With Easter quite literally around the corner, it's time to break out the old school recipes to some of my favourite Greek bakes.
To kick it all off, koulourakia. These are butter cookies, traditionally hand twisted and flavoured with vanilla. They are eaten all year round however I was taught that only at Easter should they be glazed with an egg wash. The rest of the year, anything goes! You can top them with sesame seeds or nut flakes and they can be flavoured with grape must, citrus or chocolate! At Easter though, the basic recipe reigns supreme.
The Tuesday before Easter is set aside to make at least a couple of batches of these koulourakia. It's a tradition that was set in stone growing up and continues to live on at our place today.
Another custom that we still follow is an exchange of gifts at this time of year. It's not like Christmas where the gifts are of a random nature but it is normally a plate filled with koulouria, coloured eggs, tsourekia and, of course, chocolate eggs. This is why it is necessary to make sure the koulouria are done nice and early in the week before the childrens' respective godparents pop past to give the kids their lambada (a candle to light at church at the Resurrection liturgy at midnight on Easter Saturday) along with a small gift, normally a jacket and shoes also to wear at that church service.
Easter in the Greek calendar is an incredibly important event and I just adore keeping these beautiful traditions alive...fingers crossed I do enough to ensure that the beauty of these customs will become important enough for my children to then continue them on for another generation!
I hope you like this recipe and, as always, tag me and #mckrecipes in your socials so I can see them!
Makes: approx 30 cookies
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
1. Preheat oven to 180C (convection setting) and line three large baking trays (I like to use the actual oven trays where I can) with baking paper.
2. Combine the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on a medium speed for 4 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the ouzo or Cointreau and vanilla extract to the mixture and beat for a further minute until it has been well incorporated.
4. In the meantime, sift the flour and baking powder into a medium bowl and set aside. Lower the speed of the stand mixer to its lowest level and slowly add the flour to the butter mixture. Once it has all been added, the dough should be firm enough to roll into shapes. Test it out by rolling a small amount of dough into a ball. If it feels moist and does not stick to your hands, it is perfect. If it is too firm add a tablespoon of cream to the dough and mix in lightly by hand. Test again. If the mixture is too moist and sticks to your hands, sift in an extra tablespoon of plain flour to the mixture and mix in by hand. Keep testing until you achieve the right consistency.
5. To make the eggwash, combine the egg yolk and cream in a small bowl or espresso cup and set aside.
6. To make the traditional shape, take a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball and then roll out into a rope shape about 20cm long. Cross over the two ends and then twist the bottom loop of the biscuit once or twice to achieve the traditional twist. Repeat with the rest of the dough until you have used it all up.
7. Once you have filled the trays (leaving a few cms between each biscuit), lightly brush with the egg wash and pop into the oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through. Place the oven trays on a wire rack and allow the biscuits to completely cool on the trays before placing them in an airtight container to store for a couple of weeks.
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