In Greece, as the season turns slowly from summer to autumn there is one very special ingredient that comes to the spotlight: grape must. Along with grape must, a very special cookie: moustokoúloura, soft grape molasses cookies.
September marks the end of the grape season, vines will be collected and there is always a huge gathering surrounding this harvest. Often it is a family occasion, in older times even whole villages would gather to work and collect what earth so abundantly offered vine growers. Invaluable grapes that have been tended for months. The feast an echo of those of Dionysus, primary goal is wine making after all.
It’s not just about the wine though. Once the grapes are collected some are destined to make wine, there is also a portion of the fresh grape must, “moústos”, the juice that will be kept to make other preparations. What is left at the very bottom of the pot will also be used to make rakí in Crete or tsípouro in central and Northern Greece or soúma in Paros.
There is a fresh pudding called moustalevriá, many cakes, breads and cookies that use the grape must. I cheer for the grape molasses! Grape molasses is a syrup produced after a very long and slow simmer of the grape must. It has been a natural sweetener for centuries before sugar entered our diets. The best bit, especially since I am so far away from the harvest, is that grape molasses can keep forever!
Well nothing really lasts forever, grape molasses have a shelf life of at least a year once opened. They say up to ten years if sealed and unopened. I confess, I can go through it way quicker as it is an absolute favourite for cakes, cookies and even smoothies.
The recipe for this soft, moist cookies is also super-easy. So easy I decided to up the level and have a nice long stretch of photos and a little stop motion for you. ?
Moustokouloura, Soft grape molasses cookies
- 600 gr all-purpose flour
- 200 ml olive oil
- 200 ml Grape molasses
- 100 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 7 gr baking powder
- a shot of brandy or Metaxa
- Preheat oven at 170C (fan assisted) (if you wish you can line a shallow baking dish with baking parchment, although the oil in the cookies is sufficient and won’t allow them to stick).
- In a large bowl mix all ingredients, olive oil, grape molasses, clove, cinnamon and orange juice, until well combined.
- Steadily sift in the flour until you get a greasy but firm dough that is easy to form the cookies.
- Take a little knob of dough at a time and shape it into small, short sticks. Deep them in sesame seeds and place on the baking tray with enough distance from each other, the moustokouloura will rise.
- Bake them for about 15-20 minutes. Cool on racks and store in a cool, dry place.
- Serve with crumbled feta, a bit of salt and sundried oregano.
Soft grape molasses cookies are best dunk in a warm cup of coffee! Are you using grape molasses? Can you find them easily? Do let me know in the comments below.
From London with love,