My mom was a great baker. I cherish her spiral notebook with her handwritten Greek recipes and her notes in the margin like “add more butter” or “Mrs. Olga’s recipe”. Mom had several signature recipes, she was known for her Galactobouriko (filo custard pie), Paximathia (Greek biscotti) and Kalouria. Kalouria are a very simple dry cookie that is a study in subtle flavors and crunchy textures. As is the case with many Greek recipes the recipe makes about four dozen and is very time consuming. The good news is they have a great shelf life, so once you’ve invested the time you can enjoy them for as long as they last.
Typically mom made the twisted shape and the “s” shape, but you really can shape them anyway you want. Also on your whim you can add sesame seeds or not. I love sesame seeds, especially toasted on a cookie, but I can never decide if I want them all with sesame seeds so I typically do one pan plain and one with sesame seeds. The trick is mastering the dough. You want to add enough flour so that it just holds together and holds its shape when you roll it, but not so wet that you have to add flour to the board, or so dry that it crumbles when you shape it. This will take several batches of Kalouria to master. You can flavor Kalouria however you wish. Sometimes I add anise, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s orange zest, or sometimes I want cinnamon in them. There’s no hard rule about what flavors they should have. Of the Greek families who make Kalouria each family recipe has its own distinct shapes and flavors which is what makes them unique to that family and so enjoyable to consume because it’s more than a cookie, it’s a little bit of family history.
If I have a batch in the house I always enjoy one in the morning with my coffee. If you’re a dunker, like me, the long twist shapes without sesame seeds are best. Hold them in the hot coffee until the cookie is melty. The challenge is having them soft enough to melt in your mouth, but firm enough to stay on the cookie until you get it in your mouth. This too will take several batches of Kalouria to master, oh but what a wonderful learning curve!
½ pound salted butter, melted and cooled until just a touch warm
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
1 C sugar
Zest and juice of one orange
2 t vanilla extract
2 t anise seeds, crushed
4-5 C all purpose flour
½ t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 egg beaten with 2 T water for an egg wash
Sesame seeds (optional)
In a large bowl combine the butter, olive oil, and sugar. Whisk in the eggs until blended and add the zest and juice of the orange, vanilla, and crushed anise, mix to combine. Add 4C flour, baking soda, and baking powder and mix with your hands until well combined. At this point you will need to decide if you need the additional cup of flour. Typically I use 5C total flour when I make them, but depending on the time of year or humidity you may or may not need all the flour, or you may need more. Take a small nugget of dough and see if you can roll in on a work surface. When you are new at this you will want to lightly flour the board you are working on, but as you get better at it you won’t need the flour.
Once the dough is completed heat the oven to 350 and place parchment paper on two large cookie sheets. Using a one ounce scoop I scoop all the dough onto my work surface. Taking one ball of dough at a time I shape into the long twist shape or fast “s” shape (see pictures). Place the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, they can be fairly close together since they won’t spread or rise very much. Once all the cookies have been shaped brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired and place in a preheated oven and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool completely before packing. It’s always fun to eat one or two warm out of the oven when they are still soft and buttery tasting, but the flavors are really better the next day.
Makes around 4 dozen cookies.
For more photo’s click here