Many countries have taditional Christmas cookies. Melomakarona (μελομακάρονα) are the version from Cyprus (the Greek bit, as well as being from Greece). They’re laden with the flavours of orange and spices, dipped in syrup and dusted with nuts. They’re really delicious, so when the cookie jar is empty, why wait for Christmas?
I started with a recipe from food blog Afrodite’s Kitchen, but there are plenty of others which vary in terms of choice of nuts, choice of spices and various other details. So everyone agrees that you dip the cookies in syrup, but some people cool the syrup first and others specify hot syrup. And I made my melomakarona round and dimpled, but other recipes are clear in preferring more of an egg shape.
I’ve halved the quantities in the original recipe and simplified things a bit. My dough came out a bit too floury, so I have reduced the amount of flour slightly here. Add a bit more flour (or, in the opposite direction, orange juice or water) if you think you need it.
- 1 orange
- 80g almonds
- 50g hazelnuts
- 150ml sunflower oil
- 50g icing sugar
- 4g (1 tsp) cinnamon
- 1g (¼ tsp) nutmeg
- 1g (¼ tsp) ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 6g (¾ tsp) baking powder
- 6g (¾ tsp) baking soda
- 3g (½ tsp) salt
- 400g OO flour
- Preheat oven to 175℃ fan.
- With a potato peeler, take a couple of thick pieces of rind from the orange and reserve. Grate the rest of the zest of the orange and juice it (expect around 80ml of juice).
- Put the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray. When the oven is up to temperature, roast them for around 10 minutes until they’re a medium brown colour. Remove and leave to cool until you can handle them. Meanwhile, you can get on with making the cookie dough.
- Put the sunflower oil, orange juice and zest, icing sugar and spices into a bowl.
- Once the nuts are cool, reserve around 20g of each (you’ll be using them later for dusting). Blitz the rest to a powder (but don’t overdo it: you don’t want the oil coming out of the nuts).
- Add the nuts to the oil and spice mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Put the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl, stir until even; add these to the wet mix.
- Mix thoroughly and knead until you have a smooth dough which is the consistency of a thick paste.
- Divide the dough into balls of around 30g each (my dough made 27 cookies). Press each ball into your choice of a dimpled circle or an oval.
- Place on a baking sheet and bake for around 20 minutes
- Leave to cool
The syrup, and final assembly
- 240ml water
- 200g sugar
- 120g honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 2 thick pieces of orange rind (from above)
- Almonds and hazelnuts (from above)
- Chop the toasted nuts finely. You can use your food processor, but don’t blitz the nuts to a powder as you did with the others.
- Combine water, sugar, honey, cinnamon, cloves and orange rind in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer.
- Dip each cookie into the simmering syrup. Afrodite’s Kitchen says 10-15 seconds max, but I found it needed 20 to get enough syrup to soak in: this probably depends on the exact texture of your dough.
- Sprinkle the cookies with the chopped nuts.
- You can leave them to cool at this point, but you don’t have to…