Greek Butter Almond Cookies (Κουραμπιέδες)
Makes 4 dozen cookies
From Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska by Laurie Constantino
For Christmas, weddings, and religious feasts, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and friends gather in Greek kitchens to make mountains of Kourabiedes, shortbread cookies that are so rich they melt in your mouth. It’s hard to eat Kourabiedes without showering yourself with telltale powdered sugar. To make them easier to eat in public, I always serve Kourabiedes in muffin papers. Even so, I’m careful to brush off my mouth and chin when I’ve finished the last bite. The Festival recipe for Kourabiedes uses the smaller amount of almonds shown below, while I prefer mine with the larger amount (but often use 1 1/3 cups because that is the size package my grocery carries). No matter the amount of nuts, Kourabiedes are delicious. For the Greek Festival, Kourabiedes are spritzed with rose water right when they come out of the oven. At home, I prefer to bake them with a whole clove stuck in each cookie’s center, especially at Christmas. The clove symbolizes the three wise mens’ gifts to the Christ child.
1–2 cups slivered blanched almonds
1 1/2 pounds unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup powdered sugar
5–6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Whole cloves (optional)
Rose water (optional)
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Place blanched almonds on baking sheet, and roast for 5–10 minutes until almonds are lightly toasted. Chop almonds, and set aside to cool.
In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter until it’s very light and creamy. Add egg yolks and almond extract, and continue beating until eggs are well incorporated and color lightens to pale yellow. Add powdered sugar, and beat until mixture is smooth. Using paddle attachment for mixer or wooden spoon, mix in baking powder, 3 cups of flour, and chopped almonds. Beat in remaining flour by hand, a little at a time, using only enough flour so dough holds together, but isn’t hard and dry. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour or until you’re ready to bake. (Dough can be made ahead to this point and frozen.) Bring to room temperature before shaping.
Shape 1 Tbsp. pieces of dough into rounded and slightly flattened circles that are slightly thicker in the center than around the edges. A tablespoon-sized scoop with a thumb-release makes this task go quickly. If using cloves, stick one in the center of each cookie. Place cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheet, and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until cookies just start to turn golden. Be careful not to brown cookies.
While cookies are baking, sift powdered sugar into a rimmed baking sheet to completely cover the sheet’s bottom. When cookies are done, remove them from oven and spritz lightly with rosewater, if using (a tiny, unused, perfume atomizer works well for spritzing). Remove cookies from baking sheet and, while they’re still warm, place them on sifted powdered sugar. Sift additional powdered sugar over cookies to completely cover them. Lift each cookie from pan of powdered sugar, giving it a shake so any extra sugar falls back in pan. Put cookie back down on powdered sugar to ensure bottom is evenly covered. After cookies have cooled completely, place them in muffin papers. If a cookie isn’t evenly covered with powdered sugar, sprinkle it with a little more sugar. Store in tightly covered, air-tight container.