As most people who know me will know that I am not a sweet dessert person. Sure I would eat a dessert once it is put in-front of me but I would never seek it. Being raised on fruit I much prefer their sweetness and sharpness to the sugary end of meal sweet foods. Having said that, at Christmas time in Greece the shops and homes are filled with the Christmas Cookies, Melomakarona(in Greek: μελομακάρονα, pronounced: meh-loh-mah-KAH-roh-nah) and once you have eaten one you cannot stop with just one. With ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, walnuts, and oranges, these little, soft cookies that are dipped into a spiced, honey syrup, cannot be more representative to the season festivities. They are made from the end of November to the Christmas holidays and there is no home that will not have them on its table. After baking, the most unbelievable fragrance wafts through the house for a couple of days which subliminally prepares you for the holidays!
This version of the recipe is based on Stelios Parliaros recipe. Although this youtube recipe is in Greek (my apologies to my non-Greek friends!), I think most of you will be able to see how he does it. Like they say a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’!!
For the cookie dough
- 400 gr. fresh orange juice
- 530 gr. good olive oil or sunflower oil
- 50 gr. butter
- 30 gr. powdered sugar
- 1 whole finely grated orange zest
- 1200 gr. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground cloves
For the syrup
- 500 gr. water
- 700 gr. sugar
- one orange cut in two
- 2 sticks of cinnamon
- 100 gr. thyme honey
- 1 1/2 cups finely crushed walnuts
- thyme honey
For the syrup: Combine the sugar, cinnamon, 2 half of orange and water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, without stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for 2 minutes and take off the heat. The syrup will thicken slightly and deepen in colour. Add honey and leave to cool, preferably in another saucepan to cool down quickly.
Preheat oven to 200°C and Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
For the dough: In a bowl, combine all the wet ingredients, the oil, butter, orange juice and citrus zest. To this you add all the spices, baking soda and powdered sugar. With a wooden spoon or spatula we mix this and add all the flour. We continue to mix this with our hands from the center towards the outside. We don’t need to mix it too well so that the dough will not harden, just enough for the liquids and flour to be absorbed.
We take pinches of dough around 35 gr. each and roll it into oval balls with a fork press the tines of a large fork in a crosshatch pattern in the center of each cookie. A wire mesh will do this beautiful by just rolling them! Place the cookies on baking sheets. Bake them for 22-28 minutes until lightly browned. When they come out of the oven, we place the hot cookies into the cold syrup for about 1 minute and place them on a wire mesh to drip dry.
Place one layer of cookies on a large platter and drip some honey on them followed by some crushed walnuts. We continue to do this until all the dough is used up.