Monday, March 20, 2017

Semolina, Pistachio and Rose Water Cake

I grew up in a house where a jar or two of semolina were always laying around in the cupboard waiting to be used in some of our favorite recipes as kids.

My mother would always buy 2 kinds of semolina: fine and coarse. Each had a different use. Mom would use the fine one to make a vegan semolina and saffron or turmeric cake, while the coarse one was reserved to a sweet and syrupy semolina cake dotted with almonds. I will share both recipes with you the soonest.

Semolina is the star ingredient of the famous Easter cookies we make every year during the holiday. I'll be making a big batch soon and let me tell you that I can't wait to make these delicious crumbly cookies.

Taking inspiration in all of these recipes and some more, I made a cake that screams the Eastern Mediterranean to me with its delicate fresh and floral flavors. The cake is moist, packed with flavors and what's really neat is that it only takes a bowl and a hand whisk to make!

For the cake you need:
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 80 g soft butter
  • 50 g yogurt (plain, no added sugar or fruits)
  • 100 g sugar
  • 50 g pistachio paste
  • 50 g ground pistachio
  • 175 g semolina
  • 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 250 ml of simple syrup (recipe follows)
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar, add the yogurt and mix well. Add the eggs one by one and mix until well combined. Incorporate the pistachio paste, ground pistachio, salt, semolina, baking powder and baking soda and whisk again.  Finally add the rose and orange water.

Pour the batter into a greased pan covered with parchment paper. I used a 16 cm round pan, and baked the cake in a preheated oven (175 C / 345 to 350 F) for about 40 to 45 min. Check after 35 min with a skewer, it should come out clean. If you use a bigger pan, reduce the baking time.

While you bake the cake prepare the syrup:
  • 130 g sugar
  • 130 g water
  • few drops of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp rose water and 1 tsp of orange blossom water
Combine sugar and water and simmer on a gentle heat. Once the sugar has dissolved and you start seeing bubbles on the surface, add the lemon, leave it for a couple of minutes then turn off the heat.
Add the rose and orange water and mix.

Once the cake is baked, leave it to cool for 5 minutes, remove it from the pan and then pour the syrup all over.

To serve, decorate the cake as you see fit. I have a big box of hairy floss so I decided to add some on the top to decorate my cake; it's also quite the delicious addition.

The cake pairs well with vanilla or mastiha ice cream, Greek yogurt, and honey. However, the cake is quite delicious on its own and does not necessarily need any additions.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Semlor, Indulgent Swedish Cream Buns

The best thing about traveling, at least for me, is how it exposes you to all the different culinary traditions the world has to offer. You can spend a lifetime of traveling and you will still come across a new ingredient, a new dish, and a new cooking method. For a sweet tooth, my visit to a new country would not be complete if I didn't sample a traditional sweet or two popular among locals.

Years ago, I went to Sweden and spent a few days strolling through the charming streets of Stokholm, its capital city. When I got tired or needed a break I would go into cute coffee shops and enjoy a warm cup of coffee and people watch! The Swedes  have a beautiful tradition called "Fika", and though I don't know uf  there's an exact word-to-word translation to it, it basically means to have coffee. This coffee-break, often had in the afternoon, gathers friends and families around coffee, tea and juice, served along cakes and pies. As it turned out, one fika per day was not enough for me. Actually two were not enough for my I-want-to-try-it-all attitude. Luckily, the Swedes had enough to keep me coming back for more.

As I went to Sweden in summer, I did not get to sample one of its most popular treats: Semlor. This sweet bread, served before the lent season, is quite popular in the country and can be found seasonally throughout the month of February. I had known about it from Swedish friends. Though I would have liked to try it in Sweden, the Arctic Northern European winters of this land are a bit too cold for a Mediterranean girl like me!

My solution for this dilemma was to make my own semlor. I tried several recipes and was not satisfied with the results. The dough just got too dry in less than 24 hours. In my recent attempts, I adjusted the dough recipe and was rewarded with delectable semlor that will stay perfect for at least 48 hours!

