If you are in Greece during the Christmas season, there is a good chance that you will find one of the two most famous traditional Christmas cookies called Melomakarona in each home. The other ones are Kourampiedes and there is an evergoing debate about which one is better.
For me, Melomakarona are Christmas in a cookie. Just one bite can put me in a holiday mood. They are soft, aromatic, and hard to resist. They are vegan as well (unless you consider honey not vegan) so they are a crowd-pleaser.
Although the recipe is completely different from every other cookie I know it’s not difficult to make. There are however some points that need a bit of attention.
Syrup with the half orange and the cloves
The syrup should be cold or at room temperature. So it should be the first thing that gets prepared. When the hot cookies are dipped in cold syrup they can absorb it better and become juicier.
Drizzling the cookies with honey
Many recipes I’ve seen put all the honey in the syrup. I believe that honey loses a lot of its taste and aroma when it’s boiled. Thus, I prefer to use just a bit in the syrup for the added sweetness and drizzle the rest on top of the cookies. Also, I prefer to use lower quality honey for the syrup and better quality for the drizzling. There is a good chance there is going to be left-over syrup. You can use it in other recipes to give a Christmas touch. My favourites are an Old Fashioned cocktail or a Caramel sauce.
The amount of flour can vary every time you make this recipe. For me, it is never consistent and I always go by feel. However, it is important not to overwork the dough because the oil will start to separate from the dough. Add the flour in batches until the dough doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. At this point, the dough should be able to hold its shape when formed into balls.
Finally, don’t get disappointed if the cookies don’t taste the way you expect when they come out of the oven. They keep getting better and better the more they stay and the syrup gets absorbed. For me, they taste the best two days after they have been baked. The question is can you resist that long.
- 200gr Granulated Sugar
- 200ml Water
- 1/2 Orange
- 5 Whole Cloves
- 2-3 Cinnamon sticks
- 50gr Honey
- 90ml Olive oil
- 160ml Sunflower oil
- Zest of 2 Oranges
- 250ml Orange juice
- 1tsp Baking powder
- 1tsp Baking soda
- 2tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/2tsp Ground Clove
- 1/2tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 600gr Flour (approx)
- Chopped Walnuts
Note: The syrup should not be hot when it's used so prepare it first or ahead of time.
- Stick the cloves in the half orange on the flesh side.
- In a pot add the water, the sugar, the cinnamon sticks and the half orange with the cloves. Note: The orange should be placed cut side down. The image above demonstrates the cloves in the orange.
- Put the pot over medium heat.
- Once it starts boiling and the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat.
- Mix in the honey and let it cool down to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven at 180°C.
- In a bowl, add all the ingredients except the flour and mix them until they are fully incorporated.
- Slowly add the flour in batches and mix until the dough starts to separate from the bowl. Note: You might not need the whole amount of flour
- Make sure you don't overwork the dough. You should stop once the dough is slightly oily and can be shaped into balls.
- Shape the dough into oval balls, or round disks. My personal preference is oval balls about 35gr each.
- Arrange them in an oven tray lined with baking paper. Make sure to leave a couple of centimeters of space between the cookies.
- Score the cookies with a sharp knife or a blade in a criss-cross pattern.
- Bake the cookies, one tray at a time, for about 18 mins or until the edges become darker and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and while hot, dip each cookie in the syrup for about 10 seconds on each side.
- Drizzle a healthy amount of honey on each cookie, and sprinkle with the chopped walnuts.
- You can adjust the sweetness depending on how long the cookies stay in the syrup, and how much honey you drizzle on them.
- Instead of honey you can cover them in melted chocolate.
- You can also add a bit of clementine juice and zest together with the orange.
Enjoy baking and keep on jamming.
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