Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Melomakarona: Traditional Greek Xmas Sweets

One could've been to Greece hundreds of times and yet never had been able to taste the most delicious Greek cookies, Melomakarona. And the reason is that Greeks prepare those only for Christmas. Same happened to me: been to Greece many times, both on business and for pleasure, tasted so many different and splendid foods there and yet, as it so happened that I had never been there around Xmas, I never tasted Melomakarona until 2010. I saw it suddenly appearing in all shops and all of the people buying it. Bought some to taste it and that was it: love from first bite! I was truly disappointed when Melomkarona disappeared shortly after Christmas and started questioning about it. That's how I discovered that those are the most traditional Greek Xmas cookies and there is no real Christmas "trapezi" without it.
Had to wait a whole year until I tasted it again. And, to be honest, the anticipation made the joy of tasting it again even bigger. And this Christmas Dimitris, a friend of mine, posted its recipe of homemade Melomakarona, on his site, Mediterranean Cook. With his help translating the recipe into English and another friend, Kalina, who joined helping the preparation process, I had my first homemade Melomakarona!
And here goes the recipe, as given by Dimitris, with only a few small amendments made by me:

(55-60 pieces)

For the dough
1. All purpose flour (I used wholewheat flour) - 1 kg;
2. Baking powder: 2 tsp;
3. Salt: ½ tsp;
4. Olive oil: 1½ teacup;
5. Sunflower oil: ½ teacup;
6. Clove powder: ½ tsp (I only had cloves, so I used my coffee-grinder to make powder);
7. Cinnamon powder: 1 tsp;
8. Sugar: 1 teacup (I used organic sugar);
9. Brandy: 1 coffee cup (I used Remy Martin);
10. Orange juice: 1 teacup;
11. Baking soda: 1 tsp;

For the syrup:
1. Water: 2 ½ teacups;
2. Sugar: 1 ½ teacup;
3. Honey: 1 teacup;
4. Lemon: 1 slice;
5. Orange peel: 1 slice;
6. Cinnamon: 1 stick;
7. Walnuts: 200 g, grated;
Dough Preparation:
Step 1: Put in a bowl the oils and the sugar and mix until the sugar dissolves well (approx 15 min: you will notice how the mixture will change colour & texture). Choose a big bowl, as later you'll need to add more ingredients in;

Step 2: Dissolve the baking soda in the orange juice, and then put it in the mixture, along with the brandy, clove powder and cinnamon powder and mix well. As my friend Kalina doesn't eat cinnamon we didn't put it in;
Step 3: In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt;

Step 4: In the mixture from step 2 start slowly adding the mixture from step 3. Mix with your hands until all becomes smooth mixture. Be careful not to make the dough too tight nor too soft. It should be pliable and greasy;

Step 5: When ready, leave the dough to rest for a few minutes and then mold oblong small melomakarona;
Step 6: Place them in a pan(s) paved with nonstick baking paper with some distance between items to prevent sticking and then, using a knife make small holes on their surface. This will enable them to cook better and also to "absorb the syrup" later.

Step 7: Bake in preheated oven (170 to 180 degrees C, about 17-20 min) until browned;
Step 8: When ready, remove from the oven leave aside to cool down;

Syrup Preparation:

Step 1: Put all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and put it to boil;
Step 2: After that leave it on low heat until it reduces and becomes ticker. The more sweeter taste you prefer, the thicker the syrup must be; 

Melomakarona Dipping:

Step 1: Dip every cooled down melomakarona in the syrup for 1-2 min;
Step 2: Take them out with a slotted spoon and place them in layers on a platter;
Step 3: Rinse grated walnuts at the bottom and top of each layer;

Step 4: As I mentioned before, Kalina, who helped me with the preparation, doesn't eat cinnamon, so we didn't put it in the dough. And we also prepared half of the syrup without it and we only dipped half of the melomakarona in a cinnamon syrup;

Enjoy :)


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