For the dough you need: (makes 6 buns)
  • 250 g bread flour
  • 1 egg (the one I used weighed 65 g)
  • 90 ml of warm milk (28C)
  • 8 g fresh yeast
  • 40 g sugar
  • 3 g salt
  • 60 g soft butter
  • 1/2 tsp groung cardamon (I used a bit more as I love the cardamom aroma)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla paste
First start by making  a pre-ferment. Mix the milk with the yeast until it dissolves, then add 90 g of the flour, mix well then  add the rest of the flour over the mixture. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. Once it rests, the flour on top of the mixture will rise and crack a bit pushed by the dough beneath.

Now add the rest of the ingredients except the butter and start mixing. A first mix with a wooden spoon then flip the dough over a clean working surface and knead for few minutes.  You can use your mixer of course, but I like doing that by hands.

After few minutes add the butter and keep kneading, the dough will be very sticky and all over the counter, don´t worry after minutes of mixing the dough will come together and won´t stick at all. It took about 25 min to reach that point. With a mixer, using the hook accessory, it will take you about 15 minutes.

Transfer the dough into a clean and greased bowl, cover and let it proof between an hour or 2 or until it doubles in volume. After that, tuck the edges to the middle of the dough, cover it again and leave it in the fridge over night.

In the morning, take about 75 g of the dough, flat it down a bit, tuck the edges into the middle of the dough then roll it into a nicely shaped ball.

Place all the buns on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and let them rise again for about 2 hours or until they double in volume.

Heat your oven to 200 C, prepare an egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp milk and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract) and gently brush the buns. I brushed the buns twice then bake them for about 10 to 12 min or until golden brown.

For the almond paste you need:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 20 g whole almonds (peeled)
  • simple syrup infused with cardmamom (100 g sugar, 100 g water and 5 cardamom pods)
First start by toasting the whole almonds in a hot oven (100 C) for few minutes, then add the almond flour. By heating the almonds you will intensify the flavor and once you smell the almonds you know they are ready.

Mix the almond flour with enough syrup to make a paste, (if it´s too thick you can add some milk once you´re about to fill the buns). Crush the whole almonds and add them to the paste. You can skip the step, but I like the crunchy texture. 

For the whipped cream:
  • 200 ml 35% cream
  • 25 g sugar
  • the seeds of one vanilla pod (or extract or paste)
Start with a cold cream and whisk; it helps the cream to whip quickly and to get a strong texture. Add the sugar and vanilla to the cream and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Pay attention to the cream all the time, if you whip too much you will get butter!

Once then buns are cold, snip off the top, fill with almond paste, then swirl the whipped cream, put back the top as a lid, sprinkle some powdered sugar and enjoy a delicious and amazing treat from the beautiful Sweden.

You can enjoy semlor with warm vanilla or cinnamon infused milk. The Swedes call this way of enjoying semlor "Hetvägg", which means "hot wall". I don´t know why they call it as such, but it´s really delicious and comforting.

Now rush to your kitchens and make some semlor before February ends and the lent season starts! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Romantic and Sweet, a Valentine's Special: Chocolate and Raspberry Swiss Roll

Valentine's day is a special occasion to remind us of how important love is in our lives. While there's no one way to celebrate this day and express your love, for me the simpler the better. A nice romantic dinner with a sweet finish is all it takes. Let your gift for your significant other be a dinner prepared with love and finished with my idea of a perfectly romantic dessert: a chocolate, raspberry, rose and mascaprone Swiss roll.

You cannot go wrong in the romantic department when you combine chocolate, raspberries and roses; it's not even possible. This cake is not only delicious but it is also easy to make and you won't have to spend hours upon hours to make it perfect and ready for the occasion.

Let´s start rolling:
For the sponge cake you need:
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 80 g brown sugar
  • 80 g flour
  • 20 g cocoa powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tbsp of rose water 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a bowl combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and rose water and mix for about 8 to 10 minutes until it triples in volume and becomes pale yellow and rather thick.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt and mix them well together. Sift the dry ingredients over a baking paper. 

Gently fold the flour  mix with the beaten eggs using a rubber spatula.  Make sure there are no lumps in the mix. It is better to add the flour mix in batches to avoid lump formation.

