- Dish type
- Biscuits and cookies
Greek Easter, like many Orthodox religions, is based on the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar that Catholics and many western churches follow. Unfortunately, sad circumstances have dictated otherwise so we'll be marking the occasion here instead. Instead it is marked with a church service and eggs dyed a bright red, followed by plenty of food with lots of family.
Kent, England, UK
4 people made this
IngredientsMakes: 3 dozen
- 450g butter, softened
- 300g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 550g plain flour
- sesame seeds for sprinkling
MethodPrep:40min ›Cook:10min ›Ready in:50min
- Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Grease baking trays and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add two of the eggs one at a time, mixing through thoroughly. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Sift in the flour and mix together until a soft dough forms.
- Take a walnut-sized piece of dough and roll into a snake, then form an 'S' shape. Alternatively, you can shape them into wreaths or twists.
- Place each biscuit onto the greased baking tray, leaving a clear space around each.
- Beat the remaining two eggs in a small bowl. Brush each biscuit with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.
- Remove from oven and leave to cool on a baking rack.
- They can also be stored in an airtight container for a week or so. They never last that long in this house though!
See it on my blog
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Greek/Macedonian Easter Biscuits Koulourakia: Recipe
RECIPES | Koulourakia are Greek/Macedonian Easter biscuits that are a staple in many Orthodox households in the region during Easter. They originate from an old recipe that dates back to the Minoan civilisation (c. 2700 – c. 1100 BC). The biscuits are traditionally made on Holy Saturday, so that they are ready to be eaten on Easter Sunday.
Koulourakia are a braided, butter-based biscuit, traditionally hand-shaped, with egg glaze on top. Fresh oranges and vanilla are key, and they give the biscuits such a fresh, vibrant element. The sprinkling of sesame seeds at the end complete the look.
The exact kind of flour used varies depending on who makes them. This recipe is based on Lauren’s mother’s recipe, with just a slight tweak to the flour ratio to make the biscuits a bit airier and lighter. Even if you don’t celebrate Orthodox Easter, you should totally give these simple biscuits a try. You’ll love them.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes / Cooking Time: 12 minutes / Makes 18 biscuits
THERMOMIX ® RECIPE
Cream Butter and Sugar together for 2 mins, speed 5, until pale in colour.
Add eggs one at a time while blades still turning.
Add juice, zest and vanilla sugar and mix 30 seconds, speed 5.
Add 500g four and mix 5 sec, speed 6, then knead for 2 mins. At this point you can try adding small batches of the remainder of the flour but what you will find is that at some point, you will need to knead the rest of flour by hand, as this is a large batch and may not fit into the Thermomix. You can halve the recipe and do it in 2 batches if you wish.
Once dough is kneaded it should resemble a very soft playdough.
Shape into plaits, snails or whatever you wish and place onto tray. Lightly beat the egg for egg wash and baste the biscuits.
Greek Easter Cookies (Koulourakia): A recipe by George Diakomichalis
Koulourakia are traditional Greek cookies which along with tsourekia are the “trademark” of Greek Orthodox Easter.
The week before Easter every family (or almost every family nowadays) is preparing koulourakia and tsourekia. Koulourakia are vanilla and orange scented cookies, crispy outside and soft inside, not overly sweet but full in flavor.
“Let’s keep proudly representing our heritage. Easter time is nearly here and we want to fill every neighbourhood around the world with the smell of freshly baked ‘Koulourakia’,” fourth generation pastry chef and owner of Adelaide’s Kalymnos Pastries, George Diakomichalis, tells The Greek Herald.
KOULOURAKIA PASCHALINA (Greek Easter Cookies)
-3/4 cup caster sugar
-125 gms unsalted butter (softened)
-3 x large eggs (2 for mix/ 1 for egg wash)
-Grated rind of 1 orange
-1/4 cup milk
-1 Tbsp Vanilla sugar/essence
-Self raising flour (approx 470gms) or until dough firm enough to work with.
- Preheat oven 180°C.
- In mix master/hand mixer: Whisk butter, sugar, orange rind and vanilla on high speed until well creamed
- Slowly add two eggs and milk (on low gear) until combined
- Add self raising flour
- The dough should be smooth, soft and not sticky. Take a small amount of it and try to shape it to a koulouraki. If it can be shaped it is ok. If not add a little more flour.
- Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
- Take small amounts of dough and shape the koulourakia, shape them and place them on the baking sheet
- Brush with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown
You can follow George Diakomichalis’ on Facebook or Instagram on: Kalymnos Pastries, It’s All Greek To Me and Bake With George
9 Ingredients for Koulourakia recipe
As stated above, we have made this recipe over many years and have twisted it a bit. We totally skip ammonia since and instead infuse them dough with orange zest. Below is the list of what you will need to make them:
- Unsalted butter
- White sugar
- Orange juice
- Orange zest
- All-purpose flour
- Baking soda
- Baking powder or ammonia
Can you substitute baking ammonia?
Yes! If you are really a fan of ammonia and want to incorporate it in this recipe but cannot find it, then you can substitute it with baking powder, or use it instead of the baking powder.
Can you make Easter Greek Cookies in advance?
Absolutely! Whether you want to serve them for Easter or as a regular morning treat, they can be definitely be made ahead. The best way to store them would be in a dry, sealed container on the counter. This way, they will be good for about a week.
Homemade Koulourakia Recipe
There are so many variations of Koulourakia and each region tends to have its own version. Today I share my favourite Koulourakia recipe, which belongs to my good friend’s late grandmother, Yiayia Despina, who was from Ptelomaida, a small town in Kozani, and she lovingly used to make these beautiful biscuits all the time.
I’m lucky to have been given her recipe, which I now use.
This is in honour of Yiayia Despina, who was by far one of the best Greek home cooks!
- 1 & 1/2 kilos x self-raising flour
- 7 x eggs (room temp)
- 300 gm x unsalted butter (room temp)
- 350gm x caster sugar
- 3 x tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 x tbsp vanilla sugar
- 3 x teaspoon ammonia
- 3 x tsp baking powder
- 3 x oranges (rind and juice)
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes or until they are light and fluffy.
- Add juice and rind of oranges and mix for about 30 seconds.
- One by one, add your eggs and beat well.
- In a large bowl, sift flour and add baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Mix with a wooden spoon.
- Take some of the flour and slowly add to the butter mixture. Once you have added around half the flour, remove it from the mixer and add all flour to the bowl. Knead until a smooth, dough forms- make sure not to overwork it.
- Cover with cling wrap and allow to sit for about an hour.
- Turn dough on to the working surface. Rub your hands together with some olive oil, so that the dough mixture won’t stick to your hands, and using about one and a half tablespoons of dough, begin shaping your biscuits into your desired shape. (One method is to fold each log in half, then twist together, pressing the ends together to seal).
- Place biscuits on parchment paper-lined trays about 2 cm apart.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow to slightly cool and place in airtight containers until serving.
*Recipe and Image by IN+SIGHTS GREECE © (Copyright)
At the age of 18, when starting her university degree in Media & Culture, Penny was offered her first role in the industry and began her career at Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited. Since then she has worked as a journalist & editor in both print & online publications, bringing with her 20 + years of experience in magazines. Her utter love for Greece, plus a constant urge to create, innovate & inspire is what led her to launch IN+SIGHTS GREECE.
Traditional recipes for koulourakia call for baking ammonia, which isn&rsquot all that common in kitchens nowadays, particularly in the States.
Baker&rsquos ammonia (or ammonium bicarbonate) is your classic, old fashioned leavener. (NOT to be confused with regular, household ammonia. Which is a cleaner. And is poisonous.)
Baker&rsquos ammonia was the primary leavening agent before the invention of baking soda and baking powder in the 19th century. It smells quite potent, so today, it is mostly used in baked goods that don&rsquot have much moisture, like crackers and cookies. (The drier the end product, the less smell lingers.) That&rsquos perfect because it tends to produce a lighter, crunchier end result than baking powder or baking soda.
The best substitue for baking ammonia is double acting baking powder, which can be used as a direct, 1:1, substitute.
If you don&rsquot have double acting baking powder, regular baking powder can be substituted as well, but double the amount of baking ammonia called for in the recipe (2:1).
For our recipe below, you don&rsquot have to worry about the math. We wrote the recipe to use the more common baking powder.
