Sunday, February 28, 2010


Here is my second recipe for koulourakia. Although I make version #1 anytime, the version here is the one I favor at Easter time. It makes a larger quantity, and I find the flavours better suited to accompany tsoureki and all the other delicacies that abound at Greek Easter time. 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.


250 grams/9 ounces unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
rind from one orange
1 cup warm lukewarm milk
1-kilo all-purpose flour 
3 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Egg wash, made by beating one egg with two tablespoons of milk. 
Sesame seeds for topping, but that's optional.


  • Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
  • In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth, then slowly add the sugar. Beat them together until light and fluffy. 
  • Continue to beat adding the eggs one at a time. 
  • Add the vanilla, orange extract and orange rind. 
  • Add the milk and mix. 
  • Change to the dough hook. Combine the baking powder, baking soda and one cup of flour and stir them into the butter 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. 
  • Take pieces of the dough and form them into spheres of about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Doing this facilitates rolling out the dough into shapes. 
  • Roll each sphere 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.
Make a rod, fold in half, twist. Or, make an S shape and roll in the ends.

  • Place them on the cookie sheets and brush them with egg wash. This is the point where you decide if sesame seeds will decorate the cookies this year. If you lean toward the affirmative, sprinkle the seeds with a light touch. Don't overcoat the cookie with them. 
  • Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. They should have a light golden color. Not too brown.
  • Take out of the oven and let 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 the cookies lasting as long as two months.
waiting for the cookie tins...


  1. greek girl from queensJune 6, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    These look gorgeous. Thank you for sharing the recipe. I've a question for you, though - are koulourakia and koulouria the same thing?

    My grandmother used to make something she pronounced as 'kooloothya,' but the ingredients were pretty much the same as your recipe (sometimes she'd add sesame seeds after the egg wash glaze), and instead of making them into S shapes, she'd sometimes make the dough into circles.

    They were crunchy but not rock hard, perfect everyday treats for dipping into milk, tea or coffee, a little sweet but not overly so. Thanks for the recipe, once again, and for any light you might shed on my childhood memory about 'kooloothya.'

  2. Hello, Greek Girl from Queens! Thanks for your inquiry and I will post an answer to your questions later tonight, around 10:00 PM. I want to check with my mother who is 83, about the "kloothya" word, and I'll write a detailed answer to your question. I have to run for now, but I'll be back in a few hours. Hang on, and thanks again.

  3. I am including this answer in both posts for kolourakia, and I hope I've helped. Let me know.
    During a quick,informal conversation the words koulouria/koulourakia can be used to mean the same thing. The meaning will be derived from the content of the conversation. Typically though, there is a difference. (Before I explain the difference to you, here is something else to know: Koulouria is the original noun. Koulourakia has the suffix “kia, ” which is a diminutive suffix. In Greek, diminutive suffixes can be placed at the end of just about every word to express small size or affection. Example: koulouria=regular size cookies, kouloura∙kia=little cookies. Angeloi=angels, angela∙kia=little angels=can mean small angels or dear angels, like when we say children are little angels)