Spread the batter evenly on a 30 x 25 cm baking sheet covered with baking paper, greased and sprinkled with cocoa powder,

Bake in a preheated oven (200C) for 10 min. To make sure the sponge is baked nicely, gently press it in the middle and if it springs back then it´s done.

Let the cake cool for 3 minutes, then flip it over a baking paper covered with cocoa powder.  Gently peel off the baking paper that you used to bake the cake and cover it with a new one or a clean kitchen towel. Flip it again, trim the edges and roll it. Make sure to cover the edges well and let it cool completely. 

For the filling you need:
  • 250 g mascarpone cheese at room temperature
  • 30 ml rose water
  • 40 g powdered sugar (you can add more if you want it to be sweeter)
  • 100 g fresh raspberries
In a bowl, mix the cheese, sugar and rose water until you have a smooth and fluffy mixture. I used a hand whisk and it took just few minutes.

Unroll the cake, remove the top layer of baking paper, spread the mascarpone mix evenly over it and scatter the raspberries. With the help of the baking paper or towel you used on the bottom of the cake roll the sponge slowly and tightly. Remove the baking paper or towel and transfer the roll to a serving platter.

You can serve the cake as it is with a sprinkle of powdered sugar but  I decided to add chocolate rose water ganache. 

For the ganache you need:
  • 75 g of 70% dark chocolate, chopped finely
  • 100 ml cream (35%)
  • 1 tsp rose water
Heat the cream until it simmers, remove from the heat, add the chocolate and whisk until all the chocolate melts. Add the rose water and mix again.

Pour the ganache over the swiss roll to cover it completely. Let it cool for 15 minutes, and you´re ready to serve. If you decide to use the ganache to frost the roll, do this before you transfer it to the serving plate.

Enjoy a chocolaty, creamy and  aromatic cake with your loved one or ones! 

Happy Valentine! 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Banana and Peanut Butter Pancakes

After a long working week, we all crave the break the weekend provides. On Saturday mornings, when Monday still feels distant, there's nothing better than to wake up a bit late and enjoy a relaxing breakfast.

To be honest, I often plan during the weekdays what I will have for the weekends' breakfast; something to do with planning ahead and avoiding wasting time! Quite often, I choose pancakes because they are easy to prepare and can be made with just about any flavor you can imagine.

I have shared several pancake recipes before and experimented with many flavors. This time, I decided to combine the flavor of bananas with that of peanut butter, for a sweet, protein-packed, and healthy start of the day.

For 4 people you need:
  • 180 g cake flour
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 g baking soda and 4 g baking powder
  • 30 g brown sugar
  • 60 g peanut butter (if it´s too stiff heat it in the microwave for few seconds)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 50 ml milk (use more if the batter is too thick)
  • dash of salt
In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda and baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon.
In another bowl whisk for a couple of minutes the eggs, banana, peanut butter, vanilla and milk.

Now all you need to do is to mix the wet ingredients with the dry ones, the mixture should be rather thick but liquid enough to be poured on a hot pan.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of the batter on a greased and hot pan. Cook until you see bubbles surfing on the top of the pancake then flip it and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side.

Once you finish baking all the pancakes, serve them warm with some maple syrup, honey, or fresh fruits, and enjoy a comforting and delicious breakfast!

For more breakfast ideas featuring pancakes, check these recipes: hereherehere and here . 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Roscón de Reyes or "The Kings' Cake"

The holidays are over in many parts of the world but luckily here in Spain they linger till the 6th of January. Gift sharing is synonymous with Christmas across most of the world, however, for the Spanish, gifts are exchanged on the morning of the day awaited by children and adults alike: Día de los Reyes! This feast, which occurs on the 6th of January, is known elsewhere as the Epiphany and is celebrated much more modestly. However, in Spain and much of the Hispanic World the feast is celebrated widely.

