratitude, and gratitude is a common sentiment across cultures.  

While there may not be Pilgrims or cranberries fresh from a can, many nations have some sort of “thanksgiving” celebration in which they show their gratitude for a successful harvest. 

Pongal is a harvest festival in South India that celebrates the contributions of people, the sun, the rain, and even the cattle in providing a successful harvest.  

The Pongal Festival lasts for four days in mid-January.  On the first day, old clothes are thrown away or burned to indicate that a new life has begun.  

On the second day, rice or milk is boiled in new pots until it boils over.  This signifies the hope that the new harvest will produce plenty of food for everyone.  

On the third day, families wash and adorn their cows and buffalo to show their appreciation for the animals’ labor in producing a good harvest. 

Finally, on the fourth day families celebrate with a picnic.

In China and Vietnam, families celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, in September with a feast.  

The highlights of the meal are mooncakes, spongy cakes made from bean paste or lotus and imprinted with designs.  

The holiday is also marked by carrying lanterns and revering the moon.

Many people in Africa celebrate in late August when the first crop of the season, the yam, is harvested.  

People wear masks, often made from grass and leaves, listen to music, and dance.  

In Ghana, the celebration is called the Homowo Festival and it literally means “hooting at hunger.”

However and whenever you celebrate, it’s always worthwhile to give thanks and share with others. 

Moon Festival

IndoChina Oddyssey Tours

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