7 Christmas Bakes with Philippa Davis: #2 Melomakarona

PUBLISHED: 21:23 17 November 2020 | UPDATED: 12:09 18 November 2020

Philippa Davis sprinkling walnuts over the pyramid of Melomakarona Photo: Hugh MacNish Porter

Philippa Davis sprinkling walnuts over the pyramid of Melomakarona Photo: Hugh MacNish Porter

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Follow this authentic recipe to make these traditional Greek honey and nut festive cookies dipped in a spiced citrus syrup

The baking aroma from these oval-shaped Greek honey, oil and nut cookies will give your house an extra festive feel. Once cooked the cookies are dipped in a spiced citrus syrup which is what makes them extra delicious. Their name comes from the ancient Greek words ‘meli’ meaning honey and ‘makaria’ meaning blessed and they are found all over Greece at Christmas time. I first made these for one of my Greek clients in London who was missing home. They were happy to let me get on with the recipe but when it came to arranging the cookies they insisted on the whole family helping so we could get right the authentic pyramid stack shape in which they are traditionally served.

Baking tips for making successful Melomakarona:

-Do not overmix the dough as the high oil content may cause it to split.

-It will feel like quite a wet dough but don’t be tempted to add extra flour as it will make the cookies tough.

Melomakarona - a Greek honey and nut festive biscuit that is served in a pyramid shape Photo Philippa DavisMelomakarona - a Greek honey and nut festive biscuit that is served in a pyramid shape Photo Philippa Davis

-When you dip the cookies in the syrup, the syrup must be cold and the cookies hot – don’t dip them for too long or they will go soggy. Any leftover syrup can be used as a cordial, added to mulled wine or cocktails.

Makes approximately 30

For the syrup

Dipping the cookies in the spiced citrus syrup Photo: Philippa DavisDipping the cookies in the spiced citrus syrup Photo: Philippa Davis

125ml water

250g caster sugar

3 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange – peeled and juiced

1 lemon – peeled and juiced

75g honey

For the cookies

190ml fresh orange juice

120ml sunflower oil

130ml extra virgin olive oil

50g runny honey

100g light brown soft sugar

2 cloves, ground

2 tsp ground cinnamon plus extra for dusting

¼ tsp of ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

500g plain flour

150g semolina flour

2 oranges, zest only

To finish

50g walnuts, finely chopped

Method

1 First make the syrup: In a small saucepan on a low heat add all the syrup ingredients except the honey and gently cook until the sugar dissolves. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat whisk in the honey then leave to cool completely. Once cool, strain the liquid into a small bowl and discard the citrus peel and spices.

2 Now make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 150°C fan/gas mark 3 ½ and line two flat trays with baking parchment. In a bowl whisk to combine the orange juice, oils and honey.

3 In separate bowl by hand whisk together the sugar, spices, baking powder and soda, flours and orange zest until well combined.

4 With a large spoon stir the wet mixture into the dry and then using your hands bring together into a ball. Pinch off 40g pieces and form into a plump oval shape. Lay the ovals on the baking sheet and prick them all twice with a fork. Bake for 30 minutes swapping the sheets around in the oven half way through cooking so they all bake evenly.

5 While still hot dip the cookies for ten seconds each in the syrup. I use a fork and count five seconds then flip them over and count another five.

6 Stack in a pyramid shape on a platter and sprinkle with the chopped walnuts. The cookies will last a couple of weeks when stored in an airtight container.

My top tips for perfect bakes

- Weigh out all your ingredients before you start mixing, it’s easy to get distracted and forget to put one in.

- When chilling doughs for rolling out at a later stage, form into discs rather than balls as they chill quicker, more evenly and are easier to roll out.

- Even new ovens tend to bake slightly unevenly so I usually swap around the baking sheets half way through cooking.

Philippa Davis is an international private chef and food writer, who when not travelling the world, is in Dorset. Follow her food adventures on Instagram

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