On this special day, before unwrapping the gifts, the family gathers around a breakfast consisting of hot chocolate and the star of Christmas desserts in Spain and in many Hispanic countries: el Roscón de Reyes. The whole day and feast pays tribute to the Three Wise Men or Magi that foretold the arrival of Jesus Christ. Tradition has it that children receive gifts not from Santa Clause but from the Reyes or Wise Men themselves.

The roscon is a brioche like dough, though less buttery, that is usually decorated with candied fruits and can be filled with whipped cream. Small figurines are hidden in the cake and the one who finds it will be a king for a day and will supposedly have a better year!

I usually miss this celebration as I go home for Christmas and New Year celebration. This year, however, my family came to Madrid to spend the holidays. Even though I could have bought roscon from any pastry shop, supermarket or market fair, I decided that it is time to make it at home! It is always so much nicer when you share homemade desserts with your family. It is even better when you eat this delicious dessert with your favorite hot chocolate recipe.

To make the roscon you have to start with the start dough or poolish. The quantities listed are for 4 to 6 people.

You need:
  • 75 g strong bread flour
  • 75 g milk at 37 degrees C (98/99 F)
  • 3 g fresh yeast
Mix all the ingredients together, cover and let the wet starter proof for 30 minutes. It should double in size and be full of bubbles.

For the final dough:
  • 175 strong bread flour
  • 40 g honey
  • 1 large egg (50 g of it will go into the dough the rest will be used for the egg wash)
  • zest of one medium orange and zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp of bourbon
  • 2 tsp of orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 g fresh yeast
  • the poolish made previously
  • 50 g soft butter
In a big bowl combine all the ingredients but the butter, and with the hook  attachment knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough should become smooth and shiny. Add the butter and knead again for another 10 minutes. After that time you will  have a smooth, elastic and shiny dough. Grease a bowl, put the dough inside of it, cover and let it rise until it doubles in size, which will take between 1 hour 30 min to 2 hours.

When the dough has risen, deflate it a bit by taking the sides of the dough and bringing them to the middle. Cover again and leave it the fridge for the next day.
If you don´t have time or you can´t wait, drop the dough on a lightly floured surface, shape it into a ball , make a hole in the middle and start stretching it carefully until you have a ring shaped roscón. I made a slight mistake while shaping mine as the hole should have been bigger so it won't close almost completely once baked. 
If you decide to leave the dough in the fridge overnight, you just need to make the same step mentioned above, 
Once the ring is formed, cover it and let it proof until it doubles in size, if the dough is cold it will take a bit longer! This step will take around 2 hours.

Preheat your oven at 200 C/392 F. Prepare the egg wash by mixing the rest of the egg with a teaspoon of milk and few drops of vanilla or cointreau.

Brush the dough with the egg wash and decorate it as you wish: candied fruits, pearled sugar, slivered almonds or whatever you like.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Traditionally the cake is served as it is, but in recent years some fillings like whipped cream or chocolate cream were added to spice up the traditional cake. 

Have the cake with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and enjoy a piece of Spanish tradition!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Chocolate and Chestnut Cake For New Year!

As the year 2016 ends and the year 2017 is about to start, it is only fitting to end the old year and start the new with a sweet note. As chestnuts and glazed chestnuts are popular around this time of the year, I was inspired to incorporate sweetened chestnuts with a rich chocolate cake.

This chocolate and chestnut cake is rich, moist and delivers just the right amount of sweetness for New Year's Eve and the day after!

Although the cake will take some time to make, the steps needed are quite straightforward, and the end result is well worth it.

For the chocolate sponge cake you need (4 layers, 15 cm pan):
  • 3 small eggs
  • 20 g maple syrup
  • 180 g sugar (I used 50 g brown sugar and the rest regular white sugar)
  • 180 g cake flour
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • 10 g baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 150 g butter
  • 100 g chopped dark chocolate
  • 160 g chestnut butter or spread or cream (whatever you call it) (recipe here)
  • 50 g milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • Pinch of salt
First combine butter and chocolate and melt them on a gentle flame. Set aside.

Mix together all of the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a bowl, start beating the eggs, then gradually start adding the sugar and keep beating until mixture doubles in volume and becomes pale in color. Put your mixer at the lowest speed and add the chocolate and butter, once combined turn off your mixer.

