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Greek Walnut Cookies(Kourabiedes)

I love foods from all over the globe!  I love trying new and exotic foods and I love using those ingredients in my cooking.  You can travel to distant countries by eating the food from that region-it’s like going on a vacation at home!

This recipe came from a Greek friend when I was a teenager.  I’m sure it came from his Ya-Ya (grandmother).  These little bites are served at celebrations and especially at weddings and at Christmas.  They always are adorned by powdered sugar, but at Christmas a whole clove is added at the top.  This is to represent the gifts of the Magi. This kind of food history makes the cooking and the eating more special, don’t you think?

The recipe uses brandy (yum!) and orange flower water.  I’m sure that if you don’t like or can’t get the orange flower water, you can leave it out, but it’s flavor and aroma lend so much to the exotic characteristic of the cookie it would be a shame to omit it.

Definitely make sure to follow the directions-the dough should be crumbly to start!

The resting period is important too!  I promise that if you make these you’ll love them as much as we do!  The are pretty straightforward and don’t take too long to make.  Wonderful with tea!  The recipe and my tips follow.  Enjoy!

                                                                                                                   Greek Walnut Cookies (Original Recipe)

1 cup walnuts                                                1/2 cup confectioners

                                                                                          sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                             1 large egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon baking powder                           1 tablespoon brandy

1/4 teaspoon salt                                                1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened                      1 tablespoon orange flower

         unsalted butter                                                water

 confectioners sugar for dusting                    whole cloves (optional)

Toast the walnuts until golden, in the oven at 350 degrees F. or in a pan on the stovetop.  Let cool and then chop half the walnuts.  You should have 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.  Process the remaining walnuts until finely ground, you should have 1/4 cup.

Stir together the chopped nuts, the ground nuts, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, egg yolk, brandy and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Use medium high speed-it should take between 5 and 8 minutes depending on your butter.

At the lowest speed stir the nut mixture into the butter mixture until it’s a crumbly dough.  Let the dough rest, covered, for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Use silpat, parchment or nonstick spray on your cookie sheets.

Scoop about 1 inch pieces of dough out.  Roll into balls with the palms of your hands. Pinch ends to shape into football shaped ovals.  PLace a whole clove in center of each cookie, if using.  Bake 18-20 minutes, until the cookies start to take on color.

While the cookies are still warm, brush with orange flower water.  Don’t make them soggy, just give them the once over with a pastry brush, or sprinke wih your fingers.

Add confectioners sugar to a bag and gently toss a few cookies at a time with the sugar.  Remove and put on a rack until all the cookies have been sugared.  Serve.

Dough can be frozen for up to 2 weeks.  Baked cookies for up to 1 week in an airtight container or 2 weeks wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and stored in the refrigerator.  Let them come to room temp and then dust with confectioner’s sugar.

                                                                                                                            Tips

1. Make sure you don’t overwork the dough-it changes the texture of the cookie!

2. I use a rounded  teaspoon scoop to help form the dough-they’re a tad smaller, but easier to roll.  Sometimes you have to reroll the balls because they crumble from the walnuts-it’s OK.

3. Don’t use too much orange flour water-it will cause the cookies to lose they’re crumbly texture.

4. And finally-DON’T eat the cloves-they’re a decoration and add a slight spiciness to the cookies.

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