Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Greek honey biscuits - Melomakarona

Melomakarona are a Greek sort of biscuit which are traditionally made for the Christmas period. They are typically made with flour, olive oil, semolina, sugar, brandy and then with spices such as cinammon, cloves and oranges.
Every year the women of the family set out to make these biscuits and then in typical Greek fashion offer them to visitors. So every Christmas we would go around visiting neighbours and relatives and end up coming home with plates and boxes full of them. However, everyone's recipe is slightly different. Some add more spices and others add less and some may even add walnuts to the biscuit mixture. Which means that every family pretty much has their own unique recipe for these amazing biscuits.

For the Christmas period there are three traditional types of sweets that they make in Greece. These are the melomakarona, kourabiedes and diples. Kourabiedes are crescent shaped biscuits which are made with rose water, ground almonds, sugar and butter and are topped off with heavy mounds of icing sugar. If I were to compare them to any other biscuit I would say that they are most similar to the english shortbread or butter biscuits, in the sense that they delicately melt in your mouth. Diples are deep fried strips of a specific type of pastry which are then topped off with drizzles of honey or a sugar syrup and then sprinkled with crushed walnuts.
My grandmother has always made diples and kourabiedes however my sweet of choice during the christmas period are these melomakarona. So after many years of eating these honey biscuits given to us by neighbours and friends, or given to us as presents, bought from one of the many sweet shops (or as they are called in greece, zacharoplastia) that make thousands upon thousands of these over the seasonal holiday. We decided, a couple of years ago that we would find a recipe and make our own.

On searching through my grandmother's recipe books we found several recipes for the biscuits but decided to settle on one which was labelled 'Anna's Melomakarona' (Anna being an old relative of ours). The recipe called for vegetable oil, fine semolina, sugar, zest and juice of a couple of oranges, cinammon, cloves and brandy. The ingredient list also included ashes, which were commonly used in many greek recipes in the past however we decided to omit this specific ingredient. Once the biscuits have baked in the oven you then immediatly place them into a deep dish and using a ladel, pour over a honey sugar syrup that has been boiling away as the biscuits were cooking. The biscuits are then left, to seep, in the syrup for a couple of minutes and then turned over on the other side in order for the syrup to reach the top of the biscuits as well.

After they have turned a wonderful golden brown colour they are taken out of the dish and placed onto a tray where they are then sprinkled with a mixture of crushed walnuts and cinammon, just enough of the spice to give it a wonderful smell.
These honey biscuits are my absolute favourites during Christmas and sadly they are not made during any other time of the year. But that's why they're so special when you do actually have them, as you have been waiting for a whole year to be able to enjoy them.

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