Plum Kuchen

20170710_152921Summer is typically a slow time of year for me. School is out. The back-to-back flow of major holidays is absent. I no longer have to be someplace all the time and there are a less incentives given to require constant recipe creation. I rely on this time to relax, plan out the craziness of the fall and winter months ahead, and sneak a few trips to the park for my oldest to exert some of her excess energy.

This year, however, has not been typical. It seems like I have been going nonstop since last August when I am usually settled down around early June. The reason for the change? Well, in June I was approached by a local magazine, Edible Orlando, to have a recipe of mine featured in their Summer issue. Almost immediately after that exposure, I was approached by two different authors who are assembling cookbooks and would like to feature some of my recipes in their books. I gladly obliged but it also means a bit more involvement than I’m used to regarding this website. Meanwhile, I celebrated my fiance’s 33rd birthday, the Baptism of our second daughter, followed by Independence Day festivities, and in a little over two weeks it will be our second daughter’s 1st birthday. If I am lucky I will get a week or two off before the crazy school year starts all over again with registration for my daughter in school and a bunch of extracurricular activities along with the constant recipe development needed for the fall/winter holidays.

20170710_153132Since I have been busy I haven’t planned much in advance regarding future posts and I haven’t involved myself in other incentive-based projects. This post came about after I was out doing regular shopping and got a deal on some organic plums for $1.99/pound. I figured I could find something to make with them. Sure enough, after having a brief conversation with my mom about how my great-grandmother used to make plum jelly I decided to do a bit of research on traditional German recipes using plums. I quickly discovered that plum cake (Pflaumenkuchen) is a staple in many German homes, especially when having guests for coffee or tea. It’s so popular that every year between the months of July & September, in the southwestern city of Buhl, Germany there is a festival (Zwetschgenfest) to celebrate the annual plum harvest. During my brief studies on the subject I have found that there are two ways to prepare a plum kuchen, one being with a yeast base and the other with a cake batter. Due to my time constraints I chose the quicker cake batter option.

20170710_152959After preparing this simple coffee cake I know why it is so beloved in Germany. What is not to love about a dense yet tender spice cake adorned with tart plums and finished with a crispy cinnamon sugar topping! I prefer using a mixture of black, red, and yellow plums for contrasting flavor and color but any plum variety will work in this scrumptious cake. Serve it as a quick breakfast with coffee, as an afternoon snack with tea, or a satisfying dessert following dinner!

 

Plum Kuchen

 

Ingredients:

  • 6.75 ounces (1 ½ cups) All-Purpose Flour
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar; divided
  • 2 tbsp. Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 3/8 tsp. Salt; divided
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Cardamom
  • 7 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; divided
  • ½ cup Milk
  • ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 pound Plums; quartered & pitted
  • ¼ tsp. Ground Cinnamon

 

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Grease a 9 inch round springform or metal cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine flour, 2 tbsp. granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, ¼ tsp. salt, allspice, and cardamom in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in 4 tbsp. butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Combine milk, vanilla, and egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Arrange plums in a circular pattern over the batter.
  4. Combine remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, remaining 1/8 tsp. salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl, stirring well. Place remaining 3 tbsp. butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until butter is melted. Stir melted butter into sugar mixture. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top of cake. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until browned and bubbling. Cool in pan for 1 hour on a wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve.

 

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: PAUL GRIMES
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017

Advertisements

Tsoureki Rolls

20170416_173641The Easter season has come and gone for another year so today I bring you one of the items I served at our table. Tsoureki is a very popular sweet bread in Greece similar in texture to a French brioche. It is traditionally served at Pascha (Easter) but is also commonly consumed at other holidays or as a daily accompaniment to coffee/tea.

20170416_172825Most Greeks will tell you that making your own tsoureki is a daunting task to perfect, which is why many simply purchase it from local Greek bakeries verses making it homemade. I myself have purchased the bread for many years since I always place more focus on preparing other traditional offerings. However this year I decided to take up the task of making tsoureki homemade for Easter and the process honestly did not live up to the horror portrayed.

