Tasty Traditions: Melomakarona, Greek Honey Cookies

Tasty Traditions: Melomakarona, Greek Honey Cookies

Melomakarona (Greek honey cookies) are one of the most popular treats throughout Greece during the Christmas Holidays and the intense aromas of delicate spices makes every house smell like Christmas.

μελομακάρονο is an egg-shaped Greek dessert made mainly from flour, olive oil, and honey. Along with the Kourabies it is a traditional dessert prepared primarily during this festive season.

Typical ingredients of the Melomakarona are flour or semolina, sugar, orange zest and/or fresh juice, cognac (or similar beverage), cinnamon and olive oil. During rolling they are often filled with ground walnuts. After baking they are immersed for a few seconds in hot syrup made of honey and sugar dissolved in water. Finally, they are decorated with ground, as well as bigger, pieces of walnut. Dark chocolate-covered melomakarona are also a more recent variation of the traditional recipe.

This easy-to-follow traditional Greek melomakarona recipe makes 60 of these delicious festive Greek Christmas cookies, plenty for everyone to try. Serve over a hot cup of coffee and you have a match made in heaven!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1cups light olive oil or 1 12 cups corn oil
  • 1cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup orange juice (or more)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 oranges, zest of, grated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups fine ground semolina (cream of wheat or farina)
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1teaspoon baking soda
  • 1teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Syrup

  • 1 1cups sugar
  • 1 1cups greek thyme honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 3cup walnuts, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Put the corn oil, butter, beer (or orange juice), cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until they are thoroughly blended.
  2. Sift about one cup of flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt and blend into the oil mixture.
  3. Add the semolina, a cup at a time, into this mixture.
  4. Add enough of the remaining flour, a cup at a time, until you get a rather firm dough (you may need a bit more or less than the amount of flour mentioned in the ingredients list).
  5. Use your hands to do the mixing, as an electric mixer will be useless after the first two or three cups of flour have been added.
  6. Roll the dough into cylinders, about two inches long and one inch in diameter, flatten them with your hands, and place them on cookie sheets that have been greased with a little olive oil.
  7. Bake at 350 degree Fahrenheit for half an hour.
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven and pour hot syrup over them.
  9. Lay the cookies out in a rimmed baking pan large enough to contain them and pour the hot syrup over the cookies, sprinkle them with the chopped walnuts and let them soak overnight.
  10. (Alternatively, if you do not have enough rimmed baking sheets to accommodate all the cookies, you can dip them in batches directly into the hot syrup – keeping the syrup at the lowest possible simmer – and allow to soak in the syrup for 8-10 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon).
  11. For the syrup: mix the sugar, honey and water, and bring to a boil.
  12. Cook on low heat for four minutes and skim off the foam that forms on top.
  13. The next day put them on your prettiest platter, sprinkle each layer evenly with the finely chopped walnuts and wrap with plastic wrap (or put in an airtight container) and serve.
  14. These are great keepers and will last for months!

While you’re baking Melomakarona, listen to these beautiful Greek Orthodox Christmas hymns and enjoy an authentic experience!

Tasty Traditions: Scandinavian Glögg (Spiced Wine)

Tasty Traditions: Scandinavian Glögg (Spiced Wine)

Scandinavia is known for its frigid temperatures and shortened daylight hours during the winter time. It’s no wonder that the traditional mulled wine drink, Glögg, is a favorite during the coldest season of the year. Scandinavian Glögg (pronounced glook) is served warm, and is a great way to unwind after a long day spent outdoors in this wintry wonderland.

Drinking mulled wine dates back a long time in history and to begin with spices were added to less complex tasting wines. Wine was first recorded as spiced and heated in Rome during the second century. Ancient Greece also was a place where spiced wine was favored. The Romans sweetened their wine and added herbs and flowers.

During the Middle Ages, mulled wine was very popular in Europe. The herbs were also thought to have healing properties and to improve health. The Swedish King, Gustav Vasa, loved Claret, which was a blend of wine Rhen, sugar, honey, and spices. Lutendrank was the favorite drink of Swedish King Erik XIV. Two hundred and ten jugs of lutendrank were produced for his coronation in 1561.

The word Glögg comes from the word Glödga, which means to heat up. The phrase “Glödgat wine” appeared around 1609. In Europe people left behind the tradition of drinking spiced wine, but in Sweden it remained.

During the 1800s, Glögg became a Christmas tradition in Scandinavian countries like Sweden. Wine merchants began making their own versions, putting the wine in bottles, labeling them, and selling them. Today around five million liters of Glögg are consumed every year during the Christmas season.

The traditional Scandinavian mulled drink mixes wine and port with spices like clove, cardamom, and cinnamon to make for a brew that smells and tastes divine!

RECIPE: A SIMPLE GLOGG

Ingredients

  • Aquavit (or brandy or vodka)
  • Burgundy or pinot noir wine
  • Port wine
  • Raisins
  • White or brown sugar
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Cardamom seeds
  • One orange
  • One piece of ginger
  • Blanched almonds

STEP 1: Soak 1/2 cup of raisins in one cup of aquavit, brandy, or vodka. Soak for 30 minutes before proceeding to step 2.

STEP 2: Put a large pot on the stove, over high heat. Add one cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar to the pot, and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved.

