When a mum hides cookies from her children because they are so good she cannot bear to share them, you know you are onto a winner. And that is exactly what happened when my sister Helena first made Melomakarona, with my other older sister Judith greedily stashing away the last cookies in a tupperware box to take home before my niece and nephews could get to them. And while Melomakarona are Greek rather than German, our annual Christmas cookie baking bonanza is now no longer complete without a batch of them.
Melomakarona are peculiar cookies. The dough is made with both butter and olive oil, and so much of either, that shaping them will leave your hands positively greasy. Which in a way is a good thing I think, because that at least gives me the perfect excuse as to why my melomakarona are never uniform in shape (but I suspect that even without greasy hands, it would be almost impossible for me to shape the very soft dough into uniform cookies). Also, as little sugar as there is in the dough itself, the resulting cookies are nonetheless tooth-achingly sweet thanks to being drenched in a sugar and honey syrup right after baking. And while technically they are cookies, their flavour and texture and that syrup bath always reminds me much more of baklava – delicious sweet little morsels that are perfect alongside some strong coffee, ideally the Greek kind of course.
What Christmas cookies are you baking this year? And what is your all time favourite Christmas cookie? In addition to Melomakarona, we are planning on making Elisenlebkuchen, Vanillekipferl, Dominosteine, Zimtsterne, maybe some coconut or hazelnut macaroons and maybe some Basler Schnitten. And if I find the time, I may even bake another Stollen.
Melomakarona – Greek Honey and Walnut Cookies
Barely adapted from Vefa Alexiadou “Greece – The Cookbook”
Note: The original recipe calls for olive oil instead of a more neutral oil like sunflower for example. I have made these cookies with both olive oil and sunflower oil and have not noticed a difference, so feel free to use whatever oil you have. If you do use olive oil, just make sure it is not one that is too strong in flavour as that may still come through in the baked cookies and clash with the other flavours.
Makes ca. 20 cookies
For the cookies
225g all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
90ml sunflower oil or a mild olive oil
50g butter, melted
60ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp brandy
1/2 tbsp orange zest
For the syrup
50g walnuts, roughly ground
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Form a well in the middle and pour in the oil, butter, orange juice, brandy and orange zest. Mix together until you have a soft dough (but resist the temptation to knead the dough!).
Using tablespoon sized portions, shape the dough into rough ovals and place on the prepared sheet pan. Bake for ca. 20 minutes or until the cookies are starting to brown.
During the last 5 minutes of the cookies’ baking time, make the syrup by bringing the honey, sugar and water to a boil until the sugar has dissolved. Continue boiling until the syrup has thickened a little bit (3-5 minutes).
As soon as the cookies come out of the oven place them in the hot syrup, turning once, and then return them to the sheet pan. Mix together the walnuts, cloves and cinnamon and scatter over the melomakarona.