Last year I convinced my Yia Yia to give me her Greek family recipe collection. I told her I was going to combine it with some other stuff to make a family cook book that I would give to all the women in our family. So yeah, I still haven't gotten around to making the book, but I have finally made one of the recipes. I've helped make almost all of the recipes she gave me and almost every April of my childhood was marked by twisting and moulding hundreds of koulourakia and kourabiedes for the Greek Festival thrown by my church.
Man, those were the days, sitting at an incredibly long table with at least 20 old Greek church ladies on both sides, rolling and twisting and telling stories. I was always the youngest one there, none of the other Yia Yia's brought their grandkids. I would sit very quietly and try to decipher their bad english to understand what the hell they were all laughing about.
However, now I'm trying to cook this stuff completely on my own, in my tiny, barely functioning kitchen. Oh yeah, American pronuciation of this cookie is 'kool-eh-dakia' just so you know. Many of the recipes for kourourakia I found on the internet claim they are a "traditional Easter cookie" and I don't know why. Maybe my family, and the entire church congregation is wierd, because there are pans and pans of the stuff served with coffee and this wierd, sweet barley cereal stuff every Sunday after the morning service. Easter is usually when someone in the family makes the good stuff - baklava (which I despise but still appreciate), kourabiedes (my fav), ravani (a farina cake), finikia...and those fucking awful white almonds. God I hate those things, and I just know that when I get married there will be little tulle wrapped bags of them EVERYWHERE. Moving on...
1 lb unsalted butter softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 large eggs (or 5 medium) + 1 egg
1 orange zested and juiced (at least 1/2 cup liquid)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp salt
7-8 cups flour (plus more for rolling)
4 tsp baking powder
Sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 325F. This recipe makes 60-70 cookies, about 3 half sheet pans full, so you can halve it if you want.
Cream the butter and the sugar until light yellow color, add in the orange zest and juice, and the vanilla and clove. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time and mix very, very well after each.
In a separate bowl sift the flour and baking powder together.
Add the flour to the wet mix 1 cup at a time.
Ok, the original recipe called for 4 cups of flour and 4 tsp baking powder, but it wasn't enough flour, the dough needs to be formable into twists. So I added somewhere between 3 and 4 more cups of flour, until the dough didn't stick to the sides of the bowl and I could roll it into a ball in my hands. Don't use a mixer for this, or you'll be buying a new one, use your hands to kneed in the flour after the first 2 cups.
If you have the time, let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up so it is easier to form.
You can make these into any shape your little heart desires, but the traditional form is rope twists and curled S shapes. Either way you have to start out with a stable, floured surface at least 1 ft. wide. take a small palmfull of dough and roll into a slight ball, then rub your hands together to get a long, tube shape. Put the dough on the floured surface, flour your hands, and roll into a long, thin cylinder, approx. 10" long, and about 1/4" thick. This does not have to be the exact measurements, just try to make all the cookies about the same size so they cook evenly.
Now for the rope twist, just flip one end over the other so you have a little hole at the top, then continue to flip the ends over each other until you run out of straight dough.
For the curly S, start at one end (make sure surface is very well floured) and curl it in on itself, like a centipede does when it dies. Don't lift it off the surface, just curl it as it sits, a little less than half way down the length. Then curl the other end in the opposite direction, keep curling until you run out of straight dough and you meet the other curl.
If you arent' using sesame seeds, transfer formed dough to cookie sheet. If you are using the sesame seeds, put them on a flat plate and carefully flip the twisted cookies onto the plate top side down, press very lightly so the seeds stick, then place top side up on a cookie sheet.
Beat the extra egg in a bowl with an optional tsp sugar. Brush tops of cookies with egg and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. These are hard, scone like cookies so don't freak if they aren't soft coming out of the oven.
Mine came out a little light, probably because my oven SUCKS! They should be a little darker than this. On a side note the clove and vanilla are my own additions to this, my grandmother's recipe, although I have seen both used in other kourourakia recipes.