During Lent, there are several different sweets to enjoy while fasting. A classic Greek recipe is koulourakia me portokali, orange juice cookies made with olive oil. American Lisa Radinovsky, an English professor turned writer and photographer who lives in Crete, submitted the following recipe, updated with the help of her Cretan neighbor. She notes about the recipe, “This is a revision of a traditional Greek olive oil and orange juice cookie with less sugar, more whole wheat flour, more orange zest, and more spices than the original. Very tasty, it is appropriate for certain types of fasting as well as for vegans, those seeking to lower their cholesterol, and health-conscious eaters who enjoy a slightly sweet treat.”
Greek Orange Juice Cookies (Koulourakia me Portokali)
Makes 70 to 100 cookies, depending on size
- 2 cups Greek olive oil, preferably extra virgin
- 1 cup sugar (or 1 ½ cups for sweeter cookies)
- 2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice (or bottled, but fresh is better!)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 teaspoons baking soda
- Zest of 2 oranges
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon (or less if you prefer a less spicy cookie)
- 1 teaspoon cloves (optional)
- Pinch of salt
- 4 cups whole wheat flour (more or less, as needed)
- 5 cups unbleached flour (more or less, as needed)
- 1 cup raisins (optional, but nice for natural added sweetness; use smaller raisins rather than larger ones to make the dough easier to work with)
In a very large bowl, beat the olive oil with the sugar until well blended. Then add the orange juice. In a small bowl, mix the baking soda with the lemon juice so it froths up. Add to the oil mixture and stir. Add the lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Mix well.
Gradually add the flour to the wet mixture, mixing it in with your clean hands each time you add more. Add extra flour if necessary, so the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. Mix in the raisins in at the end.
Let the dough sit for up to half an hour, and preheat the oven to 360-365 degrees F or 185 degrees C.
Use your hands to roll a small amount of dough on a flat surface until you have a cylinder about ½ inch thick and approximately 4 inches long. You can leave the dough in that cylindrical form and bake it that way, or shape the cylinders into small circles by pinching the ends together. (Try to keep all the cookies you put on one tray about the same size and thickness, so they get done at the same time.)
Place cookies on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, leaving about a half inch to an inch of space between the cookies. (They do not expand much during baking.) Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until golden brown. (Check earlier, since baking times will vary.)
Radinovsky along with Dimitris Doukas, a Princeton-educated computer scientist, and his team created the website greekliquidgold.com to help the Greek economy by promoting the use of Greek olive oils as part of a healthy diet.