Kourambiedes Greek Christmas Cookies
Aside from family, friends, and amazing beaches, the other thing that I really miss about living in Greece:holiday cookies. Greek holiday cookies are nothing like American cookies, but don’t get me wrong, I love those, too. But for me, there’s something extra special about the Greek cookies. I love melomakarona, topped with a sprinkling of walnuts and a drizzling of honey. Then there are kourambiedes, fragrant with butter and toasted almonds. The shops in Greece pile them so high they look like snow covered Christmas trees.
Every year I bake cookies at Christmas time. I usually make chocolate chip, chewy gingerbread, and kourambiedes. The nice thing about this cookie is that they last for weeks. So you can enjoy them long after the holidays have come and gone…if they last that long!
Browning the butter isn’t a step in the traditional Greek recipe, but I really think it adds a whole other layer of depth and flavor. Another key to making these cookies is not to skimp on the kneading. You want to work the dough for at least ten minutes, less will leave you with a cookie texture that turns pasty in the mouth instead of buttery and crumbly.
So, from my famly to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah. To my fellow Greeks, καλά Χριστούγεννα με υγεία και αγάπη. Enjoy the recipe!
Makes about 40
Nonstick pan spray
1 cup (270 grams) Browned Butter, softened
½ cup (140 grams) powdered sugar, plus more (about 1 cup) for finishing
1 large egg
1 tablespoon Metaxa or brandy
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 3/4 to 2 cups (300 to 336 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ cup chopped slivered almonds
To brown the butter, cut into cubes and place in a small pot. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until the butter becomes fragrant and golden brown in color. Allow the butter to firm up (room temp) again before using.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. with a rack in the center position. Coat a baking sheet with oil or pan spray.
Using a standing mixer and the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed for 10 minutes. (Alternatively, use a handheld electric mixer.) Add the egg, Metaxa, and vanilla, and beat for 2 minutes longer. Add three-quarters of the flour and the salt; mix 10 minutes more. If the dough is sticky, continue to add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is smooth and no longer sticky.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Cut out cookies with a 1 1/2-inch cutter, gently gathering and re-patting the scraps, as needed, to make all the cookies. (To form the cookies without a cutter, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll one piece back and forth under your palms on a flat surface to make a 1-inch wide log. Press down on the log with your palms to form a long, flat strip, 1/2-inch thick. Cut the strip cross-wise into 1 1/2-inch segments to form the cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.)
Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet, placing them 1/2-inch apart (they will not spread). Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the bottoms are golden. Transfer the cookies directly to a wire rack to cool.
Put powdered sugar, about 1 cup, into a wide, shallow bowl and drop in several cookies, rolling them in the sugar to evenly coat them. Transfer to a plate. Repeat to coat all of the cookies, adding more sugar, if needed. Sift any sugar remaining in the bowl over the tops of the cookies.
Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
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