Koulourakia (κουλουράκια), singular koulouráki (κουλουράκι), are traditional Greek Easter cookies that are made on Holy Thursday to be eaten after Holy Saturday.
What are koulourakia?
Koulourakia are small, butter-based cookies, traditionally formed by hand, with egg glaze on top.
They are subtly scented with vanilla and orange, and are known for their distinctive sesame seed dusting and braid shape. Often, cloves are added to the batter for added flavor.
While recipes can sometimes differ, koulourakia share a common traditional characteristic, that their shape resembles a braid or twist. This form symbolizes the suppression of evil spirits.
In fact, the braids consist of three strands which represent the Holy Trinity, “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
The shapes today start from the traditional braid or twist but have now evolved into the shape of a hairpin twist, figure of eight, twisted crowns, horseshoes, Greek letters, snakes, and even rabbits.
They are usually consumed with morning coffee or afternoon tea.
When are koulourakia made?
There are many traditional Easter treats throughout Greece but the two most common are koulourakia and tsoureki. In Greek homes, many treats are prepared on Maundy Thursday to be eaten on Easter Sunday, when Christians remember Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection.
The most characteristic custom of Easter Sunday is Easter eggs, which are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ.
In almost all Christian denominations, Maundy Thursday is Thursday before Easter Sunday. In the Orthodox Church, it is called “Holy and Great Thursday”. It commemorates for Christians the institution by Jesus Christ of the sacrament of the Eucharist, during the Last Supper, which is the last meal taken with his disciples before his arrest.
Holy Saturday is the last day of Holy Week, during which Christians prepare for the celebration of the feast of Easter. It remembers the day when the body of Jesus remained in the tomb.
For some Christians, especially Catholics, it is on this day that Mary, mother of Jesus, as Our Lady of Sorrows, received the title of “Our Lady of Solitude”, a reference to the deep feeling of loneliness associated with his pain and sadness.
While preparing all these Easter recipes, and especially koulourakia, tradition dictates that Greek women do absolutely no other household chores except prepare traditional recipes.
Holy Thursday, Friday and Holy Saturday are days of mourning, and therefore no work is allowed. They are considered to be preparation for the resurrection.
What is the origin of koulourakia?
Koulourakia have been prepared since at least the time of the Minoan civilization (c. 3000 BC – c. 1100 BC), a Neolithic civilization in Crete during the Bronze Age prior to the Ancient Greeks. They sometimes made pastries in the form of small snakes because they worshiped snakes for their healing powers.
The use of ammonium bicarbonate as a leavener is as common in baking and confectionery in Greece as baking powder and baking soda anywhere else in the world. It takes the form of a white powder, and is also called “English salt”, “baker’s ammonia” and “Hartshorn salt”. It dissolves in water or other liquid (but never in alcohol), and activates after cooking at 140°F (60°C).
People who use ammonium bicarbonate for the first time are always surprised by the smell coming from the oven during baking, but it is important to note that when the cookies are cold, no ammonia smell is found, nor the taste.
Ammonium bicarbonate is never used to prepare large cakes, such as sponge cake, because for large baked goods, the smell may persist after baking. For small items such as koulourakia, the smell wears off very quickly.
Legends around the origin of cookies
In culinary parlance, a cookie is usually a small dry cake, which comes in many shapes and flavors.
Cookies are a part of everyday life around the world. There are many stories and legends surrounding their origins, the most famous of which are:
- In the Netherlands, cooks used to place dough in the oven to test its temperature. If the piece of dough baked quickly, the oven was ready. These little pieces of sweet dough quickly browned, turned out to be tasty and crunchy.
- According to many sources, the birth of cookies is attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, known as Apicius, a famous 1st century Roman gastronome. It is said that he made cookies from a puree of wheat and flour that was dried in the sun, cut into small squares, and then fried.
- The oldest legend comes from Asia, where prehistoric agriculture was already concentrated on grains which were often eaten soaked in water. One day some porridge fell on hot rocks, and became the first prehistoric cookie which, at the time, looked much more like bread. Over time, it was realized that double cooking made storage easier and that honey and fruit often needed to be added.
