Melomakarona is a delicious Christmas cookie from Greece. If you still don’t know Melomakarona, hold tight… you’re about to be introduced to a whole new dimension of taste and flavor lust!
Melomakarona are little soft cookies soaked in delicious honey syrup before being served. Small bites of pleasure that make your mouth water even by just reading about them. Read on to learn how to make melomakarona and surprise the whole family with a Greek-style Christmas treat!
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Melomakarona Greek Christmas Cookies
The Melomakarona recipe is one of the oldest and most traditional Greek recipes. For centuries, these cookies have been served as a dessert after a meal, a treat for the guests, or just a treat for yourself.
But you can’t find them anywhere and anytime… No! They are only prepared in winter, specifically during the Christmas holidays. Melomakarona, in fact, is one of the two sweet staples of Christmas in Greece.
History of Melomakarona
It’s said that the ancient Greeks celebrated the day of the God Ilios (meaning the God of the sun) around the end of December, making melomakarona almost as they are made today.
The tradition has been followed for so many years that these have become one of the most famous Greek winter sweets.
Over the years, the tradition has changed, keeping the same essential ingredients to prepare them. These include local honey, extra virgin olive oil, and almonds (or walnuts in some recipes). You can even find differences in recipes from different areas of Greece.
Origin of the Word Melomakarona
Back in Ancient Greece, the word μακαρωνία (makaronia), in medieval Greek, described a dish usually eaten during funerals.
At the same time, μακαρια (makaria) was a more ancient work also naming a type of bread usually offered at a funeral.
When these little treats started being dipped in honey (μελι), the treat got its present name, melomakarono. As time went by, it also became a popular dish to be enjoyed during the twelve days of Christmas.
The word makarona made its way to many other nations, evolving and changing together with the dishes they represented, so today we have macaroni in Italy and macaroon in France and eventually England as well.
Why Melomakarona in Winter… and for Christmas?
However, since they don’t celebrate the God Ilios anymore, why are melomakarona prepared only during this time of the year?
The answer is simple: some of their main ingredients are honey and olive oil, which both symbolize fertility and the good life, and this is the reason why the Greeks make, eat, and treat their loved ones with the delicious sweet to present their wish for a new year full of happiness, health, and good moments.
Don’t Feel Guilty!
…After all, you only eat them once a year.
However, remember that If you are a diet-conscious eater, you might want to pay attention to the calorie count.
Generally, a medium-sized melomakarono cookie can go from 150 to 200 calories, depending on various ingredients, including the amount of nuts and type of nuts sprinkled on top.
If compared to the other famous Greek Christmas sweet kourabiedes, they tend to be healthier because they do not contain butter or tons of confectionery sugar sprinkled on top.
Besides, since they are prepared with olive oil, honey, and walnuts, melomakarona is certainly a much healthier choice.
Melomakarona with Chocolate… The Ultimate Greek Sin!
These magnificent Christmas treats can be eaten independently, and you feel you can never have enough of them… Until you taste the ones dipped in dark chocolate.
Probably the most delicious Christmas treat you will ever come across, μελομακαρονα με σοκολατα (melomakarona me sokolata), are richer, heavier, and you might end up having no more than 3 or 4.
But they embody the best and sweetest part of Christmas and are a treat not to forget!!
Melomakarona Recipe… with a Cretan Twist
- 800 gr. flour
- 20 gr. baking powder
- 200 ml Extra virgin olive oil
- 100 ml sunflower oil
- 150 gr. confectionary sugar
- 200 ml orange juice
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- zest of one orange
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
- 50 ml Cretan raki (you can replace it with Metaxas or another type of cognac)
- finely chopped walnuts or pistachios
- 600 ml water
- 500 gr sugar
- zest of one orange
- 5-6 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 100 gr honey
For the Melomakarona:
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
- Mix the sugar with the oils in a bowl until the sugar is diluted.
- Add the baking soda to the orange juice and raki in a separate bowl, mix, and set aside.
- Pour the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and lightly mix.
- Add the other two mixtures (the sugar with the oil and the orange juice with baking soda mixtures) slowly into the dry ingredients and knead well. The more you knead, the lighter and fluffier the dough will be; we want this!
- Shape the dough into the traditional oblong shape of melomakarona, but don’t make them too big because they will double in size once baked.
- For the same reason, make sure you leave enough space between them when you place them in the baking tray.
- Bake them for 20-25 minutes or until they turn a light brown.
- Remove from oven and let them cool well.
- When they have cooled well, prepare the syrup.
For the Syrup:
- Mix all the ingredients except the honey and boil them for 5-6 minutes.
- Remove from flame and mix in honey.
- Slowly dip each cooled melomakarono, one by one, into the syrup and place it on a platter.
- Add the remaining syrup on top and sprinkle with the chopped almonds, walnuts, or pistachios.
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About my blog:
I moved to Crete in 2016. During these years, I learned much about the island.
In Crete, I juggle being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours, and writing for several travel media.
I’ve written for Greek Reporter, published travel guides about Greece, co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.