We’re in the middle of the Holy Week, a few days before Easter Sunday. This implies a bundle of preparations that need to be done. A thorough and meticulous house cleaning, dyeing eggs in a bright red color, baking tsouréki – a kind of sweet bread flavoured with mahlepi and kakoulé- and baking a huge amount of our traditional Easter cookies. Greek Easter cookies are extremely delicious and tasty but there are two key factors that distinguish them from any other cookie. First of all, the use of fresh butter made from sheep’s milk and secondly the use of baking ammonia as a leavening agent. While the cookies are being baked, the house fills up with the beautiful scent of the butter and the strong odur of the ammonia which of course cooks off during baking. This ingredient is essential in order to obtain the wonderful crispness of the cookies. And as Greek women say “There’s no Easter cookie without ammonia”!
Here’s the recipe:
Greek Easter Cookies
10 fresh eggs at room temperature
250 gr sheep’s butter at room temperature (any other kind of butter can also be used)
½ glass milk
28 gr baking ammonia
½ tablespoon vanilla powder
400 gr caster sugar
1 ½ kilo all purpose flour
Separate the egg whites from the yolks. In a large bowl beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. In another large bowl beat the butter and sugar until the mixture becomes pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks one by one. Continue beating. Add the vanilla. In a saucepan bring the milk to a boil. Let it cool for some minutes. Add the ammonia to the milk while stirring. Be careful because the milk will start foaming. When it has almost reached the edge of the saucepan add the milk to the mixture. Continue beating for a while. Stop beating with the mixer and start kneading the dough by adding a small amount of flour and an amount of meringue in turns. When finished with flour and meringue, knead it for a few seconds more. It may need a little more flour. The dough may feel a little sticky on the hands but as long as it doesn’t stick on the bowl surface it’s ready- don’t overdo it with the flour or else the cookies will come out hard.
Leave the dough to rest for a while. Cover it with a humid cloth.
Preheat the oven at 200 degrees C . Start molding the cookies with buttered hands (it helps mold the cookies easier). Pinch off some dough and roll it out into a rope 10-15 cm long. Make 2 round cookies or bend the rope and give it a few twists. Butter well an oven tray; fill it with cookies -leave some space between them as they tend to puff up – and bake until pale gold –about 20 min. Continue until all the dough is used up.
This dose yields a plentiful of cookies- about 70-80 of them! They can be stored in tin boxes for quite a long time.
But in the meantime:
Happy Easter to everyone!