“Baby, it’s colllld ouuuutside…” Do you listen to Christmas music while you bake in December? I do. And my favourite thing to bake? Cypriot Christmas cookies. They remind me of my family and friends, because I usually make them with my family and friends. This year I am in Canada, so I made them with my mom. “Melomakarona” are actually a traditional Greek Christmas cookie, but they are made in Cyprus none the less. I can’t really think of any particular differences between the Greek and Cypriot version either. I suppose sometimes a cookie is just perfect the way it is. Having said that, I love my “melomakarona” full of spice and very nutty. I use just hazelnuts and almonds instead of walnuts because I prefer them – which is different to most recipes. My other favourite non Cypriot Christmas cookies are ginger snaps. So I also wondered if I could somehow fuse these flavours together. So I added a little ginger into the spice mix for “melomakarona”. I am not one to mess with something so traditional as “melomakarona” usually, but I actually think the addition of ginger was really great. It was subtle enough that you still felt you were eating “melomakarona” (to satisfy the traditionalists) but there was also a welcome spicy afterkick, which I think helped accent the warm spicy flavour in this recipe which, together with the nuts, is my favourite part. I hope you enjoy, if you want to make the traditional recipe then just omit the ginger, but do bear in mind I already make them slightly different in that there are no walnuts here!
For the cookies
6 cups Mitsides Plain Flour (more or less)
3 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup orange juice
zest of 2 oranges
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsps ginger
1 & 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 & 1/2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup ground lightly roasted almonds
1/2 cup ground lightly roasted hazelnuts
coarsely ground almond-hazelnut mixture (1/2 and 1/2) for sprinkling on top of the cookies
For the syrup
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup of honey
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
2 thick pieces of orange rind
1. Preheat the oven to 175C.
2. Mix all the ingredients together except the flour with a hand whisk, then slowly mix in the flour until the mixture becomes thick.
3. Use your hand to finish mixing the dough. The dough is ready when it does not stick to your hands, be firm and you should be able to shape cookies out of it.
4. Form the cookies into circle shapes and use your thumb to make a dimple on top and place on a baking tray. Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and let the “melomakarona” cool.
6. Once the cookies have cooled, prepare your syrup. Put all the syrup ingredients except the honey into a pot on the stove. Bring the syrup to a boil. Add the honey and bring to a boil again, then lower the temperature to a simmer. Dip the cookies in a few at a time for a few seconds (maximum 10-15 seconds).
7. Remove the “melomakarona” and place on wax paper. Sprinkle with coarsely ground nuts and enjoy!