Sweet Treats, Nistisima Cookies and Cake to Enjoy

Koulourakia nistisima, vegan cookies. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

For those celebrating birthdays during fasting periods, especially Great Lent, it can be tricky to find cakes and desserts that do not contain milk or eggs. Vegan cakes and desserts are available, it sometimes takes many tastings to find the right balance of sweetness and flavor and the right texture. Traditional Greek recipes are often the way to go since there are plenty of desserts to enjoy that are nistisima, i.e. do not contain any animal products. These vegan desserts often feature classic Greek flavors, honey, cinnamon, and nuts. Try the following recipes which are relatively simple to prepare for a sweet treat during the fasting season.

Koulourakia Methismena (Drunken Cookies)

3 and 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup sweet red wine, Mavrodaphne

1/4 cup cognac, Metaxa

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, wine, cognac, and the vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Take a scant tablespoon of the dough, roll into strips, and then form circles, twists, or other cookie shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the cookies are lightly golden brown, rotating the pans about halfway through the baking. Cool completely on wire racks before serving or storing in an airtight container or cookie jar.

Tahini Cake (Tahinopita)

A classic nistisimo cake often features nuts and raisins. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

3 and 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon Greek sea salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup Greek honey

1 cup tahini

1 and 1/3 cups orange juice

1/2 cup cognac, Metaxa works well

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup raisins

Sesame seeds, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the baking pan by lightly greasing a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with a little olive oil, then dust with a little flour, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, honey, tahini, orange juice, and the cognac. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and raisins. Golden raisins or a mixture of golden and dark raisins can be used, if preferred. Pour the cake batter into the prepared 13 by 9 inch baking pan, top with sesame seeds, if preferred, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the strength of your oven. A toothpick, skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center should come out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

A classic nistisimo cake often features nuts and raisins. Photo by Eleni Sakellis