While the white pretty kourabiedes are more of a fancy type of cookie, the melomakarono is a dark, decadent, succulent cookie, juicy and dripping honey all over the place. I love eating melomakarona. I actually feel good about it because they really represent what the Greek Mediterranean diet is all about: delicious food made with good-for-you ingredients.
Melomakarona are made with olive oil, honey, orange juice, and walnuts but also flour and sugar. So on the one hand, yes, these sweets have plenty of sugar, on the other hand the olive oil, the honey, the orange zest and the walnuts are all sources of antioxidants. Most importantly the fat from the melomakarono comes exclusively from olive oil. A multitude of studies have shown that olive oil protects from many chronic diseases due to the type of fat (monounsaturated) but also due to its antioxidant content.
Having said all this, I have to note that yes, melomakarona do have calories, more than the kourabie, but at least you can enjoy them knowing that you are doing a bit of good to your body. Be warned these cookies are rich, and they should be sweet, as with the kourabie, one is enough.
2 cups olive oil (you may want to substitute 1 cup of vegetable oil such as corn oil)
1 cup sugar
½ cup cognac or brandy
½ cup orange juice
Orange zest from 1 orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
7 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
For the syrup
2 cups honey
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
For the topping
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl mix the olive oil, cognac or brandy, orange juice, sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and orange peel.
In another bowl sift flour and mix with the baking powder and baking soda. Add gradually to the olive oil mixture, while stirring with a wooden spoon. Once you have added all the flour, knead the dough and add some more flour if needed.
Roll the dough in little balls about the size of a walnut. Using your fingers press one side of the ball on a grater flattening like a small pancake and then fold over so that the cookie is in a oval shape, with the top having the design of the grater. This is done so that the honey will be better absorbed as opposed to just shaping the cookie in a solid oval shape.
Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 25 minutes. Bake the rest of the cookies.
Once all the cookies are baked, flip them so that the bottom part is facing up, let them cool down.
For the syrup bring to a boil the honey, syrup and water and let it boil for 5 minutes. Remove the foam.
Once the syrup is boiled, while it is hot, pour it over the cookies, making sure all cookies are covered with syrup. Let the cookies sit for at least 2 hours, than turn them over and let them sit some more. * (Some people prefer to do the opposite: Make the syrup and let it cool off, than pour the syrup over hot cookies, instead of letting them cool down. Another way is to place the melomakarona in the pot with the syrup for a few minutes and removing them with a slotted spoon.)
Mix the walnuts with cinnamon and sprinkle over the melomakarona.
Place the melomakarona on a large platter.
You can also substitute the orange juice and brandy with beer. Instead of using ½ cup brandy and ½ cup orange juice, use 1 cup beer.
Photo Credit: Melomakarona sprinkled with walnuts and Ice Cream Melomakarono by Elena Paravantes