Easy Rose Bliss Balls (Healthy, Vegan, Raw, Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Oil-free)

These rose bliss balls are the perfect sweet snack and a great way to indulge without feeling guilty! A delicious bite-sized superfood to keep you going throughout the day! 

rose bliss balls in a glass bowl on a dark surface with dried rose buds, cocoa powder and gray cloth

I’m not much of a health freak, but there are times when I want something sweet but healthy, too. 

I’ve been experimenting with healthy, raw dessert treats lately. And apart from my vegan chocolate truffles, which have raw cashews, I’m not all that familiar with raw desserts.

So, I began playing around with flavors I love with dried Greek figs and turning them into energy balls. 

Boy, was I totally blown away with the results!

These incredible, no-bake energy bites are heavenly!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THESE ROSE BLISS BALLS

They’re… 

  • simple, no-bake treats.
  • raw.
  • vegan.
  • sugar-free, yet sweet enough to satisfy any sweet tooth.
  • gluten-free.
  • oil-free.
  • incredibly quick and easy to make.
  • moist.
  • healthy.
  • perfect for a snack.
  • easy to pack and they travel really well, too!

WHAT MAKES THESE BLISS BALLS STAND OUT

Most bliss ball recipes are made with dates, but I decided to try using dried figs because they have a bit fewer carbs and less fat than dates and I honestly think they taste a lot better, too. Greek figs are considered one of the best in the world. So, if you can get a hold of Greek figs, you should definitely try them! I’m sure they’re available online or at Greek specialty shops.

In addition, unlike traditional bliss balls, this recipe doesn’t require soaking the figs at all. This makes it even easier and faster to make!

Best of all, though, these bliss balls have a unique flavor unlike anything I’ve ever had – a wonderful medley of unique flavors: figs and roses.

WHAT DO THESE ROSE BLISS BALLS TASTE LIKE?

If you like Fig Newtons, you’ll probably like these, too! They’re sweet and slightly spicy. The dried rose buds don’t taste great on their own, but when they’re mixed with everything else, they really bring out a wonderful, exotic flavor. 

What I think makes these balls phenomenal, though, is the tiny amount of Kahlua. OMG! 

Kahlua and figs are a match made in heaven! 

rose bliss balls in a glass bowl on a dark surface with dried rose buds

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THEM – ONLY 5 INGREDIENTS:

Dried Figs:

I use all natural, unsweetened white dried Greek figs, that are naturally sun dried. The variety I use is one from the island of Evia.

Salt & spices:

I use a little cinnamon and just a small amount of salt to enhance the flavors.

Dried Rose Buds:

Dried rose buds really bring out a wonderful flavor! 

Alcohol:

I use a tiny amount of Kahlua, but if you want to avoid alcohol, you could easily replace this with water. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Are these balls healthy?

Yes! To me, these balls are tiny versions of an energy bar. They contain dried figs, which are excellent sources of iron and calcium and, most importantly, they are also rich in antioxidants.

Can this recipe be customized?

Yes! Here are a few ideas:

  • Substitute Kahlua with orange juice or just water.
  • Instead of dried rose buds, about 1 teaspoon food grade rose water.
  • Add some of your favorite nuts or seeds or even unsweetened shredded coconut.

How long will they last?

They can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. After that, they begin to dry out.

Can they be frozen?

Yes! Spread them out on a baking sheet and put in the freezer. When they’ve frozen completely, put them in a freezer bag and then in a freezer-safe container. They can be  frozen for about 2 months.

HOW TO MAKE ROSE BLISS BALLS

Rose Bliss Balls 4 Steps

STEP 1 

Put everything in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

STEP 2

It should come together when you pinch some together.

STEP 3 

Form balls, about 1 tablespoon for each. I like to use a small cookie scoop for this because it’s easier and I get the same size for each ball.

STEP 4

Roll the balls in some crushed, dried rose petals or your desired topping.  

How easy is that??

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • The type of dried figs you use may affect the overall texture. If the mixture is too crumbly, add a lit bit of water, a teaspoon at a time, until it comes together.
  • The dough is quite sticky. If you want, you could wet your hands or wear gloves so that they’ll be easier to roll.

IDEAS FOR TOPPINGS

  • dried unsweetened shredded coconut
  • sesame seeds
  • chopped walnuts
  • unsweetened cocoa powder – I use Dutch-processed as it’s less bitter than natural cocoa powder (To learn the difference between these two types of cocoa, check out this post I wrote.)
  • melted dark chocolate

HOW TO ENJOY THESE ROSE FIG BALLS 

First of all, I already keep lots of different sweet treats in the freezer, just in case of an emergency, like chocolate pomegranate bark , and these fig balls make another great addition! 

But apart from eating them on their own, I’ve discovered lots of other ways to enjoy them, too! 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Add them to Greek yogurt for a healthy breakfast or snack.
  • Put 1 (or 2) bliss balls in your favorite smoothie.
  • Add some over a mixed green salad drizzled with some balsamic vinegar.

