Have you enjoyed making kourabiedes? I can imagine you looking at the snowy piles of biscuits and saying to yourself: one more won’t hurt, it’s Christmas! Just in case you are running out, let’s indulge a little more and make melomakarona (honey biscuits). These are perfect to go with your tea once you put your feet up on Boxing day.
This recipe has passed down from mother to daughter for many years. Grandma Dina had a real soft spot for melomakarona, or foenikia, their older name. She makes two types, one very straight-forward with a walnut topping that you can find anywhere, and another slightly different kind with the walnut topping encased in the dough. She calls these isli and it’s a little unusual to find them at the bakers.
Here is what you will need:
For the dough
- 450 ml of olive oil
- 450 ml vegetable oil, eg sunflower
- ¾ mug of sugar
- 450 ml orange juice, If you have a tangerine, toss it in, it’s rather nice and really sweet this time of the year
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp soda
- 6 mugs of flour, it can take up to 8 mugs
- Peel of 1 orange, grated
- A shot of cognac
- A pinch of ground cinnamon
For the syrup
- 500gr sugar
- 500ml water
- 500ml honey
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Half an orange peel
- 1 cinnamon stick
For the topping/stuffing
- 500gr of walnuts, crushed
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
For this dough you will just need your hands. In a large mixing bowl add the olive oil, vegetable oil, cognac and sugar and keep on mixing, add the orange juice and orange peel and baking soda. In a separate bowl add the flour, baking powder and a bit of cinnamon. Now it’s time for the flour, start adding the dry goods bit by bit into the mixing bowl with your liquid goods. That’s what it should look like before you start shaping your cookies:
Tip: don’t kneed the dough too hard, as you let it rest, you will see your olive oil ‘leaking out’ and this means your biscuits will not be as light and crumbly.
You have two choices here, either go for the version stuffed with walnuts or make simple cookies with a walnut topping. I did both for variety.
Regardless of which you prefer, make them smallish as they tend to expand whilst baking.
Walnut-stuffed melomakarona (foinikia) image guide:
The stuffed melomakarona need approximately 45 mins to an hour at 200 °C. The simple ones approximately 25-30 mins, again at 160 °C. Check their moisture and be very careful towards the end as they might get slightly burnt bottoms.
Syrup for melomakarona
This is a very straight-forward syrup. Mix the water, sugar and honey. Add a cinnamon stick and orange peel for flavour and a tiny bit of lemon juice. Bring the mix to the boil and skim the foam. Leave it to boil for 7-8 minutes then you are ready to immerse your melomakarona biscuits into this syrupy goodness.
Syruping the melomakarona
Now, syruping should follow the one warm, one cold rule. I chose to go for warm syrup and cold melomakarona but you can do it the opposite way if you wish.
Once your syrup is ready, dip a small batch of biscuits in. Leave for approximately a minute each side and work through the rest of them in the same way. You are going to have left over syrup, but it isn’t wasted. Choose a reasonably deep tub for your sweets and pour the rest of the syrup on top. Remember to turn them around a bit so that they don’t get soggy bottoms.
This is the divine topic for honey biscuits. Crush your walnuts fine enough for them to stick to your melomakarona, mix in the spices: cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Once you have dipped your biscuits, decorate them by sprinkling on the walnut mix.
From Athens with love,
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