This is a time of the year when all of the households are getting ready for Christmas. People have begun to decorate their homes and many are in the fever of baking different types of Christmas cookies. Decorating Christmas trees (fir trees) was not part of Greek tradition; sailing boats were decorated instead. This was a sea-faring nation, so many traditions were centred around the sea. Of course, nowadays much of this has changed and, like anywhere else, most homes will decorate a Christmas tree. But, when it comes to Christmas cookies and sweets, traditional it is! Regional differences do exist but, by and large, most will make what I will be sharing with you today.
The usual texture of a kourabies is crumbly and should melt in the mouth. I am personally not very crazy about that texture so I make mine slightly more biscuity. The very distinctive aroma these cookies have comes from the butter used (melted goat and sheep butter). As expected, they are dusted with icing sugar to make them look ‘snowy’ and festive.
This is the recipe I use and it was given to me many years ago by the mother of a very good friend. In all honesty, I couldn’t wait for him to get back to college from his Christmas holidays, because his mom would always load him with her goods, that he would then go on to share with us; his friends.
640 gr of melted goat and sheep milk butter
½ cup sugar (I always use demerara sugar)
2 large eggs
300gr of skinned almonds (just the white part)* that have been oven roasted at 160oC for about 10 minutes (until golden brown) and then crush into thick pieces in a mortar and pestle
½ teaspoon ground cinammon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
a shot of brandy
About 1kg of flour (soft or all use)
½ kg of confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
Place the butter, sugar and eggs into the bowl of your mixer and allow for them to be beaten until the mixture is fluffy and almost white. Add the brandy, cinammon and cloves and continue beating. Add the crushed almonds. Slow down the speed on your mixer and slowly add the flour. We don’t use all of the 1kg usually. In Greece older cooks used to say “use as much as it takes”, meaning the texture should not be too solid. You don’t want the dough sticking to your hands. You want to be able to roll it between your hands. You can either roll small pieces into the size of a ping pong ball and then flatten them out in your hand, or you can flatten the dough on the table (about ¾ of a centimeter thick) and use a cookie cutter. Traditionally they are either round or moon-shaped. Bake at 180oC for about 20min.
As I said in the beginning I make mine slightly more biscuity, which means I take them out of the oven when lightly golden in colour. If the very traditional texture is kept they need to be taken out of the oven a little before. They have cooked but have not changed in colour; they look pale.
Allow for them to cool very well (a few hours) and then spray with a tiny amount of rose water (or floral water).
Sift your icing sugar into a bowl and then slowly roll each of your cookies through the sugar and place on a nice plate.
* To easily skin the almonds place them in hot water for a few minutes and then squeeze the almond between your thumb and index finger – careful the almonds don’t fly out!!