Melomakarona are the quintessential Greek Christmas cookie. I have some information on their history in the other melomacarona recipe posted on this blog. The recipe on this page is one I tried for the first time, and as it turned out it was a great recipe. It even got the approval of my mother, who is on the stingy side with her compliments. It's a recipe based on one by Greek master pastry chef Stelios Parliaros. It was well worth making. The cookies turned out crunchy on the outside, really soft on the inside, they had the fragrant aroma and taste of oranges, and the syrup in which they were dipped made them really delicious. This is a sophisticated version of melomakarona, with prominent orange and honey flavored notes. Loved it, loved it, loved it, but I also love the other recipe for melomacarona that's posted here, which contains a heavier dose of spices. I suppose I will have to alternate between the two recipes from one year to the other.
Chef Parliaros lives in Athens, where he has a TV show and where he markets his concoctions in several patisserie shops that he owns. He is a French trained pastry chef, and his recipes are highly praised. I watch his demonstrations on You Tube and he inspires me. So I gathered the information for this recipe, translated it, got the ingredients and made the melomakarona. In the end of my post I will show the You Tube demonstration for his melomakarona. It's in Greek, so you may not not understand what he is saying, but you will see how the chef molds the cookies, which I think is an important demonstration, especially for me, who has trouble making decently shaped cookies.
The most important piece of advice the chef gives is to mix the dough by hand, and to work in gentle, light strokes. In this way the dough will stay fluffy and the oil that is in the melomakarona will not leak out during baking. If the oil leaks out the cookies will turn out dry. You want a cookie that is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Working quickly and softly should provide that result. Another piece of advice he gives is to have the syrup cold and the melomakarona hot when you dip them in the syrup. He is very insistent about that. So here we go:
- Into a pot add the water, the sugar, the orange peel, the orange juice and the cinnamon sticks.
- Place it on the stove over medium-high heat, let it come to a boil, and then turn down the heat. Cook for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
- Add the honey and mix.
- Let the syrup cool down and then transfer it to a wide container with a lid. Cover and let get cold.
- In a deep container add all the wet ingredients including the melted butter.
- To that add the powdered sugar and the spices.
- Mix the ingredients.
- Add all of the flour along with the baking soda. Mix with your hands gently, starting from the middle of the bowl and progressing toward the outside. Don't use a mixer, it will destroy this dough. Stop mixing as soon as the liquid is incorporated with the flour and the dough begins to form. The dough will have a wonderful aroma.
- Shape the cookies and then score lines on their surface as is indicated in the pictures.
- Place them on parchment lined baking sheets and bake them at 360°F between 25 to 30 minutes depending on the oven. When done they should have a dark golden color.
- As soon as they come out of the oven drop them in the cold syrup. Turn them over with a large spoon and leave them in the syrup for about one minute. If you leave them in for too long they will become saturated with syrup (that's not necessarily bad, they do get a bit soggy and they become really sweet, but they still taste good).
- Place them on a rack and let them drain off excess syrup.
- Prepare a serving platter by spreading a little honey and some walnuts on its surface.
- Add a layer of melomakarona and then repeat the same procedure, layering honey, walnuts and cookies, ending with a light layer of honey and walnuts.
- This recipe makes about 70 really delicious, honey-orange-cinnamon flavored, fragrant cookies.
*If you cannot find oranges that are flavorful and juicy, buy a good quality prepared orange juice.
*If you watch the full video you will see the chef stuff some of the cookies with walnuts. This is a popular variation. I made half of my melomakarona without stuffing, while I stuffed the other half with walnut pieces. *Melomakarona can be kept fresh for 10 days.