«Melomakarona» (honey cookies) is a traditional recipe made during Christmas. The cookies are made with olive oil and drenched in a honey syrup, with lots of walnuts on top.
Last year I made these unique Melomakarona which are full with the aroma of mandarin and I have made them again this year with minor changes. Living in a place surrounded with mardarins, I wanted to make good use of the mandarin marmalade and mandarin liqueur I had made. I used local citrus floral honey, fresh mandarin juice which I incorporated in the syrup, mandarin peel and in the filling I added mandarin marmalade until the walnuts could hold together.
Greek olive oil varies in quality, depending on the region. I used a very mild olive oil which has a subtle, fruity taste. In case the olive oil you use is too strong, you can mix it with sunflower oil. In order that they become of equal size I weighed each piece of dough to be about 35 grams each. You can stack them in a bowl and don’t have to worry as the olive oil will prevent them from sticking to each other.
Then I shaped them in my hand making a disc of about 7 cm diametre and added a teaspoon filling in the centre. I wraped each side over the filling and then sealed the edges.
I put them on a baking tin, lined with parchment paper, seam facing down. You can use a grater, an egg cutter or even a fork, which is even easier.
Attention must be taken regarding the baking time. My oven here in Athens is quite old and needs more time for baking than usual. You will either have to reduce the temperature around 170 degrees C or bake them a few minutes less. Mine were baked in approximately 22 minutes.
I can assure you that if you love the taste of mandarin, you will love these aromatic cookies. Even if you don’t add the marmalade or the mandarin liqueur, adding mandarin juice, mandarin peel and zest are enough to give these melomakarona a wonderful aroma. This year, I did not have any mandarin marmalade, so instead I added can sugar and citrus blossom.
This year I made homemade marzipan decorations for my Christmas Cake, which I dipped in white chocolate. I had some leftover white chocolate so after dipping the Melomakarona in the syrup, I then dipped the last then of them in the chocolate.
They smelled and tasted amazing and those who tried them gave me rave reviews.
Mandarin Melomakarona, recipe adapted from «Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!»
1½ cups (250 grams – 8.8 oz) good quality mild olive oil (1 cup olive oil and ½ cup sunflower oil)
1 cup (230 grams – 8.1 oz) sugar (this year I used brown raw cane sugar)
1 cup (250 grams – 8.8 oz) fresh mandarin juice
1 tsp baking soda
30 ml mandarin liqueur (or other liqueur or brandy)
About 7 cups (1kilo – 2.2 lbs) all purpose flour
½ tsp cloves, powdered
½ tsp cinnamon, powdered
1 – 2 tbsp mandarin zest (from 3 -4 mandarins, only a very thin layer)
For the syrup:
400 grams (14.1 oz) sugar, (almost 2 cups)
500 grams (1.1 lbs) citrus blossom honey (a few more tablespoons to drizzle on top)
1 cup water
1 cup mandarin juice
1 mandarin peel
1 piece of whole cinnamon
200 grams walnuts, coarsly chopped
A few tablespoons mandarin marmalade*
1/8 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
150 grams walnuts, finely chopped
Leftover honey syrup (or honey)
* Instead of mandarin marmalade you can add 4 tablespoons brown cane sugar and 2 tablespoons citrus blossom water, mixed with the walnuts and spices.
White Chocolate Coating (for about 15 melomakarona)
200 grams white chocolate
100 ml light cream
1 tsp butter
A few drops of vanilla essence
Start by preparing the syrup by adding sugar, honey, water, mandarin juice, cinnamon stick, cloves and mandarin peel in a pot. Mix and bring to a boil. It will soon bubble and form froth. Reduce heat, skim and simmer mixing a couple of time, for 8 – 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Sieve the flour and mix with mandarin zest, cloves and cinnamon.
Beat the olive oil and sugar well for about 10 minutes on high speed. Mix the baking soda in the mandarin juice and add to the mixture (be careful as it will bubble). Add the mandarin liqueur.
Change to the K paddle or to the dough hook and add the flour mixture gradually until the dough does not stick on the hands. (If your mixer does not have the above paddles, use your hands).
Preheat oven to 180o C / 350o F.
Line a baking tin with parchment paper and taking some dough the size of a large walnut, shape melomakarona round and then slightly flatten it. Add 1 tsp walnut mandarin mixture and fold again into a round or oblong shape, to enclose the mixture. Turn the melomakarono over and on the side without any seems, press the cookie on a box grater or an egg cutter horizontally and vertically, to form a pattern on top.
Place on the baking tin spaced apart and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, depending on your oven, or until they just start to get a light colour.
When they are baked, dip them while still hot in the syrup for about 1 – 2 minutes. Turn them over and remove with a slotted ladle in a colander until they cool. (At this stage they can be dipped in the white chocolate)
Place them in a platter, drizzle some raw honey on top and add lots of walnuts on top.
To coat them with chocolate, put the chocolate to melt in a bain Mari. Add cream and stir to make a smooth cream. Add vanilla and butter and stir until combined. After dipping the melomakarona in the syrup, let them drain for a few minutes and dip them in the hot chocolate. Using two forks carfully remove them on parchment paper until they dry.