By Helen, The Greek Vegetarian
Our Australian cooking road trip continues with a visit to Adelaide in time for Christmas, where we meet Helen, The Greek Vegetarian. Helen shares her mother's recipe for finger licking melomakarona from Corfu. Enjoy!
When I think of Greek Christmas’ growing up, I remember all the smells that would flood my house in the days leading up to that special day full of family feasting. Melomakarona, is the epitome of a Greek Christmas biscuit all rolled into an aromatic blend of orange, cinnamon, cloves, honey and nuts. My mum would always let me help her make all her Christmas treats even if my biscuit shapes weren’t as perfect as hers, and this is a memory I will always treasure. I know that cooking with my mum from a young age has built my love for Greek food traditions and flavours. Today, my mum and I share recipes and always get together to make delicious traditional food for special days of the year, actually any time of the year.
The Melomakarona recipe I have shared is a soft morsel stuffed with walnuts, dipped in a delicate saffron infused honey syrup and dressed with crushed almonds. I was lucky enough to have some delectable Greek ingredients provided to me from Grecian Purveyor for my recipe, and I can say with pride that these are the best batch I’ve ever made! These biscuits are gooey, yummy and keep for some time so you will always have a treat for when a friend pops in for a coffee… if they last that long! Choosing high quality ingredients such the Vasilissa raw honey with Greek red saffron and the Vassilakis olive oil from Crete, it's key when cooking and even so more when baking something so delicious like melomakarona! If you haven't discovered Grecian Purveyor yet, make sure you visit their e-store www.grecianpurveyor.com for gourmet, organic and high quality Greek ingredients.
Something to remember when making this recipe is that like most Greek cooking, everything is assumed to be made with the measurements of your eyes and the feeling within your hands. What this means is depending on your flour, your butter, the weather outside and even a curse of the evil eye… your recipe may turn out a little different. I have measured everything as they were made, but if something doesn’t feel quite right, don’t be afraid to experiment until it does. I have included some tips in the recipe to help you know how these Melomakarona should feel throughout the cooking process.
Greek Christmas Honey Biscuits: Melomakarona
Yield: approximately 50-60 biscuits
For the biscuits
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil "My olive oil" Vassilakis Estate
1 ½ cups caster sugar
1 ½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
150 grams unsalted butter, melted
100 grams walnuts
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1.3 kilos self-raising flour
400 grams almonds, blitzed into a rough crumb
For the syrup:
1 cup caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks (cassia bark)
The rind of 1 lemon
The juice of 1 lemon
3 cups water
Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees, fan.
In a stand mixer: beat the extra virgin olive oil, orange juice, butter and sugar on a low speed until the sugar has dissolved into the liquid well (approximately 5 minutes) Add the cinnamon and cloves into the mixture and mix for an additional few minutes until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Meanwhile, sieve the flour into a large bowl ready to slowly incorporate into the mixture.
With the mixture still beating, add in half a cup of flour at a time until well incorporated between each flour addition until a dough forms that is not too loose but not quite firm either. It will be dense and wet but not sticky. Once the flour is incorporated fully stop mixing. You may not need all of the flour to get the right consistency as the dough will form differently depending on your ingredients.
Prepare 2 baking trays lined with parchment paper ready for use.
To roll the cookies, pinch a portion of dough off about the size of a walnut, rolling it onto a ball before then rolling in between your palms into a small oblong shape. Press the dough with your thumb in the centre before adding in a whole walnut. Close the filled dough by bringing in the sides of the dough and reshaping into a smooth flattened oblong shape.
Tip: you may want to split the walnut in half if the dough is being pierced depending on the size of your walnuts.
Place onto the prepared baking sheet and repeat this process until all the dough is used. Cook them in batches, setting each batch aside on a wire cooling rack when removed from the oven.
Bake in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes or until golden. Do not be alarmed if some of the biscuits have cracks on them in the baking process.Meanwhile, prepare your syrup in a large saucepan on the stove by adding the delicious red saffron honey, caster sugar cinnamon sticks, lemon rind, lemon juice and water to a rolling boil before reducing the heat and allowing it to simmer for 5 minutes.
Crush your almonds using a food processor and prepare a platter and a side plate (dinner plate size) ready for assembly. Your platter should be lightly sprinkled with some of the almond crumbs. Your side plate should have a large handful of almond crumbs on it to ensure the base of the Melomakarona are lightly covered with almonds preventing them sticking to your platter.
Using a slotted spoon, add in 2-3 biscuits into the syrup at a time. Roll them in the syrup for no longer than 10 seconds. Remove with the slotted spoon and place onto your side plate base down. Move the biscuits around on their bases before sprinkling a large pinch of almond crumb on top of them. Move the Melomakarona onto your prepared platter and continue this process until all of the biscuits have been soaked in syrup.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Thank you Helen from The Greek Vegetarian and your mama for sharing your family recipe for Melomakarona from Corfu. We must say these melomakarona are out of this world!!!
If you loved this recipe, jump over to www.thegreekvegetarian.com.au for more finger licking recipes! Enjoy.