Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookie)

The greatest debate in all of Greece is this: who makes the best koulourakia? Since we all know what’s good for us, the only correct answer to that is our own yiayia (grandma) does. So, if you’re Greek, please don’t read any further because this recipe isn’t for you. You will hate me. You will send me horrible emails and threats. Or you can continue reading. Just don’t tell your yiayia you tried someone else’s koulourakia. I promise not to tell. But you need to know; mine is the best of all.

Koulourakia (pronounced koo-lou-rah-kia) is a Greek Easter cookie featuring two ingredients that are avoided during a true Lenten fast, butter and eggs. Flour, sugar and various rising agents are used in the mixture to make the cookies sweet and fluffy. Koulourakia are popular year round but are most commonly served as a sweet staple on Easter day. If you visited ten different Greek Easter parties and tried a koulourakia at each party, you’d taste ten different koulourakia.

Everything about koulourakia is variable. Some cooks add orange zest, others don’t. Some use milk. Many add anise to their batter. Sometimes a splash of ouzo or brandy is added to recipes. Some koulourakia are topped with sesame seeds, while others are kept plain with just an egg glaze on top. And, some cookies are only varied by the amount of flour used—is it four cups or six?

You really can’t go wrong with koulourakia. But as you know, most people prefer the taste they grew up with—most commonly handed down from their yiayia. When I make koulourakia, I make it two ways (it’s a good excuse for more batter to eat and cookies to dunk). One recipe comes from my Yiayia Helen Metos, and the other is my own. I’m sorry Yiayia Saltas, I know everyone loves your koulourakia, but I’m not into anise. Please forgive me.

If you don’t already have a go to koulourakia recipe, give these two a try, and feel free to play around with flavors you prefer. The long debate over the best koulourakia ends with these two recipes. Now, get your coffee ready, because there are koulourakia that need dunking. And with that great Greek tradition, everyone wins.

Note: There is a difference between koulouria and koulourakia that some may not be aware of. Koulouri (plural is koulouria) is a large, round, wreath like bread covered in sesame seeds. Koulouri is a popular street food item in Greece, and especially popular for breakfast. Koulourakia is the smaller version of koulouria, and are soft, sweet, and buttery.

Dedicated to my Yiayia, Helen Patsuris Metos, who passed away from breast cancer in 1996.

Yiayia Helen’s Koulourakia:
Ingredients:
-5 ½ cups flour
-4 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp. salt
-1 ½ cup butter
-1 cup sugar
-2 eggs
-2 egg yolk for glazing
-2 tsp. vanilla
-½ cup whipping cream (found in milk section-not frozen)
-2 tbs. sesame seeds

Directions:
1. Prior to baking, leave butter out at room temperature to soften. Important note: DO NOT microwave butter to soften the butter.
2. In a mixer, cream the butter together until it softens. Add sugar and beat together.
3. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well and add the whipping cream.
4. Stir in dry ingredients (flour, baking powder) a little bit at a time and continue to mix. Make sure the ingredients are combined well and dough is soft.
5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
6. When ready, place the dough on a clean surface for shaping. Lightly spread some flour on the surface. Form dough as desired—circles, serpentines, braids, etc. Traditionally, koulourakia is made by rolling the dough into long rope like portions (nearly pencil thin) and folded in half and twisted into cords.
7. Eat some cookie batter..
8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place koulourakia on the sheet, leaving space in between each, as they will slightly expand.
9. In a small bowl, whisk the two egg yolks for the glaze. Brush the tops of the koulourakia with the egg yolk glaze and top with sesame seeds.
10. Bake the koulourakia at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
11. Let the koulourakia cool, and enjoy!

Eleni’s Koulourakia:
Ingredients:
-1 box cake flour (2 lb)
-½ lb butter
-1 cup sugar
-5 eggs
-2 egg yolk for glazing
-2 tsp. vanilla
-6 tsp. baking powder
-Pinch of salt

Directions:
1. Prior to baking, leave butter out at room temperature to soften. Important note: DO NOT microwave butter to soften the butter.
2. In a mixer, cream the butter together until it softens. Add sugar and beat together.
3. Add eggs in together one at a time, allowing each one to be mixed in before adding another. Add in the vanilla and combine.
4. Stir in dry ingredients (flour, baking powder) a little bit at a time and continue to mix. Make sure the ingredients are combined well and dough is soft.
5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
6. When ready, place the dough on a clean surface for shaping. Lightly spread some flour on the surface. Form dough as desired—circles, serpentines, braids, etc. Traditionally, koulourakia is made by rolling the dough into long rope like portions (nearly pencil thin) and folded in half and twisted into cords.
7. Eat some cookie batter..
8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place koulourakia on the sheet, leaving space in between each, as they will slightly expand.
9. In a small bowl, whisk the two egg yolks for the glaze. Brush the tops of the koulourakia with the egg yolk glaze.
10. Bake the koulourakia at 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
11. Let the koulourakia cool, and enjoy!

4 thoughts on “Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookie)

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