There’s nothing like celebrating a holiday, like ringing in the New Year, with a favorite baked good. As a Greek food fanatic, meeting Elena (squished with five other girls in a London phone booth pictured below) during grad school in London was like meeting Lady Luck and being handed one of my favorite cookies… in a literal sense since Elena actually shared the kourambiedes (also spelled as kourambiethes) to all her friends at Ifor Evans, our residence hall. After Hammad and I returned from Heathrow (he was an awesome friend who took the time to pick me up from the airport), Elena presented two pieces of what was left of a previously filled tray of cookies to each of us. She was very thoughtful and saved what was left of the kourambiedes for us.
I first learned of kourambiedes from a cookbook I discovered when I was an undergrad. I knew I’d love kourambiedes before I even made it from just reading the recipe and learning that the end product is a light cookie dusted with powdered sugar. That was enough of a hook for me. Though really, the cookie had me at brandy. Somewhere in my disorganized room at my parents’ is the recipe; although possible to find, it’d be improbable to find it within hours. Maybe even days. Given that I have a Greek friend whose mother knows of the traditional recipe, I figure it’d be a great experience to learn it. Elena graciously came through with a recipe that made me happier than a kid on Christmas morning.
We had a few back-and-forth Q&A email sessions regarding the ingredients. Specifically, an alternative to lye and the type of vanilla used. We concluded that baking soda can fill in for lye and that vanilla powder, if available, should be used instead of vanilla extract. Elena mentioned that it isn’t a significant ingredient and that’s a good point since vanilla powder is expensive to come by. The Hubby found the flavoring in Whole Foods but the price was steep as it was $11 for 1.1oz of it. Needless to say that it was a frivolous buy.
Here’s an edited version of the recipe. I converted the metric system units to US customary units and also included the ingredient changes Elena and I discussed. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that if cognac isn’t readily available, brandy makes a fine substitute.
2.2 lbs (roughly 8 1/2 sticks) butter
5 tsp granulated sugar
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cognac (or brandy)
Vanilla powder, 1 tbs (optional)
Almonds (as many that can fit in 1 1/2 cups)
4.4 lbs (9 1/3 cups) flour
2.2 lbs (4 2/3 cups) of powdered sugar
Preheat oven at 355˚F. Beat the butter and the granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl, until it’s evenly mixed and creamy. Add the eggs and continue beating. Combine well. Add the cognac. Carefully add the vanilla powder, almonds, flour, and baking soda. Beat the mixture after adding each ingredient. Not all of the flour may be needed, only add enough flour so that the dough is moist and not dry, almost a putty-like texture. Shape the dough into round or half-moon shaped kourambiedes and bake them for approximately 15 minutes. Cover the the kourambiedes with powdered sugar while they’re still hot. Smile and serve.
The Hubby and I had a good time making the kourambiedes together, and eating them separately. I’m not much of a cookie monster unless the cookie is kourambiedes, so tonight The Hubby has competition.
Elena, dear friend, Ευχαριστούμε. To everyone, a Happy New Year! May everyone’s New Year be filled with all things good and yummy.