Christmas is not Christmas without Melomacarona in Greece. These spice-scented, syrup- drenched cookies with hints of orange and honey (the “Melo” in the name comes from “Μέλι” = honey) are everywhere during the holidays.This recipe makes a cake-like moist cookie sweet with cinnamon, filled with minced walnuts, and scented with orange and a little liquor.
This is a project, but not a difficult one. It makes a mountain of cookies, and the house smells fantastic for days afterwards. A nice plus- in a season of butter and eggs, this is a cookie vegans will love.
Boil together for 4-5 minutes, untilsugar is disolved:
3 C sugar
3 C water
half of an orange with its peel
4 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
2/3 C honey
Let cool completely.
In a your largest bowl, blend-
1/3 C sugar
zest of 2 oranges
– until the oils are released and the sugar is like bright orange wet sand
1 C fine semolina
8 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T cinnamon (if you just opened it and it’s sweet and fresh. Otherwise 3)
nice pinch ground cloves
a few grinds of fresh nutmeg
In another bowl, blend:
1 2/3 C fresh orange juice
1 C vegetable oil
1 C good olive oil
3-4 tablespoons brandy or whiskey or whatever you like
Melomacarona need a light touch
Pour into the dry mixture and blend quickly and very lightly with your hands. If you over-mix or knead it, the oil will seep out of the dough. Be quick, decisive, casual.
2 C walnuts
a little cinnamon, a spoon full of sugar, a little booze to moisten
Now take a piece the size of a walnut, flatten it into a disc, and put a little nut mixture in the middle. Seal the dough around it into an oval, and mark with a cake cutter or fork or anything to make decorative indentations to hold the syrup.
Bake at 180 C/375 F for 22-25 minutes, until deep golden. They will lighten first, then darken again. Hot from the oven, put them into the syrup- bottom side down, then after a minute turn them over and leave them ten minutes. (Most recipes say ten seconds). Then let them drain on a rack.
They will be wet and sticky, but still crispy at first. The syrup will gradually seep into every crumb. Give them a few hours.
These rich cookies are eggless and butterless. Unlike so many classic holiday treats, these are perfect for Orthodox religious fasts, for vegans, and for those allergic to dairy or eggs.
Kourabiedes! Also eggless, but rich with butter. These are light, crumbling, snowy white, and the perfect counterpart to soft, dark, and spicy melomacarona. They also take less time. (Here’s how to make them.)