Sunday, 13 December 2015

Melomakarona (Μελομακάρονα)

You know those brightly-coloured Christmas Butter Cookies? The ones with sprinkles, and glitter, and frosting? The ones shaped like candy canes and Christmas trees and snowflakes? Yea, well, those cookies were NEVER part of our holidays. For me and my family (and most Greek families), Christmas meant helping my mom make traditional Greek cookies: 

 Μελομακάρονα (honey-dipped cookies)
There are also a few more traditional Christmas recipes, none of which I have ever made before, but would still like to attempt at some point, like Κουραμπιέδες (Butter cookies with powdered sugar)  and Δίπλες (folded sheets of dough).

My point is, my sister and I were never brought up with the Pinterest worthy Holiday Cookies, so we never make them. Instead, we help our mom make large batches of the kourabiedes and the melomakarona. Personally, I don’t really care for the kourabiedes—too sugary for my taste. Which is why this year I only made the melomakarona.

Fun Fact: when I called up my mother to ask for her melomakarona recipe, she sent me over something that didn’t have any real measurements—a glass of this, a pinch of that, and “add as much flour as the mixture can handle” (what does that even mean?). Fortunately, we were able to rewrite most of the recipe using precise measurements—although, it was still up to me to figure out how much flour it needed (we estimated about 1.5kg, but it took about 1.3kg).

TIP: I halved the recipe from the original, but maybe I should have made a third of it instead. In any case, if you think that 70 cookies are way too many, just half my recipe.


Makes about 65-70 cookies

4 large Oranges, zested/ 8oz Orange Juice
450g Walnuts, (finely chop half, and roughly chop half)
16 oz Vegetable Oil/ OR 8oz Vegetable Oil and 8oz Shortening
227g Unsalted Butter (softened)
2 tsp Baking Soda
3 Egg Yolks
1.3 kg Unbleached Plain Flour, sifted (you may need a bit more or less depending on consistency)

1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Cloves
½ tsp Nutmeg

1 cup Sugar
1 cup Water
3 cups Honey

1. Zest and juice your Oranges. You should have about 8oz Orange Juice. If not, then zest and juice as many as you need to reach that volume. Place your Orange Juice in a large glass or large bowl (you’ll see why in the next step)

2. Add 2 tsp of Baking Soda to your Orange Juice (it should fizzle as it releases gas)
3. Cream your Oil, Butter (and shortening if you are using it), and Sugar.
4. Add your egg yolks and continue to mix. Then add the O J/Baking Soda, and the orange zest.
5. Begin to add your sifted flour and knead lightly with your hands. Try not to overmix. OK here is when it gets just a bit tricky. After you have incorporated all of the 1.3kg Flour, mould a cookie into an oval shape and place in the oven at 180C/350F—if it spreads too much, then add a bit more flour to your mixture and do the test again; if it stays the same shape, then go on to next step.
6. Place your dough into the fridge for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 180C/350F, and line your cookie sheets with wax paper (you don’t have to use wax paper because the cookies have enough oil, but I do, because it means less cleaning up)
7. Filling: Roughly chop half of your walnuts and place into a bowl; add spices and mix. This will be your “filling” for the cookies.

8. After your dough has rested, take out of the fridge and begin to shape your cookies. I use about a tbsp. worth of dough to shape each cookie into an oval shape. Then take a small piece of walnut and insert it in the middle of your cookie. Evenly, but closely space out your cookies on your sheet (I had about 21-2 cookies on each sheet)
9. Bake for about 20-23 minutes. Cookies should have a light golden colour, and should have a darker golden colour on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack or place upside down on a plate to cool.
my kitchen is VERY small, so I had to put the cooling cookies in my living room while I continued to mould and bake the rest of the batter
10. Syrup:After all your cookies have cooled, start making your syrup. Combine Sugar, Water, and Honey in a pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and start to place your cookies inside the syrup (3-4 at a time depending on how large your pan is). Cookies should spend about 20s on each side in the syrup. Remove them using a slotted spoon, and place in a large platter or tray. Immediately sprinkle the finely chopped walnuts over the cookies. Repeat for all cookies.
20s for each side

(Personally, I like to honey-dip half a batch, and store the rest in an airtight container. Once the honey-dipped batch is eaten, I then proceed with the rest.)


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