Melomakarona are Greek honey spiced cookies usually baked for Christmas. They’re made with oil and have no eggs, no milk, and no butter. They’re covered in walnuts or chocolate!
Melomakarona are the traditional Greek honey spiced cookies usually baked during Christmas.
“Melomakarona” is a Greek word which in a free translation you could say it means “honey macaroons”. However, according to some sources the name comes from the ancient Greek work “makaria” which was a piece of bread offered in certain ceremonies. When you add “meli” (the Greek word for honey) over “makaria”, then you get a melomakarono!
These Greek Christmas cookies are spiced with orange zest, cinnamon and ground cloves and once they’re baked, they get soaked in a honey-based syrup. Traditionally, they’re covered in crashed walnuts but today you can also find them covered in chocolate, so I decided to make them both ways to keep everyone happy.
Though there are several variations, the basic recipe is very old and it doesn’t require a mixer since at the time it was developed there weren’t any! Another reason it doesn’t require a mixer is because it has no butter.
Olive oil gets mixed with sugar and some orange juice and then the mixture is beaten with a whisk until the sugar is almost dissolved. If you don’t want to use olive oil, a neutral flavored vegetable oil like corn oil or sunflower oil will also work.
I have seen my grandmother do this using not a whisk, but her hand! Yes, she actually poured the wet ingredients into a large bowl along with the sugar and mixed them together with her bare hand – if thinking of trying this for yourself, you’ll want to use only one hand and keep the other clean, unless you want to make a mess in your kitchen! Oh, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly first 🙂
This is the time to mention that during the holidays the whole country is divided in two opposite sides. There are the ones in favor of these Melomakarona and the other side which prefer kourabiedes (kourabiedes is a type of snowball cookies with almonds, also baked during Christmas).
It’s hard to say which side is the most hardcore because both have very high standards and are not willing to make any sacrifices! Luckily, most households are filled with both kinds of cookies, so no one feels left out 🙂
The basic ingredients for melomakarona:
- All-purpose flour
- baking soda and baking powder
- olive oil
- orange juice and orange zest
- brandy or cognac
- cinnamon and ground cloves
- honey (thyme honey woks best)
- walnuts or chocolate (or both)
What to add instead of brandy/cognac:
The alcohol will evaporate completely during baking so you really don’t have to worry if it’s suitable for kids. But if you prefer not to add it anyway, then you can just replace it with an equal amount of orange juice.
How to make Greek Melomakarona cookies:
- Mix all the ingredients for the cookies until you have a soft dough. If you want your cookies to absorb a lot of syrup but also not to become mushy, then you should not over-work the dough.
- Form and bake the cookies. Melomakarona are typically elongated, oval-shaped cookies but I find that it is much quicker to just shape them into discs.
- Soak the cookies in the honey syrup. Traditionally, you make the syrup in a pot and soak the cookies for a few seconds while the syrup is hot. I like to use a different method since it seems that the cookies absorb more syrup but without becoming mushy. This method requires having all the cookies in a baking pan and pouring the syrup over them, then leaving them there until all the syrup is absorbed.
- Once the syrup is absorb you can coat the melomakarona with crashed walnuts or cover them with melted chocolate. My mom mixes some toasted sesame seeds with the walnuts something I strongly advise you to do, because it makes them so much better! If you choose to cover them with chocolate use a dark chocolate because the cookies are already sweet enough.
Optionally (but as far as I’m concerned this is obligatory) you can first cover them with chocolate and then top them with some crashed nuts. I believe they are a lot more Christmas-y this way! And there you have it, the best cookie of your life!
Some notes for the best Melomakarona:
- Use a mild olive oil or a 50-50 mix of olive oil and another vegetable oil. You don’t want a strong olive oil flavor since it can be overpowering.
- After you add the flour, mix very gently until just combined and let the dough rest for 15-30 minutes. Don’t over mix and don’t add too much flour because the cookies will come out tough.
- It’s OK if some oil comes out of the dough during the resting time.
- For the cookies to get extra crunchy and also well-soaked in the honey-syrup, they need to be kept small in size.
- This recipe makes a lot of melomakarona, but since they have no eggs nor dairy, they keep really well when stored in an airtight container, up to 12 days or even more!
Melomakarona (Greek honey cookies)
For the Melomakarona cookies
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- zest of an orange
- 1 1/3 cup (300 grams) mild olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
- 3/4 cup (180 grams) orange juice
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) brandy or cognac
- 4 3/4 cups (600 grams) all purpose flour (if the dough is too sticky you may need some more)
For the honey syrup:
- 1/2 cup honey (thyme honey works best)
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
For the coating
- 1 cup crashed walnuts
- 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds, crashed
- 17 oz (500 grams) melted chocolate, about 55% cocoa
- Make the cookies: In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, the cinnamon, the cloves, the baking soda, the baking powder, the salt, and the zest. Add the oil and mix until the sugar is almost dissolved. Add the orange juice and the brandy and stir until homogenized. Add the flour and stir gently until just combined (don't mix too much because the oil will start coming out of the dough). The dough should be soft.
- Rest: Let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. In the meantime, line your baking pans with parchment paper, and preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Form the cookies: If the dough is too sticky, add some more flour to make it pliable. Make balls the size of a ping pong ball (about 1 ounce / 28 grams), flatten them a little between your palms and place them on the baking pan leaving some space between them. Traditionally, the cookies are pierced with a fork 3-4 times or a grater is gently press on their surface to create a pattern.
- Bake: Bake for 30 minutes or until cookies are well browned. Let them cool on a rack.
- Make the honey syrup: Transfer the water, the cinnamon stick and the sugar to a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes, remove from heat and add the honey. Stir until well combined.
- Soak the cookies: Place the cookies upside down in a large pan (or two smaller pans) that just fits them. Spoon the hot syrup over the cookies. Let them soak for about an hour and then flip them. Let them soak the rest of the syrup (it will take sometime but you can also do it overnight).
- Coat: Coat the cookies with the nut mixture, or cover them with melted chocolate and sprinkle with some nuts.
- If you want your melomakarona extra extra fresh you can soak half of them in half of the syrup and keep the rest for another time. without the syrup the cookies will keep well in an airtight container for many days.
- If you want more honey in the syrup you can use these quantities: 1 cup honey, 1/2 cup water, 3/4 cups sugar, 1 cinnamon stick .
- You can halve the ingredients for the coating and make half cookies with chocolate and half with walnuts.
- For the best results, the chocolate should be tempered before coating. The easiest way is to chop the chocolate and melt the two thirds over low heat. When it is totally melted, remove from the heat and add the remaining third, stirring until smooth.
- Dip the cookies into the melted chocolate one by one and remove them with a fork. Let the chocolate drain for a few seconds and transfer them onto a piece of parchment paper. Let them rest until the chocolate has hardened.
- If the chocolate begins to thicken while coating the cookies, heat it briefly on a water bath or in the microwaves.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 12 days (or even more).
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