Sift the flour mixture over the batter and gently fold with a rubber spatula. Once combined add the chestnut cream and fold, and finish with the milk.

Divide your batter into four 15cm pans, previously greased and covered with parchment paper (if you don´t have 4 pans just divide the batter in 2, bake the first batch while you keep the rest in the fridge, or use one pan then cut the baked cake in half) and bake for 25 min in a preheated oven (180C).
Once out of the oven, let the cakes cool for 5 min in the pans then remove them and put them on cooling rack to cool completely.

The filling is a made from pastry cream mixed with chestnut cream/spread.
For the pastry cream:
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup and half milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp of corn starch
  • 100 g butter
Heat the milk on a gentle flame. Beat the eggs with the sugar and corn starch. Temper the egg mix with some warm milk, then pour the egg mix into the milk. Continue heating and stirring the cream until it thickens enough. Mix in the butter until well incorporated. 

For the chestnut pastry cream:
  • prepared pastry cream
  • 250 g chestnut cream
Just combine the two creams until well mixed!

For the assembly:

Spread the chestnut pastry cream on the first cake layer and stack the second one. Repeat the process. Garnish the cake with chocolate shavings. I stacked the cake in a way as to look like a wood log, complete with rings on top and chocolate curls that look like bark plaques as they detach from the trunk.

At the end, I would like to wish to all of you the best and sweetest year you can possible have! 

Chestnut Spread: a Winter Special!

Late fall/early winter is not the typical season of plenty, but it does have its star ingredients, with chestnuts being one of them. Most people appreciate the rich flavor of chestnuts and their floury texture, once cooked. I like to use chestnuts within desserts or savory dishes whenever I have the chance.

Chestnut spread is such a useful recipe that makes good use of this tasteful ingredient in a simple way. The spread is good consumed on its own over a warm toast drizzled with honey or incorporated in other baked goods like in this chocolate and chestnut cake recipe!

To make about 500 g of this chestnut spread you need:
  • 250 g of roasted and peeled chestnut
  • 350 ml of water
  • 50 g brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract or paste
  • a generous pinch of sea salt
  • hot water

Place the chestnuts in a sauce pan and cover with water. Cook the chestnuts for about 30 to 40 min, or until the chestnuts have absorbed most of the water. While they still hot, place them in a food processor or hand blender, add the sugar and salt and blend until smooth. Add water if you find the paste to be too thick!

Fill the jars with the paste while it´s still hot, cover tightly, let it cool then refrigerate!
The spread has endless uses. You can use it in healthy breakfast spread over a whole grain toasted bread and sweetened with apple and cinnamon, or use it to impart a deep earthly flavor to cakes, pancakes, cupcakes or to cake frostings.

This flavorsome chestnut spread represents the essence of the cold seasons in a jar! Make it and use it in the best way that fits your needs. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cranberry, White Chocolate and Rosemary Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Bourbon Frosting

When cranberries are in season, I can't help but buy as many as I can. What I don't use (or eat) immediately gets stacked in the freezer. I must confess that I sleep peacefully at night knowing that I have cranberries on standby in my kitchen!

Cranberries are quite popular in this festive season as they feature in many savory dishes and desserts. They definitely add an extra flavor that cannot be replaced by any other ingredient.

With that said, I wanted to try  a recipe that is very easy to make and is packed full of flavor. Now as you can tell from the title of the post, the ingredients used will certainly deliver a complex, fragrant, rich and tangy flavor. The frosting, with its creamy texture and Bourbon flavor adds another layer of complexity making this humble pound cake an absolute winner.

For the cake you need (23 x 10 cm pan)
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 100 g soft butter
  • 50 g creme fraiche 
  • 100 g white sugar plus 50 g brown sugar
  • 150 g flour
  • 5 g baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spices (cloves, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom)
  • 80 g fresh cranberries (frozen is fine too)
  • 100 g chopped white chocolate
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp bourbon
For the frosting you need:
  • 100 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 75 g powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp of bourbon (or 2 if you like a stronger flavor) 
  • 1 tbsp or 2 of milk

To make the cake, start by combining the flour, baking powder, mixed spices and salt.
In a bowl, whisk the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one by one and whisk  to combine.  Add the flour mixture and mix well. 
Lastly combine the cranberries and the white chocolate.

