Kourabiedes, the other traditional Greek Christmas sweet, are on the opposite side of melomakarona: they have tons of butter, sugar and nuts. If eating melomakarona for lent will guarantee your place in heaven, I personally guarantee that with kourabiedes you will go to hell. They are so naughty and bad for you, you will be begging for more!
Kourabiedes are basically short crust biscuits, so if you like those you will probably enjoy them too. The basic ingredient is sheep’s butter or a mix of sheep’s and goat’s butter, which in Greek is called «milk butter» . This has a very distinctive aroma that is traditional to the type of sweet, but If you can’t find it, substitute with regular unsalted butter. Many of my Greek friends prefer cow’s milk butter to the «milk butter» as it has a subtler taste.
This is a recipe from my paternal grandmother Eleni. We were always delighted when she brought them over for Christmas and I have to say that they are some of the best I have ever tasted, as they are very tender and flavourful. Her recipe uses olive oil along with the butter, as the area of Greece she comes from (Messinia) is a great olive oil producing place and these folk put olive oil everywhere!
Olive oil gives the cookies a complex taste, but it also helps with the texture, which becomes more crumbly and tender. The dough might be a bit difficult to work with and it usually cracks during baking, but that helps the powdered sugar go everywhere!
Kourabiedes make wonderful edible gifts, especially the bite sized ones. Choose a lovely box or a nice pouch and give them to those you love!
Grandma Eleni’s wonderful buttery snowball cookies (kourambiedes)
INGREDIENTS for about 90 cookies
- 630gr unsalted butter, room temperature
- 120ml extra virgin olive oil
- 200gr icing sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 250g almonds, slightly roasted and crushed
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1150-1300g all purpose flour
- 2 tsp flower water (optional, but it suits them)
- extra icing sugar for the coating and dusting (about 1 kg)
- Beat sugar and butter until very very thick and frothy, at least 20 minutes. You will definitely need a stand mixer for these. I have tried with a hand mixer and it is too much work!
- Gradually add the olive oil and egg yolks and continue beating until they are well incorporated into the batter.
- Gradually add the flour and baking powder, until the mixer cannot take any more and then continue by hand. Fold in the crushed almonds. I start with the kilo and then add a bit more, because the batter cannot always take 1300g. We need a dough which is not too sticky or too soft.
- Sometimes the fought will look like crumbs. Do not add anything liquid! The dough will be harder to work with, but as you will press each cookie with your hands, the butter will melt and hold everything together.
- Form the kourabiedes into a round or crescent shape, but don’t make them too big because they will almost double in size when they are cooked. I usually weigh each one at 25 grams for regular size and 15 for bite size.
- Place them with some distance on a baking sheet.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180οC and bake for 17-20 minutes for the regular ones and 12-15 minutes for the bite sized, until lightly golden. Let them cool.
- Once cool you can sprinkle a pit of flower water on them.
- Shift the icing sugar in a large bowl and mix small batches of the kourabiedes with the sugar. Place them on a serving platter or in airtight containers and sift some more sugar over them. They will keep for a long time, especially if they do not come to contact with moisture.