20170415_143020The perfect Tsoureki is a buttery soft yet flaky dough flavored with the distinct aromatic spices ground masticha (mastic) and ground mahlepi. Masticha or Mastic is a tree resin found on the Greek island of Chios. Mahlepi or mahleb is a spice derived from ground cherry seeds. These two spices are what give tsoureki its distinct taste and alluring sweet aroma. Without them the bread becomes no different from a French brioche.

20170416_173625If you are a regular follower of mine you’re probably wondering what my take on this traditional bread will be. Although I love tsoureki in its traditional loaf form I always like to make a fresh twist to established recipes as my own signature of sorts. With tsoureki, I sought to streamline the traditional braided design into a more portable portion. Tsoureki is traditionally braided into a long loaf or a crown shape. For my recipe, I portion out the dough into equal sized rolls and braid them the traditional way. I then place each braided roll into a muffin tin. This strategy makes it easy to provide the perfect amount of tsoureki for the expected amount of guests for holidays and is a far less messy alternative for kids, especially since they do not have patience to wait for a slice to be cut. If you want to try tsoureki and share it with family and friends, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try. You will be delightfully surprised at how great of a roll this is!

Tsoureki Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. Dry Yeast
  • 1/3 cup Warm Milk (100° to 110°)
  • 15.75 oz. (about 3 ½ cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Ground Mahlepi (may also be labeled mahlab/mahleb)
  • ½ tsp. Ground Masticha (may also be labeled mastic)
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 4 Large Eggs; lightly beaten
  • 6 ½ tbsp. Unsalted Butter; softened & cut into large cubes
  • 1 tbsp. Water
  • 1 Large Egg White
  • Sliced Almonds; optional

Preparation:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine yeast and warm milk. Dissolve yeast in milk and let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, mahlepi, masticha, salt, and eggs. Add flour mixture to the milk mixture. Set mixer to low-speed and beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula as needed. Continue to beat dough on low speed for 5 minutes or until dough is soft and elastic and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Set mixer to medium speed and add half of butter to the dough until just incorporated. Add remaining butter cubes to dough and beat until incorporated. Continue to beat dough at medium speed for 4 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  4. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough into the bowl, turning to coat top. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place free from drafts for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Once risen, gently press two fingers into the dough. If indentation remains the dough has risen enough to proceed. If indentation does not remain allow more time to rise. Once indentation remains, punch dough down then form into a ball. Return dough to bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  5. Uncover dough and let stand 90 minutes or until dough is at room temperature. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent it from drying out), cut dough into 6 equal pieces.
  6. Working with one piece at a time, break into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long log. Pinch together the 3 logs at the top and braid down like you would hair. Pinch the end of the braid and pull braid into a ball formation, tucking the end of the braid underneath the ball to secure. Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions to make 24 rolls total. Place rolls into cups of a muffin tin coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine water and egg white; stir with a whisk. Gently brush rolls with egg mixture. If using almonds, gently press 3-4 onto the top of each roll. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017

Chocolate Baklava Bites

20170325_105856Ζητω Η Ελλαδα!!! Χρονια πολλα Ελλαδα!  Long live Greece and Happy Greek Independence Day to all the Greeks around the world! Today is a national holiday in Greece as it marks the start of the Greek war for Independence (March 25, 1821) from the Ottoman Empire (Turks). As a tribute to this important day in Greek history it is only natural I had to make one of if not the most famous Greek dessert around the world…baklava.

20170325_105650As with everything I bake I try to put my own creative spin on it and these mini baklava bites are no exception. I know my version of baklava will probably drive all the yiayia’s (Greek for grandmother) crazy because it does not resemble anything to the traditional baklava they are used to making. However, I feel that given a taste of these bites even my harshest critics would find it hard to resist admitting how great these came out.