STEP 3: Lower the heat to medium and add your spices – 2 sticks of cinnamon (each broken in half); 4 whole cloves ; 6 whole cardamom seeds, crushed by hand; a thinly shaved orange peel; and 1 small piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half. Stir again with wooden spoon. Do not allow the mix to come to a boil from this point on.

STEP 4: Add the raisin mixture, 2 cups of burgundy  or pinot noir wine and 2 cups of port wine.

STEP 5: Sweeten and spice to taste.

STEP 6: Strain, garnish with raisins and slices of blanched almonds. Serve hot off the stove.

NOTE: The drink can be made in advance and kept at room temperature. Be sure to warm it up before serving, however.

About the wine, port, and brandy. There is no need to invest in expensive wine, port, or brandy because the spices are going to preempt any innate complexity of a fine wine, but don’t use anything cheap. Remember, the sum will be no better than its parts. If you want to play, instead of brandy try using Swedish aquavit, a caraway flavored vodka popular in Scandinavia.

About the raisins. Golden raisins will work, but dark raisins are better.

About the cardamom. Cardamom comes in three forms: Pods, seeds, and powder. The pods look like orange seeds. Cardamom seed pods may be hard to find, so you may need to order them from a spice specialist like Penzeys.com, but don’t leave out the cardamom. Cardamom is the secret ingredient. The seeds within the pods are either black or tan, about 1/3 the size of peppercorns. If you can’t find pods and can only find seeds, use about 1 teaspoon of them. Do not use powder.

About the almonds. It is important to get naked cream-colored almonds that have had the shells and brown skins removed. The skins are bitter and full of brown coloring that can give the glögg a dusty texture. Do not use salted or smoked almonds. If you can only find almonds with skins, you can remove them by blanching them. Here’s how: Boil a pot of water, dump in the almonds, wait for the water to boil again, let them boil for about a minute, pour off the water, and rinse with cold water, and drain. The skins will slip right off if you pinch them.

About the cloves. Do not use powdered cloves.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! So, sit back, relax, and enjoy a Saintly Scandinavian delight.

 

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Tasty Tuesday: Kaiserschmarrn, A Deliciously Sweet Treat!

Tasty Tuesday: Kaiserschmarrn, A Deliciously Sweet Treat!

Kaiserschmarrn or Kaiserschmarren (Emperor’s Mess) is a shredded pancake, which has its name from the Austrian emperor Kaiser Franz Joseph I, who was very fond of this kind of fluffy shredded pancake. It is a popular meal or dessert in Austria, Germany,  Hungary, Slovenia, and northern Croatia.

The name Kaiserschmarren is a compound of the words Schmarren (shredded pancake) and Kaiser (emperor). Schmarren is a colloquialism used in Austrian and Bavarian to mean “trifle, mishmash, mess, nonsense and folly.” Kaiser Franz Joseph’s love for this dish was referred to humorously as his “folly.” The word “Schmarren” is related to scharren (to scrape) and schmieren (to smear). Its Slovenian name is “cesarski praženec” or “šmorn.” Its Hungarian name is “császármorzsa;” its Czech name is “trhanec” or ” kajzršmorn.”

Kaiserschmarren is a light, caramelized pancake made from a sweet batter using flour, eggs, sugar, salt, and milk, baked in butter. Kaiserschmarren can be prepared in different ways. When making Kaiserschmarren the egg whites are usually separated from the yolk and beaten until stiff; then the flour and the yolks are mixed with sugar, and the other ingredients are added, including: nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and slivered almonds. The last mentioned ingredients (nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and chopped almonds) aren’t in the original recipe and just additions made by some cooks based on their personal preferences. In the original recipe there are only raisins (before cooking they are soaked in rum.)

HISTORY

It is generally agreed that the dish was first prepared for the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830–1916). There are several stories. One apocryphal story involves the Emperor kaiserfranzjosef1853-1and his wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria, of the House of Wittelsbach. Obsessed with maintaining a minimal waistline, the Empress Elisabeth directed the royal chef to prepare only light desserts for her, much to the consternation and annoyance of her notoriously austere husband. Upon being presented with the chef’s confection, she found it too rich and refused to eat it. The exasperated Francis Joseph quipped, “Now let me see what ‘Schmarren’ our chef has cooked up.” It apparently met his approval as he finished his and even his wife’s serving.

Another story is that Francis Joseph and his wife were traveling the Alps and stopped by a farmer’s home for lunch. The farmer was so nervous that he threw all the fanciest ingredients he had into a pan to make a delicious pancake; worse yet, due to his nervousness and shaky hands he scrambled the pancake. Hoping to cover up the mess he then covered it with plum jam. Luckily, the kaiser thought it was scrumptious.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • plum preserves or peach preserves for serving

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine raisins with rum and let soak 30 minutes, then drain.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, white sugar, vanilla, and salt. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter. Stir in the drained raisins.
  3. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook 5-6 minutes, or until the pancake has set and the bottom is golden brown.
  4. Using a spatula or two forks, tear the pancake into bite-size pieces.
  5. Drizzle in the melted butter and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium high and use a spatula to gently toss the pieces for 5 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized.
  7. Sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar and serve with the preserves of your choice.
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Enjoy Kaiserschmarrn for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!