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Food

Koulourakia, 3 Variations, and Takakia to Make and Enjoy

November 27, 2020

Koulourakia are a favorite dessert all year round. Every region of Greece has its own variations, and here are a few to make this holiday season an enjoyable one with family and friends. Takakia are a traditional dessert from Rhodes reminiscent of baklava, but made with a distinct type of olive oil dough that is relatively easy to roll out and work with. Filled with nuts and spices, dipped in the flavorful local honey of the island and topped with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, takakia are a delightful sweet treat, highlighting the classic Greek flavors of honey, nuts, and cinnamon. Often prepared for St. Andrew’s feast day (November 30), in many villages, takakia are sent on that day to koumbaros and engaged ladies send them to their fiancés.

Koulourakia with Chios Matsic 

1 pound sweet butter 

1 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil 

2 cups sugar 

1 cup orange juice 

5 eggs 

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest 

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1/4 teaspoon ground mastic 

2 tablespoons baking powder 

3-4 pounds all-purpose, unbleached flour 

2-3 eggs for the egg wash 

Sesame seeds for topping 

 In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the oil and the sugar. Add the orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon, mastic, and the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Lower the mixer speed and add the baking powder and the flour gradually. You may need to incorporate the remaining flour by hand depending on the size of your mixer. Add as much flour as needed to make a dough that doesn’t stick to your fingers and can be made into cookie shapes. Roll the dough into cookie twists, the traditional shape for koulourakia, but circles, S-shapes and figure eights can also be made. Place the cookie shapes on ungreased baking sheets an inch or two apart since the koulourakia will puff up. In a small bowl, beat the eggs for the egg wash. Brush the koulourakia with the egg wash, and sprinkle with some sesame seeds on top, and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about twenty minutes until golden brown, rotating the pans from the lower to the upper rack and brushing again with egg wash about half way through the baking process. Cool on the baking sheets on wire racks for a few minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container. 

Smyrneica Koulouria 

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon salt 

3⁄4 cup sugar 

6 ounces butter, melted 

3 ounces milk, lukewarm 

1 teaspoon baking soda 

2 eggs, beaten 

1 tablespoon vanilla extract 

1 beaten egg white 

Sift the flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center, and add melted butter, eggs, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in the milk and add to the flour mixture. 

Knead the dough until you have a soft, pliable dough. Shape dough into s-shapes, braids, and snails. Place on a greased baking sheet, or silpat, and brush with beaten egg white. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets about half way through the baking process. Cool completely on wire racks before serving or storing in an airtight container. 

Koulourakia Methismena (Drunk Cookies) from the Dodecanese 

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

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon 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 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 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. 

Takakia are a traditional dessert from Rhodes reminiscent of baklava, but made with a distinct type of olive oil dough that is relatively easy to roll out and work with. Filled with nuts and spices, dipped in the flavorful local honey of the island and topped with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, takakia are a delightful sweet treat, highlighting the classic Greek flavors of honey, nuts, and cinnamon. A similar dessert (called sarmosaes) is also made on the island of Kos, but the pieces are cut into smaller, bite-sized shapes which are fried in oil, not baked, and then dipped in syrup. 

Takakia from Rhodes 

For the filling: 

2 cups chopped walnuts 

3 tablespoons sugar 

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

1/4 teaspoon cloves 

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 

For the dough: 

4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil 

3/4 cup water, plus 2 tablespoons 

A pinch of salt 

Greek extra virgin olive oil, as needed, for brushing 

For the syrup: 

1 cup Greek honey 

1 1/4 cups water 

For the topping: 

Sesame seeds, toasted 

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the filling and set aside. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the olive oil and stir, adding the water little by little until the dough forms and does not stick. If it’s too tough, add a little water. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. Divide the dough into 5 or 6 pieces of equal size. Roll out each piece into a thin round or rectangular shape as thin as possible. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with some of the filling. Roll up the dough loosely and cut the roll into 1-inch thick pieces. Place on a baking sheet and brush generously with olive oil. Continue with the remaining dough and filling. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the honey and water up to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and dip the warm takakia into the syrup removing them immediately with a slotted spoon and placing them on a serving plate. Continue with the remaining takakia. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve warm or at room temperature. Takakia can also be fried in oil, instead of baked, if preferred, and then drained on paper towels before being dipped in the honey syrup. 

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