20170325_110032-(1)Traditional baklava is a blend of toasted nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, or walnuts depending on the baker) layered between buttery sheets of fillo then soaked in honey syrup. For my version, I decided to add a hint of chocolate because who doesn’t love chocolate. In order to incorporate the traditional flavor provided by ground hazelnuts, I used some leftover Greek Merenda spread, which is the Greek equivalent of Nutella, to provide a rich hazelnut chocolate flavor.

20170325_105905For such a small dessert these bites do not lack any of the flavor or richness found in traditional recipes. They are great to serve at large gatherings because one recipe makes 30 and their bite size cuts down on the messiness of cutting into and eating the original. I recommend trying this modern version of the classic Greek dessert! Kali Orexi!

Chocolate Baklava Bites

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup Walnuts
  • ¾ cup Almonds
  • ½ cup Honey (preferably Greek)
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 3 tbsp. Sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; melted
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • ¼ cup Hazlenut-Chocolate Spread (such as Merenda or Nutella)
  • 2 boxes Mini Fillo Shells; 15 shells each

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange walnuts & almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden & fragrant, about 5 to 8 minutes. Allow nuts to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, add the honey, water, and cinnamon stick to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until honey dissolves. Continue to cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 230°, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm. Discard cinnamon stick.
  3. Add the slightly cooled nuts to the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Pulse to combine.
  4. Place hazelnut-chocolate spread in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds or until melted. Place mini fillo shells into wells of 2 mini cupcake tins. Working quickly place 1 tsp. of melted hazelnut spread into the bottom of each fillo shell. Next, top each fillo shell with 1 tsp. of the nut mixture. Bake in oven until filling is hot and fillo is golden, about 10 minutes.
  5. Pour 1 tsp. of honey syrup into each fillo cup while warm. Allow syrup to soak in and then add another 1 tsp. to each cup. Refrigerate at least 5 hours but preferably overnight for flavors to develop.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017

Spumoni Cookies

DSC_0323Like many, I feel completely exhausted after the holidays. I love the winter holiday season but it truly does know how to wipe a person out. I feel like ever since Halloween in October it has been non-stop craziness preparing for whatever festivity comes next. If the typical holidays are not enough, the addition of my daughter now fills January with two more celebrations I never had to plan for before. January 17th is my daughter’s name day and January 24th is her birthday. For those that do not know, a name day is a Greek tradition of celebrating the name of the Christian saint you are named after on that saint’s feast day. So now that all of those celebrations have since passed, I finally feel some ease until Easter but it has left me extremely fatigued. It is so bad I hardly feel like doing anything each day, but of course we all know that is not possible with a 2 year old and 100 pounds of med school homework.

DSC_0318Since my energy has been sapped as of late it has really took its toll on my baking hobby. When I do manage to summon enough energy to cook outside of making breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my family it needs to be something that isn’t too strenuous. I always used to be against taking baking shortcuts but now that I am a mom and full-time student, any shortcut I can find that still tastes good is acceptable. I even recall as a teen trashing my grandfather’s shortcut cookie recipe that he made with a boxed cake mix. After they were made he had me try one. They were of course delicious and it was then he told me something that has stuck to this day. He said, “As long as you know you can make it from scratch and have it taste good, it doesn’t hurt to take a shortcut every once and awhile.” This has been my motto as of late. I know I can make great cookies from scratch and have done so since I was old enough to see over the kitchen counter, so it doesn’t hurt to take a shortcut when I need one. This recipe is one of those shortcuts.

DSC_0322The reason this recipe is considered a short cut is because it uses store bought sugar cookie dough. If you are completely against the idea of anything store bought, you can make your own batch of sugar cookie dough as I have also done when I have more time and energy, just be sure your sugar cookie recipe produces about 2 pounds of dough. I prefer to take the shortcut method with these cookies though because they are rather involved compared to others already and making your own sugar cookie dough will make the process that much longer. I know anyone with a busy lifestyle will surely appreciate this shortcut method that not only takes less time but is also a special, elegant looking cookie.

