When my son was little he asked me one day “Mommy when are you going to make the snowball cookies?” I would look at him with a loving smile and say “ Dimitri – we make the snowball cookies when it’s Christmas”. His face immediately lit up and he said “ Well let’s have Christmas tomorrow then!”
When I was young and growing up in the U.S. I remember that on St. Catherines Day – which was my grandmothers name day – her friends would come to the house and spend the day making kourambiedes and melomakarona (the other traditional sweet made on Christmas). I can still remember the way the house smelled on those days of Christmas baking fever. Melomakarona are made with olive oil instead of butter, a mixture of semolina and flour, orange, clove, cinnamon and have no eggs. After baking they are drowned in a honey based syrup. They are absolutely delicious. Melomakarona are preferred among those who fast for the 40 days before Christmas Eve because they contain no animal or dairy products.
I try to keep those traditions and on Religious holidays I invite my friends and we bake till we drop, have pots of coffee and tea, a little gossip here and there and lots of laughter. It is glorious and so good for the soul. Below is a recipe for Kourambiedes that was given to me by one of my dearest friends, Kris, who lives in Melbourne, Australia now.
The classic recipe calls for cognac but Kris makes them with ouzo and they are delicious. It is up to you and your taste preference.
½ kilo fresh butter
2 egg yolks
1 kilo cake flour
1 tsp real vanilla
3 tblsp cognac or 2 tblsp ouzo
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking soda diluted in the cognac or ouzo
½ tsp baking powder
1&½ cup of chopped baked almonds
flower or rose water (can be found in specialty food stores)
500 grams of powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius or 350 fahrenheit. In a food processor beat the butter until it is fluffy and white. Add the egg yolks and sugar and beat for a few minutes until the mixture is well blended. While beating add the cognac with the baking soda and vanilla. Slowly begin to add flour, baking powder until well blended and in the end add the almonds.
Shape the cookie dough into small mounds or with a cookie cutter in your favorite shape. Place on wax paper or nonstick baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes. When cookies are baked and as soon as you take them out of the oven sprinkle them with the flower water. When dry and cool place them in a serving dish and sprinkle with lots and lots of powdered sugar.
Enjoy and Have a very Merry Christmas.