Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Thursday 10 April 2008

Koulourakia - traditional Greek Easter cookies (Κουλουράκια για το Πάσχα)

I've been using a Greek koulouraki recipe that always seem to make successful koulourakia (κουλουράκια), the Greek butter cookies often made in preparation for Easter. I found it in a book I bought when I first came to Greece, nearly two decades ago, the Greek Calendar Cookbook by Anne Yiannoulis (Lycabettus Press). The recipe makes a small batch of cookies; hence they are eaten too quickly! I've found that making cookies in small batches ensures greater success in taste and texture; the dough never seems to mix properly when I make it in larger doses. The recipe is the simplest cookie recipe I have ever come across; I have copied it pretty much as stated in the book. The fun part about it is creating the most intricate biscuit shapes - a great activity for children.

You need:
250g butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks (free-range eggs give that extra yellow colour)
grated zest of an orange
1/4 cup orange juice (you can use milk here, as the recipe states, but as we have our own oranges in our own fields, we use them, and the smell of orange-flavoured cookies will scent your kitchen beautifully)
1 vial of vanilla essence
1 tablespoon cognac (brandy)
4 cups 'strong' flour (the kind used to make pie pastry, as opposed to 'soft' flour, used in cakes)
1 teaspoon baking powder
extra egg yolk for glazing the cookies
Cream the butter and sugar, add the yolks, rind, vanilla and brandy and beat well. Add the flour and then the liquid, mixing with floured hands to form a stiff dough. Break off small pieces and roll them out into the traditional biscuit shapes that Greek housewives and bakers have been crafting over the years. Place them on a lightly greased baking tin. Brush them with beaten yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water. Bake in a moderate oven for about twenty minutes.

The biscuits are cooked when they take on a rich golden colour. I lift them off the baking tin with a metal scraper; sometimes the egg runs onto the tin, and this is what causes them to stick. Try to let them cool a little before scraping off, as these biscuits harden as they cool. This mixture makes about 50 cookies - just enough for a family of four to eat them in one day...

Sesame is often used as a garnish on Greek pies and biscuits, but never on Easter cookies (κουλουράκια Πασχαλινά); cookies with sesame seeds are often eaten during Lent or in plain less sweet biscuits. And if you're wondering what to do with the egg whites, I'd do what all New Zealanders would do with them - make a pavlova!

As I said, these biscuits never fail to please: here they are in 2009 in my Cretan kitchen:

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New Year's cake
Clean Monday
25 March (Independence Day)
Ash Thursday

Cretan meat pie
Red eggs
Lent pies
Bakaliaros for Palm Sunday
Clean Monday


  1. When Koulourakia are bad...look out but when they are good...they can't be beat. This does sound like a good recipe. I should pass this on to my aunt who makes Koulourakia that are also dangerous projectiles.

  2. I have that book! We spent 87-88 on the island, and I bought the book then. Koulourakia in the village really makes me laugh. We get some from each of the neighbors, and the relatives, sand some friends, so we always have a selection of different kinds. One year we had a tasting - not that we told anyone the results, mind you. Yours are beautiful. especially the very yellow dough.

  3. a brilliant book, that one, Laurie, I've cooked using it for quite a few recipes

  4. Maria, thanks for reminding me of koulourakia paschalina. I totally forgot about them. I am planning to make tsourekia and the Cypriot Easter Flaounes. You are so sweet of putting a link to my blog for Pavlova. Thanks a lot.

  5. Do they really not put sesame seeds on them at Easter? My aunts always do, but then they're not Greek. You'd think my uncles would correct them though.

  6. we definitely dont put sesame on easter koulourakia, but i dont think any harm is done by putting sesame on them. maybe greek people abroad fuse ideas - for example, in new zealand, my mum made melomakarona and kourambiedes year round. when i came to greece, i discovered that these sweets are only made by nikokires at christmas!!!

  7. I have a question. As I roll our a small log-shaped portion and twist them, they crack in several places. What am I doing wrong? I would love to hear from you. Thanks.

  8. Maria, Keeping in mind your copyright, may I print this for my own at home recipes? I love these so much that my Greek friends ration them when I go to visit.

  9. hi rob, feel free to print any recipe - i hope you like mine!

  10. First, Kalo Pashcha!!
    I stumbled upon your blog searching for a different versions of koulourakia. I have been passed down the honor of making the koulouraki from my yiayia. I made a whole kitchen full of them with my daughter today and they just didn't come out like yiayias. I had to search for what I could be doing differently. Of course as you'd mentioned in one of your entries that smaller recipes tend to come out better than larger ones. I mixed and matched your recipe with my yiayias and made another batch, so far I think they have turned out delicious!
    I come across all kinds of "Greek" recipes but many are so different than Cretan recipes (I am Cretan) and those are hard to come by! I have much enjoyed reading your blog and intend to continue to check in. Thanks for sharing a little bit of Greece with us over here in American!
    Tomorrow I am preparing the kaletsounia for Easter. Wish me luck, it will be my first time!

  11. there is always a first time - i remember mine! (and good luck too of course!)