Koulourakia comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Some bakers turn their dough into playful circles, braids, or serpentines, and some twist their koulourakia so precisely it looks like a machine pumped them out. Depending on the baker or family recipe, koulourakia is infused with anise, vanilla, orange or lemon zest. And some are left plain with simply the mixings of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. No matter how they’re prepared, koulourakia makes a perfect companion with a cup of coffee.
My cousin, Georgiann Pino Petrogeorge has mastered the art of koulourakia. She and I share the same great-grandmother, Anastasia (Tasia) Patsuris. Our yiayia’s (grandmother’s) were sisters with phenomenal cooking skills. You name it—they could make it.
Georgiann spent a lot of kitchen time with her yiayia, Georgia Patsuris Sargetakis, and together the two would bake, cook, and share many laughs. Koulourakia, a Greek Easter cookie is one of those treats that sends Georgian back to her yiayia’s kitchen. Over time, Georgiann has modified her yiayia’s recipe to her own favorite tastes, like using vanilla beans rather than vanilla extract, and zesting a full orange and mixing it into the dough. “You eat with your eyes first” says Georgiann, “and I love seeing the bits of vanilla bean and colorful orange that can be found in each bite of koulourakia.”
A big thank you to Sarah Arnoff for all the beautiful photos.
- 1 pound butter (450g)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 pound powdered sugar (450g)
- 2 vanilla beans (or a Tablespoon of vanilla extract)
- 12 eggs
- 2 boxes cake flour (4 pounds/64 oz)
- 9 teaspoons baking powder
- Zest of one orange
- 3 egg yolks for glazing
- Prior to baking, leave butter out at room temperature to soften. Important note: DO NOT microwave butter to soften the butter. This turns your dough too soft and sticky, and could make the cookies chewier in texture.
- In a mixer, cream the butter together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat together.
- Slowly incorporate the eggs, beating in the mixture one by one. The mixture will look like it’s curdled—don’t be alarmed. Add in the dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder) a little bit at a time.
- In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream with a whisk until stiff peaks form. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until well incorporated. The dough should be soft.
- Split vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape the vanilla from the beans; add to the butter and sugar mixture. Add orange zest.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- When ready, place the dough on a clean surface for shaping. Take a little piece of dough (about the size of a walnut) and roll into a thin rope-like cord (about 6-7” long and ⅓” wide). Fold the rope in half and twist to form a braided cookie. Repeat this process with the remaining dough, ensuring that the koulourakia are the same size.
- You can also roll these into other shapes like circles or serpentines.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place koulourakia on the sheet, leaving space in between each, as they will slightly expand.
- In a small bowl, whisk the two egg yolks for the glaze. Brush the cookies with the egg yolk glaze and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Let the koulourakia cool, and enjoy!