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
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.