Christmas in any Greek household would not be complete without the delightful aroma and irresistible taste of Melomakarona (μελομακάρονα). The crispy, somewhat crumbly cookies are made with a blend of olive oil, orange zest, walnuts and warm spices, and dipped in an orange scented syrup. These traditional Greek cookies are a staple during the holiday season and hold a special place in the hearts of every Greek family. It simply would not be Christmas in a Greek household without Melomakarona.
A Vegan-Friendly Twist
The cookies are traditionally dipped in a honey syrup, which is not vegan, so I swap the honey with pure maple syrup. It’s a small change that doesn’t compromise the essence of the recipe but allows us to still enjoy this festive holiday treat.
A Sweet Connection with the Gods
Legend has it that Melomakarona were first created as offerings to the Gods. It is said that these cookies were prepared to honor the deities, particularly during the ancient Greek festival of the Twelve Gods. One thing is for certain – the heavenly taste of these cookies certainly feels like a divine gift.
A Symbol of Togetherness
In Greek households, baking Melomakarona is often a family affair, bringing loved ones together during the festive season. From preparing the dough to shaping and soaking the cookies, every step is an opportunity for bonding and creating treasured memories.
There are countless slightly different versions of the cookies. Some are made with semolina, some with only flour, some with the addition of ground walnuts, with or without brandy, etc…Each and every family has their own slightly different version, (obviously the absolute best version) of Melomakarona!
Sharing the Joy
Melomakarona are not meant to be enjoyed alone. They are meant to be shared – with family, friends, and even neighbors. During Christmas, it is customary for Greek households to offer these delicious treats to guests and loved ones, spreading warmth, love, and joy.
I still cherish the heartwarming memories of my mother, grandmother, aunts, and their friends coming together to create countless batches of these delightful cookies. They always made plenty so they could spread joy and share these homemade treats with all their loved ones during the festive season.
Tips for the perfect Melomakarona
Make sure to select a light olive oil or any neutral tasting oil of your choice. Using a very flavorful, extra virgin oil, might overpower the delicate flavor of the cookies.
To ensure the utmost crispiness of your cookies after soaking them in syrup, it’s crucial to follow a simple guideline. Either dip the cookies when they are fresh out of the oven while allowing the syrup to cool completely, or go for the hot syrup with chilled cookies. By avoiding the combination of hot cookies and hot syrup, you can prevent any potential sogginess. Similarly, if both components are cold, the cookies won’t be able to absorb the syrup properly.
Our recipe makes a modest batch of cookies – about 30 in total. However, don’t hesitate to double or even triple the recipe if you want to spread joy and share the deliciousness with your beloved friends and family. Happiness always multiplies when shared! 🍪🎉
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Melomakarona – Greek Christmas Cookies
For the syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup organic sugar
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 large piece orange peel
- 5-6 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
For the cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cups light olive oil not extra virgin
- 6 tablespoons orange juice
- 2-3 tablespoons brandy optional
- 2 tablespoons organic sugar
- ½ cup finely ground walnuts plus extra for sprinkling over the cookies
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
For the syrup
- In a saucepan, combine the maple syrup, water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and orange zest. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse.Let the syrup cool completely. (You can prepare the syrup the day before.)
For the melomakarona
- Preheat your oven to 375°F . Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt.
- In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, orange juice, brandy, sugar, ground walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Mix well until the sugar is dissolved.
- Gradually the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing well until a soft dough forms.
- Divide the dough into small portions (about 1 tablespoon) and shape each portion into an oblong cookie shape. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet.With the tip of a fork, press down on the cookies to slightly flatten them and create grooves to catch the syrup.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
- Once the cookies are done baking, remove them from the oven and immediately dip them into the syrup while they are still warm. Allow the cookies to soak for about 10 seconds on each side, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool and drain excess syrup.
- Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top of each cookie while they are still wet and sticky from the syrup.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Melomakarona will keep for a couple of weeks.