Monday, March 17, 2008

Greek Easter Cookies

I'm always up for a good ethnic holiday food tradition. When a Greek gal I work with, Georganne, was giving another coworker a couple of xeroxed pages of Greek Easter Cookies recipes from her church's cookbook, I snagged a set. (And who doesn't love those church cookbooks, right?) Of the 8 or so versions of this cookie, I chose the one submitted by a Greek woman with the longest, and most Greek sounding name. Turns out, the woman's recipe I chose happens to be a late member of their church, and so I felt especially honored to have chosen her version. While the list of ingredients was hardly daunting, the 20 minutes of kneading the dough was a bit of a work out. But the cookies turned out beautifully. They sorta remind me of a Stella Dora cookie that my Dad always used to eat. As a kid I could never understand their appeal . . . a cross between a cookie and a biscuit, on the dry side and not very sweet. In other words, no Oreo. But now I can appreciate a cookie with a smidgen of sweetness, some density for dunking in coffee, and a tradition to boot.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on these delights:
Koulourakia, (In Greek pronounced: koo-loo-RAHK-yah), is a traditional Greek dessert, typically made at Easter, to be eaten after Holy Saturday.They are butter cookies with egg glaze on top. They have a sweet delicate flavor with a hint of vanilla. Traditionally they are shaped by hand and sometimes are covered with sesame seeds. Koulourakia are well known for their sprinkle of sesame seeds and distinctive ring shape. In fact, the word is the diminutive form for a ring-shaped loaf or lifebelt. In fact, the word louri in Greek means belt. These cookies are also often shaped like small snakes by the Minoans. This ancient culture on Crete worshiped the snake for its healing powers. However, yet other shapes were added to the. Now there are also braided circles, hairpin twists, figure eights, twisted wreaths, horseshoe shapes, Greek letters. Greek pastry chefs, however, still usually form Koulourakia like snakes. These are also rightful with morning coffee or afternoon tea. In Greece, they are baked especially at Easter.

And here's the recipe I used (click on image for a legible version):

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