Sunday, 28 February 2010

KOULOURAKIA for EASTER; A Greek butter cookie


Ah, spring and the impending arrival of Easter ... Time to make koulourakia!!!


Here is my second recipe for koulourakia. Although I make version #1 anytime, the version here is the one I favour at Easter. It makes a larger quantity, and I find the flavours better suited to accompany tsoureki and all the other delicacies that abound during the Greek Easter celebrations. The dough is crunchy on the outside with a soft, crumbly interior, and the flavour is buttery. The addition of orange flavour is not overwhelming; one just gets a hint of the taste of orange. If you prefer a cookie with a more pronounced butter flavour, leave out the orange. This recipe makes approximately eighty cookies.



Ingredients:

250 grams/9 ounces unsalted butter
2 cups caster* (superfine) sugar
5 eggs, separated 
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
rind from one orange
1 cup lukewarm milk
1kilo all-purpose flour (8 cups)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder 
Egg wash: beat two eggs with one tablespoon of milk. 
Sesame seeds for topping, but that's optional.


No sesame seeds here, but koulourakia with this round shape would look particularly good with some sesame seeds scattered on top of them. 


*CASTER SUGAR

Not necessary to purchase it; it can be prepared at home! 

The advantage of using caster sugar is that it dissolves quickly and easily, a feature one wants in cookie recipes. Caster (or superfine) sugar is granulated sugar that has been ground enough to take on a superfine quality. This is easily achieved by processing granulated sugar for about one minute or two, inside a blender or food processor. One or two minutes will suffice. If processed for a longer period it will reach the consistency of powdered (confectioner's) sugar. 

Grind more than the amount called for in a recipe because some granules will turn into sugar dust. Cover the processor lid so as not to have sugar dust escape onto your working area. 


Directions:

  • During whisking, periodically turn off the mixer so as to scrape down the sides of the bowl; make sure all the batter is well incorporated. 
  • Combine the baking powder and baking soda with one cup of the flour. Set aside.
  • Into a very clean bowl of your stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Remove them from the bowl and reserve. Make sure there's no egg yolk, butter, or any other form of fat which comes into contact with the egg whites as they are being whisked. The presence of fat will not allow egg whites to reach the meringue/stiff peak stage. 
  • Clean the bowl of your mixer at this point, it's okay to wipe it off with a paper towel. 
  • Add the butter and whisk until smooth.
  • Add the caster sugar and beat until the butter and sugar appear light and fluffy. 
  • Continue to beat, adding the egg yolks one at a time. 
  • Add the vanilla, orange extract and orange rind. 
  • Add the milk and mix. Turn off the mixer. 
  • Fold in the reserved egg whites.
  • During whisking, periodically turn off the mixer so as to scrape down the sides of the bowl; make sure all the batter is well incorporated. 
  • Change to the dough hook. Add the reserved one cup flour/baking powder mixture into the butter/sugar mixture. 
  • Slowly add the rest of the flour. The mixture is ready when a dough has formed that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl. 

  • Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Have a seat and start shaping the cookies: take pieces of the dough and form them into spheres of about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. 
  • When finished forming the spheres, roll each into a rod shape and fold it in half, then twist the two halves together. This is the most popular shape, but there are others you can make: for example, you can form an S and then roll-in the ends. as you see in the picture below. Or make little circles or shells.

An overview of different shapes

This spiral is the most popular shape. 

A serpentine shape
Another nice shape. This will look particularly nice if topped with sesame seeds!

  • Place the cookies on parchment covered cookie sheets and brush them with egg wash. This is the point where you decide if sesame seeds will decorate your cookies this year. If you lean towards the affirmative, sprinkle the seeds with a light touch. Don't overcoat the cookie with them. 
  • Bake for about 25 minutes give or take, rotating the pans halfway through baking. The cookies should come out of the oven lightly golden, not too brown.
  • Take them out of the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Remove them from the cookie sheets carefully, as koulourakia can be fragile. Stack them in layers inside cookie tins.


  • Koulourakia will keep for up to two months unless you have little mice in your house. I am referring to the two-legged variety of little mice that can open tins and take out handfuls of koulourakia to enjoy with a glass of milk. If you have those little mice, don't count on these cookies lasting as long as two months.
I make these cookies once yearly, at Easter time. Usually, I'll take a photo of them to show friends ... If the photo is enough to my liking, I'll post it here. I've reached the point where I have way too many pictures of these cookies. I should stop photographing them, is what I should do. However, as far as koulourakia go, this is an excellent recipe and so I like to show it off!