As they are my favourite Greek Christmas bake I thought I’d share the recipe for melomakarona with you. A Greek honey cookie, soft, spicy and dipped in honey, eaten warm they are amazing. I like them with added spices for a bit more of a Christmas flavour but they are just as good plain with walnuts.
There is something about the smell of baking with spices like cinnamon and cloves that really makes it feel like Christmas at home. Even if you don’t particularly celebrate, the smell of warming spices in the middle of winter makes everyone feel warm and welcome. It’s also great to have something sweet to offer guests, a Greek home wouldn’t be without cookies to go with your coffee at Christmas.
Traditionally being British I always make mince pies at Christmas, having been an expat for a while now I have added other bakes and traditions each time we’ve explored a new place. Living with Canadians and Americans in Qatar I added cranberry and apple oat cookies to my seasonal bakes. Now Greece has given us melomakarona.
These are really easy to make and in many Greek homes it’s the one bake the children will help with, their small hands are great for shaping the cookies.
For the melomakarona:
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 3/4 cup fine semolina
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tbs baking soda
- Lemon and Orange zest
Optional for added flavour:
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/3 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/3 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp of either Metaxa/port or sherry
For the syrup:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup good quality honey or agave syrup
- 1 cup sugar
Optional for added flavour:
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 orange cut in half
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- ground cinnamon (optional)
- ground cloves (optional)
You’ll need 2 large bowls and a whisk. In the first bowl combine the semolina, flour and baking powder.
In the second large bowl add the orange juice, sugar, alcohol and spices (if being used). Then add the baking soda and whisk for 5 to 10 seconds. The ingredients should combine and the baking soda will dissolve and start to foam.
Next add the water, oil, orange zest and honey and whisk again to combine Now combine the ingredients from the two bowls by adding the dry to the wet.
Knead the dough with your hands until it becomes soft and smooth. It’s important not to overwork the dough or add too much flour you don’t want to end up with tough melomakarona.
preheat your oven to 180C. Shape your melomakarona into a small egg shape, place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Gently press down with a small sieve to flatten the top slightly and make a pattern.
Bake the melomakarona for 20 minutes until they are lightly browned and cooked through. While they are baking if you added spices and orange to your syrup remove them now.
When they come out of the oven put the hot melomakarona in batches into the honey syrup for about 10-20 seconds, flipping them to make sure they absorb lots of honey syrup.
Drain and remove from the honey syrup. Place on a platter and scatter with walnuts and spices. Stored in an airtight container they’ll keep for the whole of Christmas.
You can easily switch and change the spices, but don’t leave out the orange, in season around us on the island at Christmas they are a must for flavour.
From our recent visit to the village bakery I learnt that the secret to really good melomakarona is in the quality of the honey. That’s where much of the flavour comes from so it’s worth getting good quality local honey.
Another good use for honey at Christmas is to add it to your gingerbread instead of syrup. Find out how I made a gingerbread house and get the recipe and instructions here.
Originally written December 2017 updated December 2018