    Typically, the difference between the two words is this: Koulourakia are small, buttery, desert type cookies, and koulouria are larger, bread - like wreaths, smothered in sesame seeds and sold as street food, much like hot dogs are sold in the US.
    Koulouria are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, sesame - doughy tasting, and a great treat to eat. They are generally made by commercial bakeries, but there are recipes for home cooks, so now that you have brought up the subject, I will make some and post them here. Look for them in late June or early July. I have to get my hands on a lot of sesame seeds!
    Koulourakia/Koulouria are words that derive from the ancient Greek word "Kollyrion," which means "small round bread." Koulourakia can have various shapes such as twists, circles, serpentines, you name it. This depends on the region where they are made and on the preference/stamina of the person making them. The basic recipe has flour, some sugar, and lots of butter. The texture is crumbly, crunchy but not hard, and the taste is buttery with hints of the flavorings used, such as orange, lemon, brandy, etc. They are brushed with egg wash and it's traditional but not necessary to top each one with a few sesame seeds.
    Klouthya and Kooloothya (koulouthya) is the same word with a few vowels missing. It's not uncommon for Greeks to drop vowels just to make a word sound smoother or be spoken faster. We do this in English too. Today, modern Greek is a standardized language, but going back through the centuries there were several Greek dialects spoken. I asked my mother and I even called a cousin in Greece, but we were not able to figure out the dialect of your words. It would help if you could tell me what region of Greece your relatives were from. Consider this: from the ancient word kollyrion we eventually got the modern word koulouria. Language never stands still. It changes, evolves, accommodates itself, surprises us, it does beautiful things. So in the dialect that your family spoke it is very possible that the words kloothya/koulouthya meant the same as koulouria. Some Greek dialects are: Cypriot, Crete, Pontian, Macedonian, Vlach and on and on. There is also Ladino, which is a mixture of Spanish, Hebrew and Greek. Dialects can have mixtures of Greek, Slavic, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Latin. It depends on the region.
    Borekyas derives from the Turkish word borek, which is a pastry made with dough and a filling of your choice. Remember that the people we call Greeks today, lived under Turkish rule for 400 years. That’s why both in Greece and in Turkey there are words and recipes that are similar. In my mother’s family borekya were made with dough, spinach, feta cheese and a few other ingredients. Kolva could be what we call halva, but I would have to know the ingredients or I would need a description of its appearance to tell for sure.
    I hope I’ve answered some of your questions. Please ask me anything you want about Greece, Greek history, culture, and food. Your questions made me reminisce, and that was nice. I would love to answer, I’ve got books to look things up, but sometimes I give really long answers if you haven’t figured this out yet.

  4. greek girl from queensJune 14, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    Thank you so, so very much Ana. You've exceeded my every hope and wish of finding out more about the origins of these wonderful cookies from my childhood, bringing back beautiful memories for me, baking with my nuna many years ago.

    Thank you, too, for going through the time and effort of asking your mother and your cousin about the pronunciation my grandmother used (kloothia/koulouthya ... koulouria!). I'm sure you're absolutely right about her dropping vowels or syllables to make it sound smoother or get the word out faster. That, plus her northwestern regional accent (Ioannina) probably added to that particular pronunciation.
    Please tell them thank you for me.

    As for bourekyas/borekas, my nuna sometimes called them that too, but most of the time, she interchanged that with the term 'boyikos,' or, as she pronounced it in her inimitable way, 'bee yee koos.' That's how it sounded to my young ears, anyway. She made it the same way you described, above. Half a batch of three kinds of cheeses - usually feta, farmer's and pot cheese, and then another batch that was a mixture of spinach and feta and farmer's cheese, shaped in the form of a turnover or a Cornish pasty (I used to call them pastry, until a woman from Cornwall, when we visited there, corrected me - it's a pasty, not a pastry, LOL.

    Anyway, I loved those things nearly as much as the koulouria/koulourakia/kloothia. I swear i could've eaten them every day for each meal and never grow tired of them. She made them with such skill and such love, and I loved it when she would allow me to help her by either mixing the cheeses with the spinach, or by pinching the edges of the bourekyas with my thumb, or putting either the egg wash or the sesame seeds on the kloothia. I just wish that I had the presence of mind back then to really pay attention, or better still, to write down the recipe (as well as how she spelled all of them), so I could have it today, many years later.

    As for kolva, I think it's along the lines of the Turkish/middle eastern 'kolyvah,' which was a sort of walnut and honey syrupy mixture, sometimes with almonds, pistachios, figs, and adored by my uncle. He used to plead with her to make a big jar of it especially for him, and so at the end of a big family get-together, she would give him two huge glass jars filled to the brim with this stuff. Even though all children love sweet things, this concoction was way too sweet for me - very, very syrupy and gooey...but oh, how my uncle adored it. I think, if I'm not mistaken, they're sometimes referred to as 'Greek spoon sweets'? Or am I way off base there?

    Might there be any good Greek cookbooks I could buy that have the recipe for koulouria and koulourakia, and possibly the other two, and of course, with lots of photos to accompany the recipes? I adore cookbooks - I'm a cookbook junkie, if truth be told.

    Sorry for rabbitting on and on like this, but again, I'm just overwhelmed by the amount of love, care, attention and time you've taken to research this for me, and to post it. You've truly made my day, if not my entire week, by posting this. Thanks so, so much!