Kourambiedes – Toasted Almond Cookies

Traditionally prepared for Christmas, kourambiedes are supposed to be delicate melt-in-the-mouth treats. You find similar cookies in various Middle Eastern countries, often sprinkled with rose water or citrus flower water just before they are rolled in confectioner’s sugar. 

 

Kourabie S

Kourabie zaxari S

The old island recipes called for lard, as butter was not a common ingredient, while the special lard from the belly of the freshly slaughtered pork was used for these, and other festive winter sweets .

In most recipes from the mainland and the north kourambiedes are made with the strongly-flavored sheep’s milk butter, while there are also also somre Lenten versions made with olive oil.

Today most homes and bakeries prepare the cookies exclusively with butter, or a combination of butter, often with some sheep’s milk butter. I do love this old, Cycladic version which you can try if you can get good lard.

 

Makes about 30 large or 40 small cookies.

 

1/2 cup lard or butter, softened

 

1/2 cup light, mellow olive oil (not fruity)

 

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus about 2 cups to sprinkle on the cookies

 

1 egg yolk

 

Zest of 1 large lemon

 

3 tablespoons ouzo, Pernod, or any other anise-flavored liqueur

 

3 cups unbleached cake or all-purpose flour

 

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

 

½ teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)

 

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

1 cup coarsely ground toasted almonds (not skinned)

 

In a food processor or electric mixer, beat the lard or butter and olive oil with 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar for about 6 minutes. Add the egg yolk, lemon zest, and ouzo and process for 2-3 minutes more. Sift the flour with the baking powder and the pepper, if using. Fit the processor with a dough hook and gradually add the flour. Process the mixture for 2-3 minutes, until a soft dough forms. Add the almonds and process until the dough is smooth again, about 1-2 minutes more.

 

Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C).

 

Shape tablespoons of dough into round, oval, or crescent-shaped cookies, and place on a cookie sheet, leaving about 1 inch between the cookies so that they won’t stick together as they expand.

 

kourabie 015 S

Alternatively flatten the dough on the work surface making a square about 1/4 inch thick, and with small cookie cutters cut rounds, squares or crescents. Collect and flatten the leftover dough, then cut into shapes.

Kourabie tapsi S

Bake for about 25 minutes, until pale golden. Cool for 10 minutes.

 

Kourabie baked close S

Spread 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on a large serving plate. Very carefully, because they break easily, roll each cookie in the sugar, and place on a rack to cool. Proceed with all the cookies, adding more sugar to the plate as necessary.

 

Kourabie zaxari S

 

Finally, sift additional sugar on top of the cookies and let rest for 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Carefully pack the cookies in boxes, spreading a piece of waxed paper between each layer.

 

Toasted Almond Cookies will keep in an airtight jar for 2 months or longer.

 

 

 

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