Saturday, March 31, 2018

Paschalina Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookies) with mahlepi and mastiha

I love Easter cookies —I’m referring to the Greek ones of course, pascahalina koulourakia— and each year, I can’t wait to bake them so that my house will fill up with the aromas of Easter.




I have already shared with you my classic Greek Easter koulourakia a few years ago, but this year I am sharing something a little bit different.




For me, Easter is synonymous with the flavors of mahlepi (a highly aromatic spice, reminiscent of bitter almond, made from the seeds of wild cherry trees) and mastiha (a mastic-tree resin from the Greek island of Chios) which are present in the Politiko tsoureki (a type of sweet, yeasted bread made for Easter in Greece), and even though I am going to bake tsoureki, as I do every year (actually, I have already baked my first batch, testing yet again a new recipe), I wanted to incorporate these flavors into my koulourakia as well.




It took me a couple of tries to get them where I wanted them to be not only in terms of flavor but texture too, and finally I hit the jackpot! These, ladies and gentlemen, are now officially my favorite Greek Easter cookies.




They’re buttery and slightly crispy but not hard, with a shortbread-like texture inside but lighter. They have the distinct aroma and flavor of mahlepi, mastiha and orange, and they’re sweet but not overly so. They are perfect for dunking in your morning or afternoon coffee, in fact they will cause you to drink more coffee than usual because you’ll want to keep dunking these cookies in it, and great to eat on their own when you simply want to have something sweet and buttery.




I’m sharing these with you along with my best wishes for a wonderful Easter for those of you who celebrate this Sunday. We Orthodox Greeks celebrate next Sunday, so we still have a week to go, which means more time for baking!!

Hope you enjoy and I’d love to see photos of them if you make them!









Paschalina Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookies) with mahlepi and mastiha

I use Greek mastiha (mastic) from the island of Chios in the form of tears (little solid pieces), not already ground mastic, because its flavor and aroma is far better and more intense when freshly ground. The same goes for mahlepi (mahleb); I use the whole seeds that I grind myself. I would advise you to do the same if possible.

These koulourakia taste better the next day as the flavors have had time to develop and infuse into the cookies even more. Not that they can’t be inhaled on the same day; just sayin’.




Yield: 20 cookies

Ingredients
200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
130 g icing sugar
1½ heaped tsp (8 g) ground mahlepi
5 mastic tears, ground together with ½ tsp white granulated sugar*
Zest of 1 orange, grated
1 medium-sized egg
2 Tbsp (30 g) fresh milk (full-fat or 2%)
400 g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp (7 g) baking powder
Pinch of salt

1 small egg beaten with ½ tsp fresh milk, for glazing the cookies

*To grind the mastic you need to add a bit of sugar, otherwise it will stick to the blade of your spice grinder or your pestle (if using a mortar and pestle).

Special equipment: spice grinder (or pestle and mortar) for grinding the spices, stand mixer (optional), plastic wrap, baking tray, baking paper, pastry brush


Preparation
Add all the ingredients (except those that are for glazing the cookies) in the bowl of your stand mixer and using the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl and using your hands) beat for 1½ minute on low speed. At first, the mixture will look like crumbs, then it will start to come together and in the end it will gather around the beater. The dough should be soft and pliable and it should not be sticking to your hands. If you’re making this by hand it will take longer to come together.

Transfer the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a large disk, wrap it tightly and place it in the fridge for 45 minutes to 1 hour.


Preheat your oven to 175°C.
Line your baking tray with baking paper.

Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap it and cut it in half so you have equal sized pieces (I always weigh the dough). Wrap one half with the plastic wrap and return it to the fridge. Keeping the dough cold ensures that the cookies won’t spread too much during baking.
Divide the other half of the dough into 10 equal pieces (again, I weigh to be concise; it ensures that all my cookies bake uniformly and at the same time).

Working on a clean surface (which you don’t need to flour because firstly, the dough shouldn’t be sticky at all and secondly, you need friction in order to shape the balls into ropes), take each piece of dough, shape it into a ball and then, using your hands, roll it into a 20 cm long rope. Fold it in half and then, holding the ends, twist on opposite sides three times to create the final shape of the cookie.


Place cookie on the prepared baking tray and continue with the next. Space them apart because they will spread during baking. Using a pastry bush, glaze each one with the beaten egg and milk mixture.

Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 19-20 minutes, until golden and there are some cracks on top. Turn the tray around halfway through baking time.


Remove the tray from the oven and leave cookies on the tray for 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Continue making and baking the second batch of the cookies.

When they have cooled completely, transfer them to a cookie tin. They keep at room temperature for a couple of weeks, although I seriously doubt they’ll last more than a couple of days.

Enjoy!




6 comments:

  1. Happy Easter! Thanks for all the hard work you put into your recipes.

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    1. Thank you very much Norma. It's nice to see that it's appreciated.

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  2. Beautiful post, Magda! Happy (almost) Easter! What are your plans for next Sunday?

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    1. Thank you David! So may plans involving food :) Hope your Easter last Sunday was a great one! xoxo

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  3. I wanted to thank you for your posts, especially this one. I made them today and frankly I hope they last until Easter this Sunday. The recipe was easy to follow and make. So again thank you and keep posting please!! Καλη Ανασταση!

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    1. Thanks so much Irene, so glad you liked them! Καλή Ανάσταση και Καλό Πάσχα!!

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