The word “biscuit” is the result of the linguistic evolution of the term, besquis, which, in the Middle Ages, referred to “rolls called besquis” because they were baked two to four times.
- Preheat the oven to 180 ο C (350 ο F) set to fan.
- In a mixer’s bowl add the butter, the sugar, and beat with the paddle attachment at high speed, for 3-4 minutes, until fluffy.
- Add the egg yolks and beat until homogenized.
- Add the milk, the orange juice, the brandy, the vanilla, the orange zest, and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Beat at low speed for 1 minute.
- In a bowl add the rest of the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, salt, and mix. Transfer to the mixer’s bowl and beat for 10-15 seconds at low speed.
- Place the dough on your working surface and shape 30 g cookies, in any pattern you like. Transfer to baking pans lined with parchment paper.
- Brush the egg wash over the cookies and bake each baking pan separately, for 20-25 minutes.
Koulourakia: Greek Butter Cookies
Greece’s most well-known cookie, koulourakia. It’s a Greek butter cookie and I’m making mine lemon-flavored because they’re just out of this world with lemon. You can use any citrus that you have on hand or whatever your favorite citrus is. They’re simple to make and the recipe makes so many cookies.
This is the perfect recipe for your kids to help with. They have a lot of fun making different shapes of cookies and eating the results.
Let’s go over the ingredients:
- pure vanilla extract
- unsalted butter
- 2 lemons with their zest
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 eggs
- heavy whipping cream
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
Making greek butter cookies
I use a stand mixer because it’s so much easier. It’s a heavy dough, so I let the mixer be the muscle here.
Think ahead and set your butter and eggs out the night before or the morning of so they are room temperature when you’re ready to use them. When the butter is nice and soft, it helps all of the ingredients come together easily without being clumpy. Since your butter will be room temperature, your eggs will blend into your butter and sugar better at room temperature as well.
A trick to get more lemon flavor into your cookies is to use the zest of the lemons. Zest has more flavor than the actual juice does. So, I always zest my lemons before I juice them, and then use both in my recipes. When you’re zesting, you want to make sure that you’re only getting the shiny yellow flesh and not the white layer underneath. It’s bitter! The best way to do this is with a microplane. Get one if you don’t have one.
Once your dough has come together, check to make sure it’s not too wet. If it is, add about ½ cup all-purpose flour, and that should do the trick.
The dough will need to rest for at least 30 minutes. So, cover your bowl with a kitchen towel and leave it on your counter for at least 30 minutes. This will keep them from falling apart when it comes time to form your cookies.
How to prepare Dimitra’s koulourakia
As I said, this recipe makes a lot of cookies. So, you’ll need about 4 or 5 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
Make an egg wash by whisking 3-4 egg yolks together in a small bowl with a little water, and get your pastry brush out. You’ll use this to brush a little of the mix on the top of each cookie. As they bake, it will give them a really beautiful golden shiny color.
Start by forming golf ball or walnut-size balls of dough. You can use your kids as helpers. If your dough is too sticky to work with, mix a dusting of flour into the large ball of dough.
DO NOT flour your workspace to the individual cookie dough balls. They won’t come out buttery once they bake.
Roll each cookie ball into about an 8” long even piece. Then, put the ends together and twist it into a braid. Watch my video to see exactly how I make the braids. Then, line each braided cookie dough ball about an inch apart on the parchment paper.
You can do lots of different shapes, letters, scrolls, etc. Whatever is fun for that day or goes with the event you’re making them for. Your kids can have a lot of fun with this!
Right before you put them in the oven, brush the cookies with the egg wash. Bake them for about 20-25 minutes or as long as it takes for them to get golden brown. If you don’t have a convection oven, switch the trays from top to bottom about halfway through so they cook evenly.
Let them cool completely for about 10 minutes. Serve with a cup of coffee, tea or even milk. They are crisp, buttery and not too sweet with a hint of lemon in the background.
Can you freeze greek butter cookies?
You can give extras to neighbors, friends, and family, or you can store them for a couple of weeks in the pantry in an airtight container.
You can also cut your dough in half and freeze it. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and put it in a freezer bag. You can store it in the freezer for about a month. When you’re ready to use it, defrost it overnight in your refrigerator, and take it out to come to room temperature before you use it.