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December 15, 2015

Melomakarona: The sweetest Greek traditional Christmas cookies

The Holidays are very near! For us Greeks, this means that some of our favourite festive sweets/desserts will be available: Melomakarona, Diples and Kourabiedes. Our personal favorite is the Melomakarona (pronounced mel-low-ma-KA-row-na); melomakarona are beautiful honey, orange, clove and cinnamon syrup-drenched soft cookies that melt in your mouth.

It’s THE most popular Christmas & New Year dessert, and it’s present in almost every home here in Greece during the holidays.Many families follow the tradition of making their own melomakarona at home. It is quite easy to make them, plus this way you can make them just the way you want them adjusting the ingredients. You can also find melomakarona in almost every pastry shop/bakery in Greece, during the Holidays period.Being so popular, melomokarona (as also happens with many other Greek recipes), is a recipe with many many variations. All of them however, contain honey, cinnamon and cloves as main ingredients for the flavor. So: there are modernized versions of the recipe, which contain butter or eggs. There are versions with lemon juice/zest instead of orange (which is the usual fruit used for flavor), there are versions made without olive oil, other versions with caster sugar, others with baking powder, brandy etc. The list goes on and on.

In our post we will provide you with our own version for the recipe, which a more traditional one, as it doesn’t contain any eggs or butter. Melomakarona is supposed to be a dessert that’s suitable for those following the Orthodox Christian fasting (which doesn’t allow any dairy/animal products). So, this is a recipe that is also suitable for vegetarians, as most vegetarians consume honey.Now, picture this; your home is decorated for the Holidays; Perhaps some festive music is playing in the background. You are shaping the melomakarona from olive oil scented dough -if you have kids it’s a perfect way to introduce them to the kitchen AND create some beautiful memories at the same time- and your house is already filled with the aroma of the cinnamon, the cloves, the orange and the honey from the syrup; beautiful, healthy ingredients are all around your kitchen counter. Can you resist?

What are melomakarona made from? The dough is made with vegetable oil (a part of it MUST be olive oil to enhance the taste), flour, semolina, orange juice AND zest, baking soda, ground cinnamon and clove. As simple as that!The syrup is made with orange juice, some of its zest, water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves. The aroma is amazing. The only thing you should take into account when making melomakarona is this: if the syrup is hot, then you must dip the cookies in while in room temperature to absorb it. Most of the people (us included) do it the other way around; First you prepare the syrup, you let it chill (close to a window will help to do this faster), and then you make the cookies. As soon as you take them out of the oven you dip them in the cold syrup for a few seconds to soak. You can also make ahead the syrup the day before.The final touch in melomakarona, is drizzling them with juuuust a little more honey (use a small fork to achieve that) and sprinkling a little ground walnuts on top of each layer of cookies. Oh yes, there are layers! Most people put the melomakarona on top of each other forming a small pyramid/cone and cover it with some cling film. The form is reminiscent of the tip of a Christmas tree.

Making melomakarona can be sometimes a little time consuming but they are worth it! You will not regret making them. It’s no accident they are extremely popular here. If you like cinnamon and honey, you will definitely be addicted to these cookies. This is a recipe you will use each and every year around Christmas (and maybe not just then-;) ). We honestly cannot emphasize enough that you must try melomakarona at least once in your lifetime! 🙂



For the dough

– 200g/7oz ( 1 cup) vegetable oil (we used sunflower oil)
– 200g/7oz (1 cup) olive oil
– 250ml (1 cup), orange juice
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon clove powder
– 3 teaspoons cinnamon powder
– 110g/3.9oz (1/2 cup), sugar
– 1 teaspoon orange zest
– 100g/3.5oz (1/2 cup) semolina
– 1kg/2.2lb/35oz all purpose flour

For the syrup

– 625ml (2 ½ cups) water
– 550g/19.4oz (2 ½ cups) sugar
– 150g/5.3oz (1/2 cup) honey
– 2 teaspoons (1 orange), orange zest
– juice from half orange
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 4 cloves

For the topping

– honey
– coarsely crush walnuts




Place in a saucepan: the water, the sugar, the orange zest, the orange juice, the cinnamon sticks and the cloves and put it on medium to high heat. When it starts simmering, remove from heat and add the honey (pic. 3). Whisk until it dissolves. Leave the saucepan next to an open window it to cool.



Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius / 390 Fahernheit.Place the ingredients for the dough in a large bowl, following the order given from the ingredients list. (see pictures).


Make sure to whisk well when you add the baking soda, for about 1 minute(pic. 4)to allow it to blend with the orange juice (pic. 5).

When you have added all the ingredients except the flour, remove the whisk and then add the flour on top. Mix gently with your hands, by “folding” the dough from bottom to top. No rush here. This way all ingredients will blend perfectly, creating a soft dough (like in pic.12). This kneading process should not take more than 2 minutes. The more you knead the less fluffy the dough gets.Line a baking sheet/pan with parchment paper.

Shape small oval cookies with your hands, in the size of your palm. (pic.13). Place them on a grinder on the side of the circular shapes, and slightly press them against the grinder, creating the decoration on top (pic. 14). You can also create a shape on the surface (like lines or a grid), using a fork (optional step).Place the cookies on the lined baking sheet, with a small distance between them (pic.15). The dough is enough for about 3 batches of cookies.Once the first batch is completed (there will be 4 lines with about 6 cookies on each line), put the baking sheet/pan in the oven in the middle rank.Bake for 30 minutes.



Once you remove the cookies from the oven, immediately dip them (using a slotted spoon) into the syrup for about 20 seconds to soak (pic.16). You can dip up to 6 cookies at the same time. You have to be a little careful handling the cookies because they are hot.Place them on a wire rack to drain, for a few minutes (pic.17). Once drained, place them in a large plate.Drizzle with a bit more honey, using a small fork (pic.18) and add some crushed walnuts ( pic. 19, optional). Continue this exact process with the next batch of cookies until they are all baked and dipped into the syrup.Always remember, that the cookies must be placed in the syrup right after the come out of the oven. Enjoy!


While the first batch of cookies is baking, you can start making the next one, shaping the dough into cookies and placing them on a second lined baking sheet/pan. This way you will save lots of time.

Source: http://www.littlecookingtips.com


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