30 Dec Melomacarona – a Greek Christmas treat
I can’t think of Christmas without the traditional Christmas cookies I grew up with. Honey macaroons I call them …mainly because in a way I see them a bit like the Parisian macaroons …although in reality there is no similarity at all!
Most households in Greece used to prepare a huge batch of the honey cookies a few days before Christmas. In my family we used to prepare two, a batch before Christmas and another one before the New Year as they had all gone by that time and we should not spent the New Year’s Eve without any.
Wondering whether my calling these cookies honey macaroons makes any sense at all I decided to do a little research! Surprisingly enough …it does make sense.
The word “melomacarono” is made up from “meli” which is honey in Greek and macarono …so what’s the root of that?
Apparently, it is an ancient Greek word used for a slightly macabre purpose. Macaria, in ancient Greece was a type of spiced bread served when somebody died. A way to pay respects to respects to the soul of the dead. The recipe and consistency of it was very similar to the modern cookie minus the honey.
So what about the Italian “macaroni” and the French “macaroon”? The Romans followed by the Italians adopted the word into “macaroni” referring to the well-known pasta while the French used it to name the almond cookies! I guess it always sounded good.
So honey macaroons it is then for the Greek treats and it seems to be an accurate name!
Here’s the recipe and some pictures of the batch I made on Christmas day!
I am sure you will love them. A cup of black coffee and a couple of those can make one’s day!
Happy New Year everybody from all of us here at The Olive Farm!
For the dough
Make sure you will use the same measuring unit for all the ingredients as this recipe is based on the right analogies.
1 glass/ cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ glass of sugar (we use brown sugar – the less refined type)
½ glass of orange juice
Orange peel from 2 oranges (grated)
1 teaspoon of baking soda – added in the orange juice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground clove
1 ½ shots of brandy
1 teaspoon of baking powder
3 glasses/cups of flour (can be of any type all purpose, strong bread flour, wholemeal). If you want to use wholemeal flour its best not to replace all three glasses with it. I would suggest 1 part all purpose, 1 part strong bread flour and 1 part wholemeal)
1 glass/ cup semolina
For the Syrup
1 glass/cup of Greek thyme honey
1 glass/cup of brown sugar (we use about ½)
1 glass/cup of water
Start with preparing the syrup by adding all the ingredients in a pot. Stir and let it simmer for 10 -15 minutes. It will reduce a bit in volume but it will not thicken just yet. Keep it on the side to cool down.
To make the dough you will need a large mixing bowl. Mix the oil and sugar first. Add the spices and orange juice, give it a good mix and leave the floury ingredients for last.
Up to this stage you can make do with a large spoon but as you start adding the flour you will need to use your hands.
Add the flour and baking powder and keep stirring and mixing for a couple of minutes until a uniform dough has formed. The dough will feel a bit crumbly in texture due to the semolina.
I usually shape the cookies using a shoot glass. I like the size as it is substantial enough to taste the full flavor and aromas but still small enough not to make a mess when eating one on the go!
Preheat the oven to 170oC and bake for about 20 min depending on the strength and type of oven.
Once baked let the cookies to cool down for a bit and dunk a batch in the honey syrup. Leave to soak for a couple of minutes and place in a large tray. Sprinkle with ground walnuts.