A traditional Greek holiday treat made healthier!

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas on my blog! And how could it not? We’re only days away! And since studying and family and a whole lot of other things have kept me away for quite a while, I really, really wanted to come back with a special Christmas recipe.

 

In Greece, the word Christmas is inseparably connected to two other words: “melomakarona” and “kourambiedes”, the two most famous kinds of Greek Christmas cookies. Each one has their own dedicated fans who prefer the one over the other but… gladly enjoy both during the holidays.

 

Today we’ll talk about the first one. Melomakarona – hard to pronounce, I know! – is an oil-based cookie, usually flavored with spices, orange and brandy and bathed in a sweet syrup made from sugar, honey and more spices. And since we’re on a healthy eating blog, we should answer the first question that comes to mind.

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) with no added sugar! | Healthy Bits and Bites

 

Is it healthy?

It depends on how you define healthy when it comes to sweets and cookies. Compared to other cookies and Christmas desserts, it’s free of some really unhealthy ingredients like butter, margarine and heavy cream. Still, it has a considerable amount of sugar and honey. And that’s where my “healthifying” mind comes in. (Healthifying! Is there such a word?)

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) with no added sugar! | Healthy Bits and Bites

 

Well, you know me. I try to make a healthier version of almost everything. It was about time I started with holiday treats, too. And I thought that you can’t take away honey from melomakarona. “Melo”, the first part of the word comes from the word “meli” which in Greek means honey. But why do they need sugar?

 

And that’s how my own sugarless recipe was created. But I didn’t stop there…

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) with no added sugar! | Healthy Bits and Bites

 

 

 

Why not try to make them even healthier by using whole wheat flour instead of white? And I tried that, too.

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) with no added sugar! | Healthy Bits and Bites

 

And I also added a filling made of walnuts, raisins and Christmas spices. And I’m really, really proud of the result.

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) with no added sugar! | Healthy Bits and Bites

 

I’m sure that you will love the recipe no matter what kind of flour you use, whole grain or white. There is just a slight difference between the ingredients for the two types of dough and you can find both below. If you want some traditional Greek Christmas spirit in your home, I suggest you try it. Add generous amounts of holiday mood, Christmas joy and, of course, love and the result will surely be wonderful!

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) with no added sugar! | Healthy Bits and Bites

 

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) without sugar

  • Servings: 25-30 cookies
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) with no added sugar! | Healthy Bits and Bites

Ingredients:

 

For the cookie dough:

If you use all-purpose flour:

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup corn oil or other vegetable oil
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1/8 cup brandy
  • Zest from 1 medium orange
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup finely-ground semolina
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

If you use whole-grain flour:

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup corn oil or other vegetable oil
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1/8 cup brandy
  • Zest from 1 medium orange
  • 4 cups whole grain flour
  • ½ cup finely-ground semolina
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

 

For the honey syrup:

  • 1 ½ cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cloves

 

For the filling:

  • ½ cup coarsely-chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp brandy

 

For garnish:

  • ½ cup finely-chopped walnuts

 

Directions:

– Prepare the syrup. In a saucepan, over low heat, add water and honey and stir until the honey is completely dissolved. Once it starts boiling, add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Let it boil for 10 minutes and 1 minute before the end add the lemon juice. Remove from heat, remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves and let it cool.

– Preheat the oven at 400°F/200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

– In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients of the dough except the orange zest. (flour, semolina, baking soda and spices)

– In another bowl mix together the liquid ingredients (oils, orange juice and brandy) using a whisk and add the orange zest.

– Slowly incorporate the dry mixture into the liquid one and mix until they form a dough. Knead the dough slightly until it becomes smooth and set aside.

– Prepare the filling. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.

– Shape the dough into balls (the size of a golf ball). Press your thumb into the middle of each ball to make a dent for the filling. Add a teaspoon of the filling and pinch the edges to close it in. Give the filled cookies an oblong shape and arrange them on your baking sheet. Pinch their surface slightly with a fork. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

– Take them out of the oven and while they’re still very warm, transfer them to a pan and pour the cooled syrup over them. Let them absorb syrup for a few minutes and turn them upside down. Let them cool.

– Once they are completely cool, arrange them on a serving plate and garnish with the finely-chopped walnuts.

 

 

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies) with no added sugar! | Healthy Bits and Bites

 

 

 

 

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