There are two things that are always on my Christmas to-do list. First, I have to watch Kevin McCallister thwart the “Sticky Bandits” in Home Alone and Home Alone 2. My brothers and I never tire of watching bricks being thrown at the heads of Marv and Harry and other torturous, yet hilarious schemes devised by Kevin. It’s too bad uncontrollable laughter doesn’t burn more calories because the second thing on my list is gorging on Greek treats.
Step into any Greek home at Christmas time, especially my yiayia’s, and you can’t miss the sweet scents of baklava, kourabiedes, and melomakarona baking in the oven. Those desserts are made year-round, but yiayia doubles down on them for Christmas. Especially melomakarona. We call them melos at our house, and Christmas is not the same without them.
Melos are aromatic cookies spiced with orange and cinnamon and spiked with whiskey. What makes melos really shine is the chopped walnut topping and the warm honey syrup the cookies soak in. Like with all cookies, melos are delicious fresh out the oven. I can hardly resist at times. But, these cookies actually get better after the honey has fully absorbed into the cookie dough and has had time to cool. How long should the cookies cool you ask? About as long as it takes to watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2.
If you have a Christmas to do list like I do, add baking melomakarona to it. This recipe makes for about 100 cookies—a perfect treat to gift to friends, family, and neighbors. Tis the season of giving after all.
Καλά Χριστούγεννα / Merry Christmas!
For the dough:
-1 cup vegetable oil
-1 cup Crisco
-1 ½ cup sugar
-1 ½ cup orange juice
-2 shots of whiskey (my Yiayia calls them jiggers of whiskey)
-2 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 tsp honey
-2 teaspoon baking powder
-1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
-2 teaspoon vanilla
-2 eggs, beaten
-7 to 8 cups flour
For the syrup:
-2 ½ cup sugar
-1 ½ cup water
-1 cup honey
For the topping:
-1 cup walnuts, finely ground
1. Begin with the syrup. In a pot, add the sugar and water and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the honey. Keep the syrup on low heat.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the dough.
3. In a large bowl, combine the vegetable oil and Crisco, and beat together with a hand mixer until smooth. This should take about 10 minutes to get a smooth consistency. While still mixing, add the sugar, orange juice, whiskey, cinnamon, honey, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and eggs and mix until well combined.
4. Gradually fold in as much flour needed until the dough is soft but not sticky.
5. Mold cookie dough into small rounds or ovals. Place on cookie sheet and repeat, keeping the same consistency of the shape size for each one. (This dough made for three batches of cookies)
6. Place the first cookie sheet in the oven and bake the cookies for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Let the cookies cool on parchment paper or a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
7. Once your first batch of cookies have cooled, place the cookies (using a slotted spoon) in the syrup and soak them for about 10-20 seconds. Be sure to do these in batches. Remove the cookies and place them back on the parchment paper or cooling rack and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
8. Repeat this process until all cookies have been baked, soaked in honey, and dipped in walnuts.
9. Allow all the cookies to cool completely before serving. Enjoy!
The cookies can also be stored in airtight containers for up to two weeks if kept in a cool place. You can also freeze the batches and serve later.
Time saving tip:
-While the first batch of cookies is baking, start making and shaping the next batch on another baking sheet.
-Right after you take the first batch of cookies out of the oven, place the second batch in the oven and repeat for all cookie sheets.