Kourabies (pl. kourabiedes), as most of you, who follow my blog, must know by now, are the Greek shortbread cookies made during Christmas. In the older times, before the use of the mixer, these cookies needed elaborate preparation and that was done by hand, so these were made for special occasions such as weddings, christenings and other celebrations.
Traditionally they were flavoured with rose water or blossom water. Local butter, usually ewe’s and/or ewe’s and goat butter is used and roasted almonds are sometimes added. They are then formed into round or crescent cookies which, after baking, are then coated with confectioners’ sugar. Through the centuries, other flavorings have been added in lieu of, or in combination with, rose or blossom water, such as lemon zest, orange zest, vanilla, etc. Liquor such as Metaxa brandy, Greek mastika, or ouzo are sometimes added to kourabiedes. After the cookies are removed from the oven and slightly cooled, rose water may be sprinkled on the cookies before dusting with sugar to help the coating to stick, although this method seems not be used any more. We continue to do this in Cyprus for Loukoumia tou Gamou, our Wedding cookies.
Modern versions of kourabiedes now include other non traditional ingredients as well.
I have been making kourabiedes for many years and a very significant factor to have tasty kourabiedes lies mainly in the quality of butter used. This year I made them with a butter I never used before and quite frankly I was really afraid what the outcome would be. I asked my husband to bring sheep’s butter and instead he brought a Cretan butter called Stakovoutyro, made of sheep’s and goat milk. Staka is the fresh cream skimmed off the top of milk and Stakovoutyro is the buttercream (like clotted cream) made by cooking staka. I know that all Cretan products are delicious but I didn’t know if I could use this butter to make kourabiedes. On the back of the jar it said suitable for cooking and for desserts, so I risked making them and the result was fabulous.
If you cannot find ewe’s or goat milk butter these can also be made with regular butter, although they will lack the characteristic taste, they will still be delicious.
This year I flavoured them with…. and … which gave them a wonderful flavour. They were perfect in taste and each bite they melted in your mouth, making you want to eat more and more.