Holiday Cookies: Traditional and Others…

Orange, cinnamon, and cloves are the main fragrances that pervade the kitchens around the world in the dark, winter days and long nights. Their sweet, enticing aromas set the mood for the upcoming holidays that mark the end of the year throughout most of the world.

 

 

Melomakarona, the traditional Greek, fragrant, honey-infused Christmas cookies are my favorites! They are vegan, because people ate them during the days of Lent that precede Christmas according to the Orthodox doctrines that some people follow, even if they are not religious. Now they are being rediscovered, as baking with olive oil has become trendy, and even the NYT published a version recently. I have slightly updated my mother’s recipe –which she had from her own mother– adding some ground nuts in the dough.

I think you will find these cookies irresistible, but if you manage to save them for later, they will get even better the next days. They keep for up to 1 month so you may want to double the recipe, especially if you bake melomakarona with friends, as we usually do.

An extra bonus of this aromatic but healthy dough is that you can use it as pie crust, filling it with cooked apples, quince, or make an irresistible lemony tart with just Lemon Curd as its filling. 

 

 

A recent favorite of ours is the old German Lebkuchen  which are fragrant with the enticing Lebkuchen Spice Mix.  It contains all kinds of spices, even ground coriander seeds, but strangely, no ginger! The blogger whose recipe I fam following, strangely calls it German Gingerbread Spice Mix, probably because she caters to Americans, for whom Lebkuchen is not a household name. My only addition to her recipe is an extra 2/3 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal because I don’t use the rice-paper wafers –difficult to find on our island—and wanted to make the dough somewhat thicker. Also, Costas and I prefer the cookies plain, or just drizzled with some bitter chocolate, so I skip the full dipping in chocolate the recipe calls for. (more…)

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Ginger-Grape Molasses Cookies

My take on the classic Ginger Snap Cookies, based on the recipe of King Arthur Baking.

I reduced the amount of sugar in the mix since the topping makes them far too sweet, anyway. Also I choose to make them with olive oil, instead of any ‘shortening,’ and of course I use grated fresh ginger that gives them a lovely, fragrant kick.

As for the ‘molasses’ mentioned, the only kind we have here is Grape Molasses, which have a wonderfully deep flavor. In Greece the traditional Moustokouloura (grape molasses cookies) are vegan –no egg– as they are a favorite Lenten treat. But frankly, these gingery ones are far better-tasting and easier (!)

 

 

As for the ‘molasses’ mentioned, the only kind we have here is Grape Molasses, which has a wonderfully deep flavor. In Greece the traditional Moustokouloura (grape molasses cookies) are vegan –no egg– as they are a favorite Lenten treat. But frankly, these gingery ones are far better-tasting and easier (!)

 

 

 For about 3 dozen cookies (more…)

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TAHINOPITES: Tahini, Cinnamon, and Walnut Cookies, in Lemon Syrup

Traditionally made in Cyprus before Easter, during the spring Lent – when all foods deriving from animals are prohibited – tahinopites are 6-7-inch round, syrupy breads, coiled and stuffed with a tahini mixture. As the coiled tahinopites bake, the thin layer of dough cracks and the stuffing oozes out, caramelizing; these crunchy, darkened, sugary tahini bits are the best bites.

Why not have more of the best parts of the pie? I decided to shape the dough differently in order to increase the caramelized area. The results are bite-size, cookie-like tahinopites — a kind of Eastern Mediterranean Cinnamon Rolls. It is important to get the highest quality tahini paste for these cookies. They taste best made a day in advance.  As they cool, they absorb and fully incorporate the lemony syrup.

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Makes about 56 cookies

(more…)
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Kean Amygdalota (Flourless Almond Cookies)

The flourless almond cookies of Kea are traditional festive treats prepared for weddings and christenings and for other joyous family occasions. They are the perfect kosher-for-Passover sweet, as a participant in our classes pointed out, watching my neighbor Zenovia prepare amygdalota.

 

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Most people now use blanched almonds, but I find that, although less attractive, cookies made with whole, un-skinned nuts are equally delicious, not to mention a bit less labor-intensive — if you’re starting from the harvest-field. (more…)

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Amygdalota: Lemon-scented, Stovetop Flourless Almond Cookies

Traditionally these fragrant cookies are scented with orange flower water, but I prefer to use the very aromatic zest of my lemons. They can also be made with tangerines, when in season. I use lemons from my garden or organic lemons in my recipes. If you cannot find organic lemons, wash your lemons thoroughly.

See also the Flourless Kean Almond Cookies

 

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Makes About 50 Cookies (more…)

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