DSC_0315What makes these cookies so impressive are the three different layers of color and flavor. This is the spumoni influence on the cookie. Spumoni originates in Italy and is traditionally found as ice cream. Spumoni is relative to Neapolitan, with three flavors, traditionally being chocolate, pistachio, and cherry. I do not care for pistachios so I altered the traditional make-up and used walnuts instead. You can certainly swap out an equal amount of pistachios for the walnuts in this recipe. Even though Spumoni has pretty much disappeared in Italy, it is still much loved in the U.S. with good reason. Give them a try and have a taste of forgotten Italy.

Note: These cookies use three separate doughs merged into one to make the tri-colored appearance. I roll the dough into ropes, place them alongside each other, and roll flat with a rolling pin to merge the dough. You can also roll out each dough ball into equal length and thickness then stack the dough on top of each other and slice with a sharp knife to get a similar effect. Whichever method you choose, be sure to chill the dough slightly to make it easier to get uniform cookies. This recipe produces approximately 3 dozen cookies.

 

Spumoni Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 (16 oz.) tubes Refrigerated Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 12 Maraschino Cherries; drained, stemmed, & chopped fine
  • ¼ cup Walnuts; toasted & chopped fine
  • ¼ cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips; melted & slightly cooled
  • Red & Green Food Coloring

 Formula:

  1. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, approximately 1 hour. Place both tubes of cookie dough into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add ¾ cup of flour and mix on low until combined. Separate dough into three equal portions and place one portion back into the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the remaining ¼ cup of flour to the dough portion in the mixer bowl. Mix until just incorporated. Add 5 drops of red food coloring and chopped cherries to the dough. Mix until well combined. Shape the dough into a ball and set aside.
  2. Wipe out the same mixing bowl and place back on the stand mixer. Add the second portion of dough to the mixer bowl. Add 5 drops of green food coloring and the chopped walnuts. Mix until well combined. Shape dough into a ball and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the same mixing bowl one last time and place back on the stand mixer. Add the final portion of dough to the mixer bowl. Add the melted chocolate to the dough and mix until well combined. Shape dough into ball. Wrap all three dough portions in plastic wrap and refrigerate until slightly firm, approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Divide each chilled dough portion in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into a 12 inch rope. Place 1 rope of each color side by side on the floured surface and gently press together. Refrigerate ropes until slightly firm, approximately 10 minutes. Remove chilled ropes from refrigerator and on a floured surface, use a rolling pin to flatten the cookies and merge the dough ropes together. Once rolled, use a knife to cut 1 inch wide cookies. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Repeat until all dough is used and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Bake chilled cookies until set but not browned, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Be sure to rotate baking sheets halfway through cooking time for even baking. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for approximately 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored for approximately 1 week.

 

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: DONNA BARDOCZ
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2015

Melomakarona

DSC_0242Winter has officially set in and with the bitter cold comes a desire to stay bundled up in bed under the warm covers all day. Having a daughter that is about to turn two in just a few weeks prevents me from exercising such a dream but it does still keep me indoors. Although Florida is not as cold as the rest of the country, having lows in the upper 30’s and highs in the mid 50’s is extremely chilly for us with thinned blood. I was born and raised in Iowa so I was used to the negative temperatures this time of year, but surely after years of being a Floridian my blood has quickly thinned like the crushed ice pellets of a slushy on a hot summer day.

Being that I am stuck inside it leaves me one of only a few options: bake, write, or watch endless episodes of Sofia the First with my daughter. I have elected to write (and still have endless episodes of Sofia the First playing in the background). The recipe I present to you today is another cookie I baked for Christmas that I hadn’t the time to get posted prior to Christmas. Melomakarona (Greek Honey Cookies) are yet another traditional Greek Christmas sweet. I will warn you these little gems are extremely popular because they are extremely addictive. Melomakarona happen to be my favorite Greek cookie I have tried so far. Unfortunately with such fine gems there will always be a catch and these are no exception. Melomakarona tend to be a little more time consuming than other sweets I tend to post but they are ever so worth it. I guarantee once you take a bite of this moist and flavorful cookie soaked in sweet honey syrup you will surely be satisfied with your work.

