Greek christmas cookies
By: Eleni Saltas
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.
- For the syrup:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup honey
- 1⁄4 cup corn syrup
- For the dough:
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
- 1 1⁄2 cups orange juice
- 2 shots of whiskey
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 7 to 8 cups flour
- For the topping:
- 2 cups walnuts, finely ground
Step by Step Instructions
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. Preheat the oven to 350° F and prepare the dough.
In a large bowl, combine the vegetable oil and vegetable shortening and beat together with a hand mixer until smooth. This should take about 10 minutes to get a smooth consistency. Then, while still mixing, add the sugar, orange juice, whiskey, cinnamon, honey, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and eggs and mix until well combined. Gradually fold in as much flour as needed until the dough is soft but not sticky.
Mold cookie dough into small rounds or ovals. Place each on cookie sheet and repeat, keeping the same consistency of the shape size for each one.
Place the first cookie sheet in the oven and bake 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.
Once your first batch of cookies has 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 immediately while the cookies are still warm and sticky with syrup.
Repeat this process until all cookies have been baked, soaked in the honey syrup, and dipped in walnuts. Allow all the cookies to cool completely before serving.
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 cookies and serve later.