The basic and official butter cookie of Greece is called “Koulourakia” (prounced Koo-loo-RA-keya). There are many different variations to the basic butter cookie. This particular recipe is a family one dating back to the 1950’s. My Yiayia Salidas ran a catering business in Jamaica Plain Massachusetts and this is the recipe she used for her clients. This secret recipe also became her in-law’s (my maternal grandmother’s) go-to recipe, my mom’s and now mine.
The traditional Koulourakia are braided or twisted which coincidently takes years to perfect and the braiding of thousands and thousands of cookies to practice. It’s not easy to reach braided perfection: that point when each cookie looks the same and uniform almost as if a machine has cranked them out. Both of my grandmothers reached perfect braid status in their lifetime, and my mother has as well (as you can see below). I however, have a number of years and lots of practice ahead of me yet.
A simpler and often more fun way to reap the benefits of this delicious and crispy butter cookie without the stress of learning the art of the braid, is to use cookie cutters. Every year at Easter-time it is the cookie cutter Koulourakia that I remember fondly growing up. My mother would make a large batch of this delicious butter cookie recipe and roll it out onto her exceptionally large cutting board. I can still feel the metal cookie cutters and flour on my hands. My mom would help me to practice a few braids and I remember the sense of pride in making maybe one that looked pretty decent, but I would quickly turn back to the rescue of the cookie cutter. We would decorate the cookies with sprinkles and her kitchen was turned into a factory for a day, a tradition that my I now participate in with my children.
This is a great project to jump into with children. They love to use the cookie cutters, to “paint” the cutouts with egg-wash and decorate with candies and colored sugar sprinkles. This year in preparation for Easter, my mom and I made our Easter cookies “coast-to-coast”; she on the west and me and my boys on the east.
One warning: this is not a “healthy recipe” according to today’s standards! I use Crisco and butter and do not recommend any substitutions! (Remember: this is an authentic Greek traditional family recipe from the 1950’s!) ;) For this particular recipe the Crisco really adds to the crisp and flaky cookie bite. I’ve used recipes that do not call for Crisco and they are good, but they just don’t have that flakiness that I remember from my grandmother or mother’s cookies growing up. I’ve used vanilla, almond or lemon extract- any work great. It all depends on the flavor you like.
These cookies are as addicting as potato chips- it’s hard to eat just one! They are delicious alone, but exceptional when dipped into a cup of hot coffee or milk, in fact, many Greeks consider a coffee-dipped Koulouraki a balanced breakfast. :)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 1/4 sticks crisco or vegetable baking sticks
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (lemon or almond extract could be substituted)
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 5 cups flour
- egg wash
- Jimmies, sprinkles, colored decorating sugars or sesame seeds
- In an electric mixer, mix together butter and Crisco until whipped.
- Add eggs and extract.
- Blend in confectioner's sugar.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together baking powder and flour.
- Slowly add to butter mixture.
- Dough should be workable but not too sticky.
- Roll out dough on to floured surface and use festive cookie cutters.
- (Make and practice a few braids too!)
- Place on cookie sheet, brush with egg wash and decorate with sesame seeds, sprinkles and sugars.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 12-18 minutes until lightly golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.
©2014 by Alexandra Salidas Roll, Figs & Feta.
Recipe by Alexandra Salidas Roll of Figs & Feta. Please do not reprint this recipe without permission. If you would like to feature this recipe on your blog or site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link your post to this one as the original source. Thank you!