Traditional Greek Christmas cookies! No butter needed!
It’s almost Christmas! And if you’ve ever been in Greece, you’ll probably know that every house is filled with the sweet aroma of two different cookies these days. In my last post, we talked about one of them, the honey-syruped “melomakarona”. Today, it’s time for “kourambiedes” – another difficult-to-spell kind of cookie!
It’s a kind of cookie completely rolled in powdered sugar. It is usually made with butter, although some people also use vegetable fats or a mixture of both. Its dough is filled with roasted almonds and it’s flavored with vanilla, mastic or other spices, as well as a kind of liquor like brandy or ouzo.
The making of this cookie is a lovely tradition in Greek family kitchens. Little children are usually actively involved and they absolutely love “snowing” them as they usually call the process of rolling them in icing sugar.
Compared with the other cookie that you already met, the “melomakarono”, this one is not as “innocent” from a nutritional point of view. Since it’s usually made with butter, it has a high content of saturated fat. Its total fat content is high, making it a choice with a high caloric value.
But then again, it’s Christmas! Who cares about calories and saturated fats, you may ask. And I would agree with you. But shouldn’t we have the option of enjoying a traditional Christmas cookie and at the same time being health-conscious and mindful of the nutritional quality of our food? If we did this, wouldn’t we choose olive oil over butter? So, why not make kourambiedes with olive oil?
For this recipe, you’ll need extra virgin olive oil, with a thin texture and a slightly distinct flavor. Freshly roasted almonds, vanilla flavor, Greek ouzo or brandy and if you wish extra aroma of almond or mastic. And if you’ve ever tried butter-based kourambiedes, believe me you won’t miss the butter taste at all!
The dough will be soft and due to the big almond pieces, it won’t be able to remain solid. That’s perfectly normal. Just don’t try to use cookie cutters to shape the kourambiedes. This recipe is for traditional Greek ones, made by hand. Just like the ones from our childhood memories, the ones our mothers and grandmothers used to make.
Kourambiedes (Greek snowball cookies) with olive oil
For the dough:
- 1½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (or almond or mastic)
- 1/8 cup Greek ouzo (or brandy)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Juice from half a lemon
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup almonds
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- (optional) 1 tsp vanilla-flavored powdered sugar
– Preheat the oven at 400°F / 200°C. Coarsely chop the almonds and spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake them for 6 – 7 minutes and let them cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F / 170°C.
– In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together olive oil and powdered sugar, in high speed for 5 minutes. Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract and 2 tbsp from the flour and continue beating for another minute. Add the ouzo or brandy and the baking soda dissolved into the lemon juice and beat for one more minute.
– Stop the mixer and replace the whisk attachment with the dough hook. Start the mixer on medium speed and alternately add the almonds and flour until they are fully incorporated in the dough. The dough won’t be solid and that’s normal.
– Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With your hands, make small ball-shaped cookies and arrange them on the baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes, until they start becoming golden on the edges and their surface has cracked. Remove from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes.
– Roll them into powdered sugar and serve. (If you use vanilla-flavored powdered sugar, sift the two sugars together first.)