DSC_0245Now that I dropped the bit of bad news regarding these cookies I can overcome any negativity with a positive. Not only do these cookies scent the house with a wonderful aroma, they are the most perfect cookie to prepare during the busy holiday season. I know I just stated they are more time consuming than other cookies so you are certainly wondering how I can then say they are perfect for the busiest and most stressful time of the year. I assure you I am not crazy. The reason I say they are perfect is because these cookies, although time consuming, can be made weeks in advance and still remain soft and fresh as the day they were made. In fact, it is best that they are made a bit in advance so that the honey syrup has enough time to penetrate the cookie and regain a bit of structure. If you try to serve these cookies right after they take a bath in the honey syrup they will crumble and dissolve into a mess in your hands the second you take a bite (although it will be a finger-licking, delicious mess).

If you would like to be as authentic as possible with the Melomakarona, you will want to purchase Greek honey. I won’t lie this can be rather hard to find and a bit pricey so check out your local International market or shop for it online. You may certainly substitute regular honey but keep in mind the flavor will not be the same. This is due to the fact that Greek honey is extremely thick and made from bees that harvest most of their pollen from the thyme plant, imparting a specific flavor unique to Greek honey. For the final authentic touch, top each cookie with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts and a pinch of cinnamon and clove right after they are removed from the honey bath. The cookies displayed in the photos however only have walnuts and cinnamon added since I skipped on the clove as my daughter finds the flavor too harsh if it is not baked into the product. Whichever way you choose to prepare these cookies, each will be guaranteed heaven and a joy to all on the holidays (or any day for that matter).

Note: Cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about 2 weeks. You will have a good remainder of honey syrup after soaking the cookies. I usually use the delicious syrup to top pancakes and toast but if you would not like leftovers you may cut the ingredients for the honey syrup in half to create a smaller yield.

DSC_0248Melomakarona

Syrup Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Water
  • 36 oz. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 18 oz. Greek Honey

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 5.5 oz. Thin Semolina
  • 18 oz. All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. Ground Clove
  • 3 tbsp. Brandy or Cognac
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3.5 oz. Granulated Sugar
  • 3.5 oz. Orange Juice
  • ½ tbsp. Baking Soda
  • 3.5 oz. Water
  • 4.5 oz. Olive Oil
  • 4.5 oz. Vegetable Oil
  • 2 oz. Greek Honey
  • Zest of 1 Orange

Garnish Ingredients:

  • 7 oz. Walnuts; toasted & chopped fine
  • Powdered Cinnamon
  • Powdered Clove (optional)

 

Formula:

  1. To prepare the honey syrup: In a large saucepan add all of the syrup ingredients except for the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Boil until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes (mixture will foam so pay close attention). Remove from heat and add in the honey. Stir to combine then set syrup aside to cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the cookie dough by adding the semolina, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to a large bowl. Stir the mixture with a whisk to evenly distribute the spices. In another large bowl, add the brandy, vanilla, and granulated sugar. Measure out the orange juice into a large measuring cup. Hold the measuring cup over the large bowl with the brandy mixture. Add the baking soda to the orange juice, causing it to foam up and possibly over the rim of the measuring cup (depends how large the measuring cup is). After the orange juice mixture has finished foaming pour it into the bowl with the brandy mixture and whisk vigorously for 10 t0 20 seconds (if the orange juice mixture overflows the measuring cup while it is reacting, begin whisking the second it overflows into the bowl and continue to whisk until you pour all of the orange juice mixture into the bowl of the brandy mixture). Add the water, oils, honey, and orange zest and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the flour mixture into the brandy/orange juice mixture. Knead the dough lightly by hand until the ingredients are just combined and the dough feels smooth and soft. Be sure you do not overwork the dough or add any extra flour because the cookies will become tough. The dough will feel oily and is normal.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. To shape the Melomakarona, pinch a piece of dough about the size of a walnut and shape into a ball. Once in a ball use your palms to shape the dough ball into an oblong egg shape. Place the shaped cookie on the prepared baking sheet. Press down lightly with the tines of a fork. Continue shaping the rest of the dough. Bake cookies until they are lightly brown and cooked through, approximately 20 minutes.
  5. When the Melomakarona are removed from the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 1 minute so they are easier to pick up. Working in batches, place the cookies into the cooled syrup. Flip the cookies while in the syrup with a slotted spoon for about 20 seconds (longer if you want a more syrupy cookie). Remove the soaked cookies with the slotted spoon and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle them immediately with the chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and clove (if using).

