Monday, December 17, 2012

Melomakaronas (Greek Honey and Walnut Cookies with Orange)

It is one week before Christmas Eve and I decided there was time to post a couple new cookie recipes before the holidays are upon us.

Going through my collection of cookie recipes I have amassed over the years, I came across this recipe I had scribbled down in the late 1980's and haven't made since.  I had annotated this recipe as "delicious, but a lot of work", which is a big part of why I had not made these in 20+ years.  For one thing, these should be baked on parchment paper.

I don't know why the words parchment paper strike such fear into the hearts of bakers.  Parchment paper is wonderful stuff because absolutely nothing sticks to it.  It is not expensive, and these days is really easy to find in most grocery stores.  I have begun baking most of my cookies on parchment paper because I never have to worry about sticking and clean up is a snap!

I am a much better cook now than I was back in the early days.  A big part of the improvement in my cooking comes from the fact that I am now a much more organized cook than I was 20 years ago, and making these cookies this morning was a perfect example of how organization can make a difficult recipe much easier.

Melomakaronas are a traditional Greek Christmas cookie, and one bite will convince you they are worth the effort that goes into them.  They taste something like a cross between a delicate cake-like shortbread and baklava.  They keep extremely well and only get better with age, becoming more flaky and and tender and fragrant with time.

The individual components themselves are not terribly difficult to make (though you will go through quite a few bowls), but rather it is the final step where the HOT cookies are soaked in the cinnamon infused honey syrup that is a bit of a pain ( cookies = burnt fingers).  But using fork and a gentle hand makes the task a little less painful.

I hope you will try these rustic yet sophisticated little beauties.  They add a very nice diversity to the standard Christmas cookie plate, and if your family is like mine, they will be among the first to disappear!

makes about 4 dozen

2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil if you like a more earthy taste)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
grated orange zest of 1 large orange
2 Tbsp orange juice
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl, whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl combine oil, butter and egg yolk and whisk until well-combined.  Add sugar and whisk to combine.

In a small bowl combine orange juice and baking soda, then add to oil mixture and whisk to combine.

Add nuts to oil mixture and stir.  Add dry ingredients and mix until dough pulls together into a soft dough.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place on a parchment paper- lined baking sheet.

Bake 30 minutes.

Dough balls on parchment, ready for the oven...

Hot cookies from the oven, ready to be soaked in syrup!

While cookies are baking make syrup.  In a small sauce pan combine water sugar and cinnamon stick.  Heat over high heat, stirring until syrup comes to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add honey and stir in.

When cookies are finished baking, using a fork transfer hot cookies, a few at a time, to the syrup and flip over 2-3 times to soak the cookies.

With your fingers, remove the cookies from the syrup and let excess drip back into pan.  Dip the wet cookie into the chopped walnuts and place on a baking rack over waxed paper to cool.

Store in an airtight container.

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