Time flies so fast!
Last time I checked in was just before the summer holidays and now.... now it is almost Christmas!!!
These few weeks before are always so busy for all of us. Rushing from work to the market to buy presents and then off to parties and family get-togethers. For those who have a bit more time to spend at home, it is spent mostly in the kitchen, preparing sweet and savoury delicacies to offer to their guests, friends and loved ones.
I also find myself in the kitchen for most of the time during these days.....I am not complaining. It is the warmest, cosiest place in our apartment at the moment and it smells just heavenly. Cinnamon, honey, orange; warm soothing aromas that bring back beautiful childhood memories of Christmas past...
I run into a friend the other day. She had an ingenious plan on how to get her young son to experience Christmas in a way that he will always associate with happy times spent with his loving mum and dad.... She decided to bake cookies every couple of days so that their home would always smell like sweet smell of Christmas. So simple, so incredibly and effortlessly effective.
I want to add to her collection by sharing with her and all of you my mom's recipe for Greek traditional Christmas cookies called "Melomakarona" - in English this would translate somewhere along the lines of "honey macaroons"; it sounds kinda funny so let's stick with the Greek name; it is not so difficult pronounce isn't it?.
For me Melomakarona are the quintessential Christmas sweet treats. My mum used to bake them on the same day we decorated our Christmas tree. For me and my sister, it was, without a doubt, one of the happiest times of the year. After we had decorated our tree we helped her shape the cookies and then waited for them to cool down enough so we could dip them into the fragrant honey syrup. Our house was overflowing with the sweet smell of cinnamon, cloves, honey and orange. A smell that can transfer you back to Christmas time even if you find yourself baking them in the middle of an August heatwave.
Melomakarona - or Cinnamon and Orange Cookies Dipped in Honey Syrup
50 - 60 cookies
- 1 kg flour
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 200 gr sugar
- 1 cup Cognac (or any other type of Brandy)
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- Zest of 2 - 3 oranges
- For the Syrup
- 2 cups honey (preferably flower honey)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 cloves
- 1 big piece of orange peel
- 1 big piece of lemon peel
- For Decorating
- 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Preheat oven to 160C/320F.
- In a large bowl mix the sugar with the olive oil, the Cognac, the orange juice and the orange zest. Mix well using a whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- In another bowl, shift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon and ground cloves. Mix them well. Gradually add the flour mix to the oil and sugar mix. Kneed softly. The dough has to be soft and oily. If you feel that it has become somewhat harder add some more orange juice or Cognac.
- Shape the cookies using your hands. The dough should not stick to your hands because of the oil. If it sticks it means that you need to add a little more flour and olive oil. You can make the cookies round about 5 cm /2 in in diameter, or give them an oval shape and you can give them a design by pushing the back of a cheese grater onto them.
- Lay the cookies on an oiled baking try and bake then for 20 - 30 minutes, depending on your oven. They should be golden but not brown. Leave them to cool down on the baking tray and start preparing the syrup.
- Put a pot on medium heat and add the honey, sugar and water and let it come to boil. Add the orange and lemon peel, lower the heat and let it boil for 5 - 10 minutes. During boiling, foam is going to form on the surface of the syrup. Remove it with a spoon and then add the cinnamon sticks and the cloves.
- When the cookies have cooled completely, submerge a handful at a time, into the hot syrup. Leave them in ONLY for a few seconds and then remove them. Let them drain from the excess syrup on a rack and then move them onto a plate. You can stack them one on top of the other and sprinkle the chopped walnut, sugar and cinnamon mix over them.