Pour the mixture in a greased and floured pan and bake in a preheated oven for 35 to 40 min or until a skewer placed in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Once done, take out of the oven and let the cake cool down for 5 min in the pan and then remove and continue cooling it on a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling tackle the frosting.

With a whisk, cream the cheese for a minute or two. Add the sugar and whisk again. Mix in the milk then the bourbon. If the mixture is too thick, thin it down with milk, adding one teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Once the cake has cooled completely, pour the frosting over and let it drip on the sides. You can microwave the frosting for just a few seconds in order to become just a tiny bit runnier.

Decorate to your liking. I added a few sprigs of rosemary and sugared cranberries!
If you want to make sugared cranberries,  all you need to do is to whisk an egg white until frothy. Drop in the cranberries and coat them with the egg white. Remove them from the egg white and roll them into sugar. Leave them to dry for a couple of hours! The sugared cranberries look like frozen ones, a tribute to the winter season and the holiday spirit.

Make this cake during the holidays. It is the perfect accompaniment  with your afternoon tea or coffee or as part of your breakfast. Eaten alone or with family and friends, the cake is delicious, but as always sharing food with beloved ones just reinforces our ties with them. And what better time to do so then during the holidays?

Happy Holidays!

For other cranberry recipes click herehere and here

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Melamakarona, a Special Greek Christmas Cookie

On my trips back home from Spain, I used to travel via Athens. During December, the meal served on Greek airlines would include a typical Christmas Greek dessert. I was never sure what the Greeks called this special cookie but I was always sure of its taste! After some fiddling around, I managed to know what this sweet cookie was: melamakarona, the Greek honey cookie.

These yummy cookies feature the best of warm and Christmas flavors: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, oranges and honey.

The name of the dessert reminded me of a famous Levantine dessert: maakaroun. However, maakarouns are made on the feast of the Epiphany. Moreover, alhough they are shaped similarly, maakarouns are fried while melomakaronas are baked.

If you enjoy trying recipes from all over the world, then you should add this recipe to your book of baking. During December, I get a bit more active in trying out various recipes from all over the world and I will leave the links at the end of the post of some of what I tried.

Now let´s make some melomakaronas. For 25 to 28 pieces you need:
  • 250 g flour
  • 50 g fine semolina
  • 50 g brown sugar
  • 1/2 or 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp of baking soda and 1/8 tsp of baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • zest of half an orange
  • 100 g mild olive oil
  • 100 g orange juice
  • 5 to 10 g brandy
For the syrup:
  • 150 g water
  • 200 g sugar
  • 100 g honey
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • one thick slice of orange
First, start by making the syrup. In a sauce pan, combine all the ingredients but the honey . Put on a gentle flame and simmer for about 5 minutes. When the sugar dissolves completely, add the honey and simmer again for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To make the cookies, combine the wet ingredients: olive oil, orange juice and brandy and stir.In another bowl mix all the dry ingredients and mix well. Now add the wet ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a soft and manageable dough.

Leave it to rest for 20 minutes.

Now take about 20 g of the dough, shape into a ball or sausage shape and gently pass it over a grater to create the shape of the melomakarona. Place the shaped cookies over a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Bake in a preheated oven (180C) for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven dip them in the cool syrup. Remove from the syrup and place them on a rack to let them drain. Once they cool sprinkle some chopped walnuts and  you are done!

The cookies can be served alone or with a warm cup of tea or dark coffee. They are deeply scented by all those wonderful spices, honey and oranges and go so well these hot comforting beverages.

With every bite I took into the melamakarona, I was transported to a different spot in Greece, a country that I love dearly and visited many times. Now it's up you to travel the world through sweets, and if you're short on ideas, why not travel to Greece like I did? I promise, you will enjoy every moment of it! 
To check other christmas recipes click on the following links: herehereherehere and here