Melomakarona are a classic Greek cookie, with a gently spiced flavor in the dough and finished by dipping them in honey syrup (why they're often called honey cookies). All combined, it makes these some tasty bites!
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In general, I'm not a huge sweet tooth, but I do love trying traditional treats from around the world. And funny enough, my kids are more than happy to help eat them! I do find things like these little cookies a handy bite-sized pick-me-up (and luckily I usually have enough restraint to not eat too many).
In previous years our cookie exploring has included everything from alfajores (dulce de leche sandwich cookies) and kolache cookies (often called bow tie cookies, with jam filling) to German ginger cookies (ingwerlpätzchen) and kleicha (Iraqi date cookies).
These Greek honey cookies, melomakarona, have been on my list for a little while and I finally got round to making them this year. For me, anything with some spice in there is off to a good start, and honey is never a bad thing either.
The fact they are made with olive oil too was an added bonus for me. While I haven't tended to use it in cookies, I love it in cake like lemon yogurt cake. So, all had me sold, in other words.
What are melomakarona?
As I say, melomakarona are a traditional Greek cookie, commonly made around Christmas time. They are formed into egg-like ovals and you'll often see them stacked up in a tower. The main ingredients are:
- Flour (often including some semolina)
- Olive oil (many argue that extra virgin olive oil is key for flavor)
- Orange zest and/or juice
- Brandy (in most cases, or something similar)
- Cinnamon (plus sometimes cloves)
- Honey as part of the dipping syrup
- Walnuts to top (and sometimes as a filling).
Steps to make Greek honey cookies
As with any traditional recipe, you'll find a few variations both in ingredients and how to make them. Having looked through many recipes, I came up with what I felt was probably the simplest way while still being authentic (and getting the best flavors). Here's the process and some tips:
- Mix together the dry ingredients, apart from the sugar (flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices).
- Rub the orange zest into the sugar - this helps to bring out the flavor from the oils.
- Mix the wet ingredients - add the oil, orange juice and brandy to the sugar.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
- Take spoonfuls of the mixture and form egg-like ovals. Press the mixture together pretty firmly to get it to hold well. If you like, form a criss-cross on top with the prongs of a fork (this is mostly decorative but also helps to hold the walnuts a little).
- Bake the cookies until firm.
- While the cookies bake, make the dipping syrup by simmering the honey, sugar and water. Let it cool and skim away any foam.
- Dip the cookies in the syrup while they are still warm - they will take in the flavor better this way. Let them soak on both sides before taking them out and placing on a lined baking sheet.
- Immediately sprinkle on some walnuts (the syrup will help them stick - if you don't do immediately the syrup dries).
I know that compared to some simpler cookies, these might seem like a bit more work, but honestly it's worth it. Plus, all of the steps are very easy to do.
See how they come together in the short video!
My usual way is to make small batches of cookies, since we don't really get through them that quickly. However, with these I'd say the amount I made here is about as small as makes sense given you need enough dipping liquid for it to actually dip (and to work making it, really).
The cookies will keep a week or two stored in an airtight container, at room temperature. Don't be tempted to refrigerate them as it will make them go hard.
You will end up with some syrup leftover, but don't worry, you can bottle it up and keep for your next batch. Just make a bit less next time and mix them (just check it hasn't gone bad first. The syrup itself shouldn't, but it may get bits of cookie fall off in it which might.)
I know most people tend to have their go-to cookies this time of year, but melomakarona are another cookie you should add to your list. They're a tasty mix of honey and gentle spice flavors, in a slightly crumbly cookie. I can see why they're a Greek Christmas tradition. A pretty and tasty addition to any cookie plate!
Try these other international cookies:
- Brunkager (Danish spiced Christmas cookies)
- Cucidati (Italian fig cookies)
- Persian walnut cookies (nan-e gerdui)
- Alfajores (South American dulce de leche sandwich cookies)
- Plus get more snack recipes, both sweet and savory, as well as Holiday recipes in the archives.
Tools to make these cookies
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Melomakarona (Greek honey cookies)
- 3 cups all purpose flour 420g plain flour
- ½ cup semolina 80g
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cloves allspice a good substitute, if you don't have ground cloves
- 6 tbsp sugar 80g
- ½ orange zest ie from ½ orange
- ½ cup orange juice 120ml
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil 240ml
- 2 tbsp brandy
For the dipping syrup
- ½ cup honey 120ml
- ¼ cup sugar 4 tbsp
- ¾ cup water 180ml
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 3 cloves (optional)
- ¼ cup walnuts 35g, ground, to top
- Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
- In a medium-large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, apart from the sugar, ie flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.
- Rub the orange zest into the sugar in a separate large bowl- it should become slightly soft and fragrant. (This helps to bring out the flavor from the oils.)
- Add the oil, orange juice and brandy to the sugar and mix well.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and mix to combine.
- Take spoonfuls of the mixture and form egg-like ovals and place on a lined baking sheet. Press the mixture together pretty firmly in your hands to get it to hold well. If you like, form a criss-cross on top of each cookie with the prongs of a fork.
- Bake the cookies until firm and lightly golden, around 20 minutes.
- While the cookies bake, make the dipping syrup by warming the honey, sugar and water until the sugar dissolves and it starts to simmer. You can optionally add a cinnamon stick and cloves to help infuse it with a bit of spice. Let the syrup simmer 5-10 minutes then remove from heat. Let it cool and skim away any foam.
- If your walnuts are not already crushed, put them in the food processor and pulse until they are relatively fine crumbs.
- Dip the cookies in the syrup while they are still warm in small batches (say 3-5 at a time). Let them soak on both sides for 30 seconds to a minute before taking them out and placing on a lined baking sheet.
- Immediately sprinkle on some walnuts and leave to dry.