Friday, December 19, 2008


I grew up in a three family home (Giagia and one of my aunts lived downstairs; my parents, three sisters and I in the middle; and my aunt, uncle and two cousins upstairs) where doors were never closed and privacy was never an option. We did everything together and we loved it ... well, some of us did anyway.

My fondest childhood memories are of baking various family recipes for Christmas and Easter with my Giagia, mom, sisters and aunts. We'd gather in one of the three apartments and make three batches of whatever it was we'd set out to bake and end up with dozens (and dozens) of cookies and biscuits for us to devour. My sisters and I would wait patiently while my Giagia would knead the dough for koulourakia or kourambiedes, lazarakia or paximadia so that we might get a piece of dough to "work" with as well.

I made our koulourakia with my four-year old daughter the other night. She's "helped" me bake a number of times before but this time I've got to say she did a really good job. I handled the traditional shapes and she used our holiday cookie cutters to make some cute Christmas tree, gingerbread men and candy cane shapes.

It's just not Christmas for me if we don't have a huge batch of these koulourakia to dunk in our milk or coffee. I am now officially in a festive mood ... how could anyone not be sitting here with a hot cup of coffee, a plate full of koulourakia and this picturesque blanket of white snow outside?

2 sticks of butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup milk
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
5 to 6 cups of flour
1 egg, beaten (for brushing koulourakia prior to baking)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk baking powder into 1 cup of the flour.
Beat butter with sugar until very light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla and then slowly add milk. With mixer on low begin add the first cup of flour mixed with the baking powder then begin adding the remaining flour in batches, incorporating well after each addition. The dough will be ready when it seems to bunch up into a ball while mixer is working and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. (I usually use 6 cups total.)

Take small rounds of dough, roll into long "strands" and shape into braids, curled "S" shapes or anything else you desire. Or roll dough out with a rolling pin and use cookie cutters to shape. Place about two inches apart on the parchment lined baking sheets and brush with the egg wash.

Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden.


Peter G said...

That's how I enjoy my koulouria...dipped in coffee. They look great Maria and def very festive.

Hopie said...

It's so festive, cooking together. I loved "helping" my mom make Easter bread and Christmas cookies when I was little. Those koulourakia look delicious. I'll have to try some!

Peter M said...

Maria, you are a supermom and you've got a Noikokoira is-training!

I wish we lived closer so as to trade trays of glyka.

Anonymous said...

Your koulourakia look professionally perfect! Happy holidays MARIA.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

koulourakia baking is never as much as fun if it isn't done with half a dozen hands in the kitchen. my family was very much like this in nz, but when i left nz, my family diminished, so cooking and the kitchen never really felt the same. now that my children are able to help me in the kitchen, i feel as if i am reviving the greek tradition of a crowded kitchen!

Giff said...

mmmm could this make me actually bake? stranger things have happened!

Ivy said...

Maria, no wonder you make such beautiful things. You owe much to yiayia and rest of the family, who helped keep traditions alive. Your koulourakia look perfect.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, I love koulourakia with my coffee, too. They are the best! I have to say I've never had koulourakia shaped by a cookie cutter, only the "traditional" shapes. What a good idea!

Kiki said...

oh my gosh im so gonna make these, i'll let u know how it goes x