Olive Oil-Honey-Nut Cookies (Melomakarona)
These classic Greek holiday cookies are made from a combination of olive oil and semolina. This gives them a cake-like texture that’s crumbly yet still very moist, thanks to a soak in a fragrant, honey-sweetened syrup spiked with cinnamon and orange. Traditionally topped with chopped walnuts, you can use any nuts you like; pistachios are especially pretty with their pale green edges.
Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
Time: 50 minutes
For the Syrup:
- 2 cups/400 grams granulated sugar
- 2 (2-inch-long) cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole clove
- 1 orange
- ½ cup/118 milliliters honey
For the Cookies:
- 1 ⅓ cups/315 milliliters extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pans, if needed
- 1 to 2 large oranges
- ¼ cup/25 grams confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground clove
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons/500 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 cup/110 grams fine semolina
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup toasted nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios or almonds, finely chopped
Make the syrup: In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine sugar, cinnamon sticks and clove with 1 1/3 cups water. Cut orange in half and place in saucepan, flesh down. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar completely dissolves, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in honey. Set aside to cool completely, leaving the cinnamon, clove and orange in the syrup until ready to use.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees and line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners, or lightly grease the pans with olive oil.
Finely grate the zest of 1 orange into a large mixing bowl. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. If it doesn’t measure 1 cup (240 milliliters), squeeze in enough juice from the other orange. Add juice to the bowl with the zest, then mix in olive oil, sugar, brandy, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and salt.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together flour, semolina and baking soda. Gradually, fold in the flour mixture into the olive oil mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix until flour is just evenly incorporated.
Using your hands, roll dough into 1 1/2-inch ovals or egg-shapes, and place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Using the palm of your hand, lightly flatten dough. Bake until cookies are golden, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through for even baking.
Right before the cookies are done, remove the orange, cinnamon sticks and clove from the syrup. As soon as the cookies are out of the oven, and working in batches, dunk the hot cookies in the cool syrup, gently flipping them for about 10 seconds so they can absorb the syrup. Remove cookies from the syrup using a slotted spoon and arrange them on a tray or plate. Sprinkle the center of each cookie with a generous pinch of nuts, patting them lightly so they stick to cookies.
Once cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. To prevent the cookies from sticking together, place sheets of wax or parchment paper between cookie layers.
Featured in: Three Hanukkah Desserts That Skip The Fryer by Melissa Clark of the New York Times.