Melomakarona – Greek honey cookies served at Christmas, crispy version
Melomakarona are delicious honey-glazed Greek cookies that are served traditionally at Christmas. Also called «Foinikia» or «Melomakarouna» in some regions of Greece, they are one of the most iconic and loved Christmas treats of the Greek households.
What are Melomakarona and what are they made of?
Melomakarona are honey-glazed Greek cookies that are served traditionally at Christmas. They are usually made with olive oil, orange juice, cinnamon and various other spices, flour and/or semolina, soaked in honey syrup, and topped with crushed walnuts. Melomakarona, which are also called «Foinikia» or «Melomakarouna» in some regions of Greece, is one of the most iconic and loved Christmas treats of Greek households because they are delicious and very easy to make.
The making of Melomakarona
Each Greek household makes Melomakarona cookies a little differently. Some like them to be soft with a lot of syrup, others like them crispy with a light syrup coating. This is my family’s recipe and we like our Melomakarona to be crispy on the outside with a light coat of honey syrup. If you follow my instructions on the video you will also get to enjoy your crispy cookies with a light coating of honey syrup!
To make Melomakarona cookies is as simple as combining all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing them together with just your hands! No Mixer, no kneading, and with very little resting! If you have a couple of baking trays and a saucepot in your home you are good to go, you don’t even need a rolling pin!
How to bake Melomakarona
In my family, we bake the Melomakarona in the lower rack of our oven which is very important to develop extra flavor for the Melomakarona. The back of the Melomakarona should have a dark brown color if you would like to taste Melomakarona at its best! Anything other than that would make the Melomakarona under-baked and they are not as tasty.
You should not add parchment paper to your baking tray for Melomakarona because it will soak them and prevent them from turning crispy.
You should not add any oil to your baking tray either because there is enough oil as it is in the cookies.
I remember in my early years while my yaya and the rest of my family were gathered in one house to make Melomakarona she used to give me a small piece of dough so I could “help her out” and make them faster, which was an excuse to keep me occupied so I don’t run up and down the house and do my usual mischief! I was happy to “help” because baking cookies is always fun! So I rolled, and rolled, and rolled that cookie dough to various shapes and sizes and by the time I was finished with my artistic creation my yaya, mother, and my aunts had also finished shaping all the other Melomakarona and they were ready for baking!
My hands were very oily from all that playing with the cookie dough and as I was with my oily hands I went to play with other things I found interesting in my yayas house and I used to touch every surface including the curtains driving my grandma crazy!!! I don’t actually remember doing that but my yaya told me about it when I was a teenager and we had a few laughs over it.
3 ways to decorate Melomakarona
The decorations of Melomakarona are not to make them look beautiful because the crushed walnut that we sprinkle on top will cover all that. These decorations of Melomakarona serve three purposes:
1st to flatten their top so the crushed walnut can be easily sprinkled on top
2nd To make them softer by heavily soaking them in syrup.
3rd To make them more crispy and flatten their top
Watch the video to see how to achieve these decorations and choose whichever way you prefer to decorate your Melomakarona.
Differences between Semolina vs all-purpose Flour Melomakarona
Melomakarona is actually one of those sweets that the homemade version is always better than those available at the bakeries. There are two “schools” of Melomakarona in Greece, those that use only Semolina and those that use all-purpose flour. Having tasted both, I lay down the pros and cons for each version so you can choose which one is your favorite.
Melomakaroma with Semolina flour
This type of Melomakarona you will find in the Greek bakeries and they are usually soft, and heavily soaked in honey syrup. The bakeries prefer semolina over all-purpose flour because it can last longer at room temperature. This type of Melomakarona can’t be eaten without the honey syrup as they will taste like sand. The Semolina flour Melomakarona are very easily distinguishable from the all-purpose flour Melomakarona as they appear to be more grainy and coarse.
Melomakaroma with with all purpose flour
This type of Melomakarona are usually homemade. They are crispy or soft depending on the preferences of the household that makes them and they can be eaten without the honey syrup, like cookies. Once you try these Melomakarona with all-purpose flour you will never go back to semolina flour Melomakarona.
In my humble opinion, they are 100 times tastier than the Melomakarona with Semolina but this is just my personal preference.
The Melomakarona with all-purpose flour are more delicate and smoother on the surface as opposed to the semolina version which appears to be coarser.
How to make the honey syrup for Melomakarona
The honey syrup is very easy to make, just add all the ingredients in a saucepot and bring to a boil, without stirring. I prefer to add the honey after the sugar has melted and off the heat but it does not really matter when exactly you are going to add it.
The honey syrup is not there just for flavor, it also preserves the cookies which can be kept/stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. (Even more than that if you make the Melomakarona with semolina flour).
How to soak the Melomakarona cookies in the honey syrup
The Melomakarona need to be cold before you soak them in the syrup. When the Melomakarona are just out of the oven are still a little soft and they get crispy as they get cold. If you soak them in honey syrup while they are still soft they will remain soft.
Leave them at room temperature for about 1 hour or for at least 30 minutes before you soak them in the honey syrup.
How long should you soak your Melomakarona in the honey syrup?
The time you are going to soak your Melomakarona in the syrup varies depending on how you like to eat your Melomakarona. If you like them crispy like me, soak them for only 5 seconds. If you like them soft and very well soaked in honey then hold them below the syrup for 10 seconds.
Remember your Melomakarona need to be cold and your syrup hot!
Melomakarona – Greek honey cookies served at Christmas, crispy version
- 1 kg Flour, all-purpose
- 415g Olive oil (2 cups, ¾ each cup)
- 230g Sugar, plain ( ¾ cup)
- 240g Fresh orange juice ( ¾ cup, about 5 oranges)
- 40g Baking powder
- Zest from 2 oranges
- 14g Baking Soda (1 tsp)
- 1g Ground Cloves (1/4 tsp)
- 7g powdered cinnamon (1 tsp)
- 23g Ouzo or Raki (3 Tbsp)
- 2 capsules of vanillin or 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 150g walnuts/pecans crushed, to sprinkle on top.
- Ηoney syrup, to soak them in.
- For the Honey syrup:
- 2 and ¾ cups of sugar
- 4 Tbsp honey
- 2 cups of water
- Lemon juice from 1 lemon
- In a large bowl add the orange juice followed by the baking soda and whisk to activate it.
- Continue by adding all the rest of the ingredients except for the flour and whisk to combine.
- Add the flour at the end slowly and mix to combine forming a very soft, oily, and pliable dough.
- IMPORTANT: Do NOT over mix. Mix everything together until all the ingredients are combined and no more.
- Let the dough rest for 10 minutes covered with a towel.
- Shape the cookies into balls of about 25g /1oz each and then give them a conical shape with the curve of your palms.
- Line them in a baking tray and decorate them with one of the three ways I show you in the video according to your likes.
- Bake at the lower rack of your oven at 180C / 350F for about 20 – 25 minutes, until their bottom side is dark brown.
- Let the Melomakarona cookies cool completely (at least 30min up to 1h) before you dip them in the honey syrup.
- Prepare the Honey syrup by adding all the ingredients to a saucepot and bring to a boil. Add the honey last and off the heat.
- Soak the Melomakarona cookies for 5 seconds while the syrup is hot and the cookies cold.
- Line them in a serving platter, sprinkle the crushed walnuts on top, and perhaps a little honey syrup so the walnuts stick easily to the Melomakarona cookies.
- They can last up to 2 weeks at room temperature.
As the days go by the Melomakarona cookies will become softer. You can enjoy crispy Melomakarona cookies for the first couple of days. Nevertheless, they are still very delicious even without their crispiness.