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2015

Kourabiedes

DSC_0172Every year in the past I have provided readers several non-traditional holiday cookie recipes that are great to offer on holiday dessert tables or pass at holiday related functions. These non-traditional cookies help bring variety to the plethora of sugar cookies typically found decorating dinner tables or being passed at holiday affairs. I am not in any way discounting a sugar cookies worthiness of being served during the holidays as I too love them and look forward to my mother’s every year. However, I do like to try new things and venture outside of the typical so it is always nice to have something new alongside of a childhood favorite.

With that said, I slacked this year and only brought readers one non-traditional offering and it wasn’t even a cookie, it was the Greek jam tart Pasta Flora. I did make several cookies during the holidays that most families would not consider part of the norm so I would like to share these with you. Although you will not have the time to make them for any holiday this year as they have all since passed, perhaps you may try them now and decide if you would like to offer them next year at your holiday events.

DSC_0179The cookie for this entry that I am anxious to share is a classic Christmas dessert staple for Greeks and is known by the name Kourabiedes. These festive, soft delights are butter cookies drenched in the sweetness of confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar). My daughter devoured so many to the point I began to doubt the study that confirmed sugar does not make kids hyper. Along with attracting kids like a magnet, they are very easy to prepare and will add the perfect holiday theme to any table with their snowy appearance.

Kourabiedes

(Greek Christmas Butter Cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 9 oz. Butter; room temperature
  • 3.5 oz. Confectioners’ Sugar; plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tbsp. Ouzo or Brandy
  • 4 oz. Sliced Almonds; toasted
  • 16 oz. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder

 

Formula:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  2. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until it becomes light and creamy. Add the vanilla and ouzo/brandy, mixing until just incorporated. Add the toasted almonds and again mix until just incorporated.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and the baking powder. Do not skip this step as it is detrimental to the final texture of the cookies. Slowly add the sifted flour mixture to the creamed butter in 3 additions. Mix together until the dough is combined, soft, and easy to work with. If the dough appears too sticky and hard to work with, add up to no more than 2 ounces of sifted flour until the desired texture is achieved.
  4. To form the Kourabiedes, roll 1 to 2 tbsp. of dough into a ball between your palms and place on the prepared baking sheet. In the middle of the cookie dough ball, push down with your finger to form a small dimple in the surface. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie on the baking sheet. Bake cookies for about 20 minutes or until they take on a very light golden hue. Do not overcook them as they should not look golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Do not try to remove them from the sheet immediately as the cookies will break if they are still warm and they will not be thoroughly cooked.
  5. Once the cookies have cooled, remove them from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Continue forming Kourabiedes as in step 4 until all the dough has been used. Once all the cookies have cooled completely, place a few cups of confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, roll the cookies in the sugar so that the sugar coats on all sides. Before serving, place the cookies on a platter and sift a generous amount of confectioners’ sugar over the cookies.

 

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2015

 

Loukoumades

DSC_0257

Today was a very overcast blah day which made it perfect for baking. I chose to tackle a famous Greek pastry called Loukoumades, also known as Greek Honey Puffs. A few days ago I tried to make these sweet gems but failed miserably. After translating a family recipe from Greek to English the measurements were not clear and a lot of guess-work was necessary. This guess-work produced a bowl of dense, inedible pastry.

