Koulourakia — Greek Butter Cookies

Koulourakia recipe for Greek butter cookies

Recipes | April 21, 2019 | By

Koulourakia — The Quintessential Greek Cookie

Koulourakia (or Koulouria) are one of the most revered traditional Greek desserts. Growing up in a Greek community, friends always offer the sweet butter-based cookies as a casual afternoon snack; they are also fixtures at every celebration, and on every holiday spread. Koulourakia are most often associated with Easter, but I don’t think I’ve attended a holiday party in a Greek household where they didn’t make an appearance.

Outside of soirees, they are the perfect compliment to coffee as an afternoon snack or breakfast. Legend has it that the cookies date back to Minoan times. (I haven’t seen any authoritative documentation of this, but like the sound of it.) Minoans worshipped the snake, which explains the coil-like foundation of the cookie. Logistically, if Minoans did eat these cookies, they would have probably made them with olive oil instead of butter, sweetened with honey instead of sugar, but I digress. Luckily today in Greece, you can go to any zaharoplastio and easily purchase them by the kilo — and you’ll want to fill your box because they disappear quickly.

But if you don’t live near a Greek bakery, you’ll want to make them for yourself using this easy recipe.

My sweet history of Koulourakia

Like most Greek kids, I first started making these yummy cookies with my yiayia. Then I really upped my game when my mom took me down to our church during the summer to help them bake for our annual Greek festival. Our community in Dayton, Ohio made nearly all our food and pastries from scratch. I’d spend my summer break sitting among everyone else’s yiayias, my seven-year-old fingers rolling hundreds of the prized biscuits. I really perfected my skills, so much so, that my mom always put me on rolling duty when she made them for our family. She’d still make me do it if I didn’t live across the country from her. Now she makes my dad help! It’s ok. He eats them all anyway.

But this recipe is based on one from our dear friend in Ann Arbor, Michigan: Andriana Skinner. Yiayia Andriana was an incredible baker — a Greek pasty expert — and we’d often stop by her house in the afternoons and I would gobble down handfuls of these cookies and her powdered sugar-covered Kourambiedes while my mom visited with her and her daughters. 

Making Koulourakia

There are as many variations of Koulourakia as there are Greek families. None are more “authentic” than others. This is the one that I personally like. In my cookbook: Opa! The Healthy Greek Cookbook, my writing partner offers her recipe that uses olive oil instead of butter. Other variations include what kind of liquor to add, or to add it at all.

In this recipe, I use Metaxa, cause that’s what I have stocked in my house. Other Greeks use Ouzo or Tsoukoudia. I’m sure they’re also great with some Mastiha liquor. My yiayia used straight-up whiskey because in the ’80s it was hard to find Greek liquor in Ohio. Don’t make it difficult on yourself. My mom also uses almond extract in place of vanilla cause that’s how she likes them. I think they taste great either way. I also like to add the zest of half an orange along with the 2 tablespoons of orange juice; why not?

A note about flour

To find success with this recipe, first add the cup of flour that you’ve combined with the baking soda and baking powder. Then incorporate the 3 additional cups of flour. At that point, your dough should still be fairly sticky. For the final cup of flour, slowly spoon it into the mix. You probably won’t use the whole cup. Once the dough starts to pull away from the side of the mixing bowl, don’t add any more flour or your cookies might turn out tough and brittle.

When you place them on your baking sheet, make sure to give them some space between one another. They will puff up and spread out. That said, make them smaller than how you would like to eat them cause they definitely grow. I use a teaspoon to measure out dough balls. My mother in law makes larger ones using about a tablespoon of dough. It’s really up to you.

To see how I made mine, watch the step-by-step sequence below!

How do your make your Koulourakia? Let me know in the comments!

For another delicious Greek dessert, check out my Pasta Flora recipe 🙂

Koulourakia — Greek Butter Cookies Step-By-Step

How to Koulourakia — Greek Butter Cookies by xtinaxenos on Jumprope.

Koulourakia — Greek Butter Cookies

Category: Dessert

Cuisine: Greek

Yield: 80+ cookies

Koulourakia recipe

Koulourakia (or Koulouria) are one of the most revered traditional Greek desserts. Growing up in a Greek community, friends always offer the sweet butter-based cookies as a casual afternoon snack; they are also fixtures at every celebration, and on every holiday spread. Koulourakia are most often associated with Easter, but I don’t think I’ve attended a holiday party in a Greek household where they didn’t make an appearance.

Ingredients

    For the Cookies:
  • 12 ounces butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon whisky or brandy
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-5 cups flour
    For the Glaze:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cream butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Add sugar and beat the mixture until it lightens in color and is creamy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl.
  4. Add the whisky, vanilla, and orange juice.
  5. Turn mixer tow low speed. Combine the baking powder and soda with 1 cup of flour, and add it to the mixer. Scrape down bowl.
  6. Gradually beat in 3 cups of flour until a soft dough forms and the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. It must be a soft — not stiff dough, so once it starts pulling away from the sides of the mixing bowl, stop adding flour.
  7. Cover in plastic and let rest for 30 min. This step can be done a day ahead.
  8. Form the cookies by taking a heaping teaspoon of dough and rolling it into a 5 to 6-inch long piece. Fold in half and twist together.
  9. Place 1 inch apart on a foil lined baking sheet. Continue until all twists are formed.
  10. Whisk together 1 large egg with 1 tablespoon milk and glaze cookies with a pastry brush. Top with sesame seeds (optional).
  11. Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden in color. If you're baking multiple cookie sheets at once, place one on the top rack and one underneath and switch half way through.
  12. Remove to a rack and allow to cool. Store in covered containers.
https://mysweetgreek.com/2019/04/21/koulourakia-greek-butter-cookies/

 

Comments

  1. Leave a Reply

    Suzanne
    April 21, 2019

    these look so lovely ! I love greek food, especially the baking!!

    • Leave a Reply

      Christina Xenos
      April 25, 2019

      Thank you! I like rolling them out a little thinner than most people do because they look a little prettier. Love that you love Greek food!

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