The traditional Greek Christmas cookies, Melomakarona are believed to have originated in antiquity. They are also called phoenikia, and their name suggests that they probably came from the Phoenicians, a people who lived on the Mediterranean shore of the Middle East where Lebanon is today and who had extensive trade with ancient Greeks. My mother’s Melomakarona are the best I have tasted, and this is her recipe. She insists on letting the finished biscuits cool overnight before dipping them briefly in the syrup. That way they remain crunchy. Most commercial or homemade Melomakarona are very soggy.
In many contemporary households, butter is used instead of the olive oil called for in the old recipes, changing their taste completely—ruining it, in my opinion.
Using an electric mixer, beat the olive oil with the sugar. Add the orange juice. In a separate bowl, mix
Take tablespoonfuls of dough and shape into oval cookies about
The next day make the honey syrup. In a saucepan, mix the sugar, honey, and water and bring to a boil. Add the orange and lemon peels and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Place 2 or 3 cookies on a large slotted spoon and dip them in the syrup. Don’t let them soak in it; they should absorb only a little syrup, and remain crunchy. Place layers of honey-dipped Melomakarona on a serving dish. Mix the walnuts with the ground cloves, and sprinkle over the cookies. Let cool completely before serving. They keep well for about 10 days.
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