DSC_0259

I admit I was rather frustrated. After working hard to translate my boyfriend’s family recipe only to have it not turn out did cause me to lose motivation, especially since the Greek language is not the easiest thing to learn in the world. I have been trying to learn as much Greek since the birth of my daughter as we will be raising her Greek Orthodox and sending her to Greek school so it will be important for me to have a clear understanding of the language and culture in order to help her learn easier. This has been an uphill battle since the only foreign language I know is Spanish and some random German words and phrases, which are not helpful at all in the quest to master Greek.

DSC_0250

Sure I have picked up a lot of Greek words and phrases and can even generally decipher conversations I hear based on what I do know but I am nowhere near where I want to be. Since I have a long road ahead to master Greek language I decided there is one thing I can master from Greek culture rather quickly… their food. This will also come in handy since I want my daughter to learn the tastes and flavors of that portion of her heritage all while broadening the horizons of my own palate. Lately I have been succeeding with savory options such as pasta and rice dishes to offer at dinner. It was only natural that I move on to sweets, which Greeks are notorious for.

DSC_0265

Having gotten over my initial frustration I remembered my ultimate goal to provide these traditional dishes for my daughter and boyfriend since we are miles from family that would be able to do so for us. I was refreshed with my initiative to learn every traditional Greek dish, savory or sweet, knowing there is no one else to take on that responsibility and make sure tradition passes down to my daughter and eventually her children as well. With this newly lit fire I decided to get to the bottom of my initial failure.

DSC_0258

I did some research online as well as cross referencing the family recipe with a recipe I received from the church cookbook of other family’s traditional Greek recipes. It was there I found my problem. The dense nature of my failure had two causes. The first was too much flour and not enough leavening agent. The second was too thick of dough, causing it to remain lumpy and hard to shape.

DSC_0256

With my knowledge of what went wrong I went back to the drawing board. Can you guess what happened… that’s right… SUCCESS!!! Having successfully tackled on Loukoumades I can now put that burden behind me and find a new Greek recipe to try.

DSC_0252

Loukoumades

Ingredients:

  • 2 pkgs Instant or Rapid-Rise Yeast
  • ½ cup Warm Water; between 90° to 100°
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
  • ¾ cup Milk, lukewarm to touch
  • 3 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour, sifted
  • 1 ¼ tsp. Salt
  • Oil for Frying
  • Pure Honey; for drizzling
  • Cinnamon; to taste

Formula:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Be sure to not overheat the water as it will kill the yeast. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the milk and sugar and mix until just combined.
  3. Stir in the yeast and half of the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well blended. If the dough appears too thick, add water in small increments until the dough is smooth and falls slowly from the spoon. Make sure the dough is lump free. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
  4. In a large saucepan or pot heat the oil. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. This will absorb the excess oil after the Loukoumades are removed from frying. Give the risen dough a quick stir. Place a small amount of oil in a cup or bowl. If you desire small Loukoumades, select a teaspoon. If you desire larger Loukoumades like the ones pictured, select a tablespoon.
  5. Dip the spoon you selected in the cup of oil. This will keep the Loukoumades from sticking to the spoon and maintain their shape while frying. Grab a handful of dough and gently squeeze your fist together, causing the dough to squish out through the space in your palm between your thumb and pointer finger. Squeeze out enough dough to cover the surface of the greased spoon and use the edge of the spoon to cut off the dough and create a smooth, round shape. Gently slide the dough off the spoon into the hot oil. Fry the dough until golden brown.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to remove each Loukoumades and place on the prepared pan. Once all the Loukoumades have been fried, transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve immediately as the texture deteriorates once the Loukoumades cool.

DSC_0247

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

 

PETER MENDOROS – PHOTOGRAPHY  & STAGING

 

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2013