To be honest, I am not sure Greeks can claim these cookies as their own, but we sure do make them by the double dozen where I come from during Christmas. So let me introduce you to melomakarona (Honey Walnut biscuits although the actual translation is honey spagetti - don't ask me why as I do not know!).
These delicious moist biscuits have four basic ingredients: flour - semolina - orange juice and brandy. The combination of semolina and flour means they won't be too tough; and the orange + brandy will give them great aroma and taste. And a little kick if you overdo it of course with the brandy!
I made these today as a treat for my neighbours, they are easy to make and the whole house smells like... well, Christmas! It was quite a task keeping the husband out of my way and out of the kitchen, he wanted to inspect and, of course, test!
Now, the following measurements will make you a good 40 of these cookies. A box size 8'' will feet 20 of them nicely (hence why I made double dose today).
150g thin semolina
500g flour (soft)
1/2 tbsp baking powder
In a bowl add the semolina, flour and baking powder and blend with a whisk to combine.
100g orange juice
3 tbsps brandy (or cognac)
1 flat tbsp powdered cinnamon
1/3 tsp nutmeg powder
1/3 tsp clove powder (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 tbsp baking soda
125g olive oil
125g vegetable oil
zest of 1 orange
In another large bowl add the orange juice, the brandy, the sugar and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon and if you have them also clove and vanilla). Then add the baking soda and whisk immediately the ingredients for 5-10 seconds, until the ingredients combine and the baking soda dissolves and starts to foam. It will rise rapidly but don't worry. Then pour in the bowl the water, the oil, the orange zest and honey and whisk to combine.
Now, add the mixture from step 1 into the second mixture. You can use a wooden spoon to combine them but then you can use your hand when it is not as liquid. The dough should stay soft. Do not overwork the dough and do not add any more flour than this melomakarona recipe calls for, as this will make them tough. Let the dough rest and let's make the syrup. by the way, now is a good time to pre-heat the oven to 180C. It will take up to 9-10minutes to get to this temperature, so don't waste time!
Step 4 - the syrup
500g water (2 cups)
1 kg sugar
1 cinnamon stick
peel of 1 orange
In a pot add all the ingredients for the syrup, except the honey and bring to the boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and set aside to cool down completely. When the syrup cools completely add the honey and stir.
Step 5 - shape your melomakarona
You will need two baking trays (line them with parchment paper). I usually just have mine done in two installments. Start shaping the melomakarona. Pinch a portion of dough about the size of a walnut/ 50g (or bigger, if you prefer) and shape with your palms. You can have a round small shape (single bite cookie) or a longer oblong shape which you eat in two bites. Place on the baking tray, push lightly the top with a fork and make some holes on top (not all the way down). Continue with the rest of the dough. then place in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. No more!
Step 6 - syrup dipping
Get the melomakarona out of the oven, place them in batches of 3-4 in the lukewarm syrup, flipping them with a slotted spoon to absorb the syrup for approx. 20 seconds, depending on how syrupy you like them. Remove the cookies using a slotted spoon, place on a platter and sprinkle with chopped walnuts (a combination of finely grindged and chopped walnuts).
Enjoy and share with friends
You can store these at room temperature throughout the holidays. But I can guarantee that they won't last long! Have them with your tea or coffee they are just delicious! I always make these before Christmas and take boxes to my close neighbours. It's a great treat for them. This time I bought boxes and grossgrain ribbon from a local cake shop and decorated with Christmas tree decorations as shown below.
But, enough writing, it's now time to enjoy one (more) melomakarono and reflect upon the year's events.
If I don't write more again before Christmas, have a wonderful time and may the new year be full of health, joy and happiness!