~Voula

MORE HEALTHY RECIPES

Easy Healthy Watermelon Slushie

Healthy Tahini Breakfast Cookies

Easy Apple Chips

Ancient Greek Sesame Bars – Pasteli 

Easy Fluffy Vegan Chocolate Mousse

MORE FIG RECIPES

Easy honey-baked figs

Let me know how these rose bliss balls turn out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

Easy Rose Bliss Balls (Healthy, Vegan, Raw, Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Oil-free)

These rose bliss balls are the perfect sweet snack and a great way to indulge without feeling guilty! A delicious bite-sized superfood to keep you going throughout the day! 
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, Greek, Mediterranean
Keyword: figs, healthy, rose, bliss balls, kahlua
Servings: 10 balls

Ingredients

  • 10 dried figs, about 6.3 oz / 180 g
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ tablespoon Kahlua (or water)
  • 1 tablespoon dried rose petals (+ extra to coat)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions

  • Put everything in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  • It should come together when you pinch some together.
  • Form balls, about 1 tablespoon for each. I like to use a small cookie scoop because it’s easier and I get the same size for each ball.
  • Roll the balls in some crushed, dried rose petals or your desired topping.  
  • Enjoy!
  • They can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks

Notes

FREEZING OPTION
Spread them out on a baking sheet and put in the freezer. When they’ve frozen completely, put them in a freezer bag and then in a freezer-safe container. They can be  frozen for about 2 months.
© Pastry Wishes

 

 

 

 

Tsoureki – Traditional Greek Easter Bread (Easy + Tips)

This traditional Greek Easter bread is buttery, sweet and aromatic. It is pillowy soft, ultra fluffy and has a wonderful stringy texture. Tsoureki is a sweet bread infused with exotic spices and orange zest and topped with sliced almonds.

loaf of tsoureki bread split in half on a kitchen towel with red eggs

Have you ever been to a Greek Easter family gathering? The atmosphere is really jubilant and extremely LOUD (most Greek get-togethers are)!

Apart from the lamb, the star of the show is Tsoureki – traditional Greek Easter bread!

Tsoureki is unlike any other sweet bread you’ve ever had! It is my absolute favorite kind of sweet bread because of its unique flavor!

In this post, I’ll show you how to make it, 2 different ways!

What is Tsoureki?

Tsoureki (pronounced tsoo-RE-kee) is a traditional Greek sweet bread made during Easter, but other variations are also made throughout the year in Greece. It’s often decorated with red eggs, which symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ.

Tsoureki is a brioche-style bread with aromatic spices, similar to challah and other sweet breads found in various countries, however, it has 2 traditional ingredients that you won’t find in other sweet breads: mahleb and mastic gum. This is what makes this bread unique to Greek cuisine.

Tsoureki isn’t difficult to make, but you do need to plan ahead and be very patient. It does require time, but trust me, though, it is totally worth it!

WHAT MAKES THIS RECIPE STAND OUT FROM TRADITIONAL ONES

There are 3 things that make my Tsoureki recipe stand out from most traditional ones.

First of all, I use two different methods: one with a stand mixer and one that doesn’t require any kneading. You can print out whichever method you prefer – both recipe cards are at the bottom of the post.

Finally, my recipe guarantees a stringy texture!

The stand mixer

When using my stand mixer, I’ve discovered that I can make the same bread WITHOUT making a starter first, I just add the active dry yeast into the flour before incorporating the wet ingredients.

This method is a bit faster since I skip dissolving the active dry yeast. It saves some time and I still get great results.

To learn about whether you really need to dissolve active dry yeast or not, you can read this informative article from King Arthur Baking.

Approximate time needed from start to finish = 3 hours.

No-knead

A friend of mine asked me if Tsoureki could be made completely by hand, because she doesn’t have a stand mixer.

You can totally make it by hand, but you’ll have to knead it for about 15-20 minutes, which is quite tedious.

So, I adapted my own (stand mixer) recipe using a no-knead method from Chef Argiro, a famous chef here in Greece.

Approximate time needed from start to finish = 4 hours.

Texture

Tsoureki is ALL about the stringy texture inside! I have 2 super tips for getting the PERFECT stringy texture and making the bread incredibly soft and moist!!!  In the pictures below, you can see just how fluffy and stringy the bread is! Just look at those gorgeous strands!!!

stringy tsoureki bread pulled apart

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE TSOUREKI – TRADITIONAL GREEK EASTER BREAD 

Bread flour: I use bread flour instead of all purpose flour because it creates the perfect texture. Bread flour has more protein which is needed to create lots of gluten. It’s the gluten that gives you those strands and strings and makes the bread elastic! I have tried it with all purpose flour and it turned out OK, but it was drier and crumblier than the one made with bread flour.

Sugar: I use white, granulated sugar.

Eggs: I use 1 medium whole egg plus 1 egg yolk for the egg wash.

Spices & salt: Mahleb and mastic gum give this bread an extraordinary flavor! The salt also enhances the combination.

Butter: I use unsalted butter.

Yeast: I use active dry yeast for this recipe. You could use fresh yeast if you prefer.

Milk: I use low fat milk because that’s what we have at home, but you can use what you have.

Vanilla: Vanilla isn’t traditionally used in this recipe, however I think it really adds flavor. You could omit it, if you want.

Almonds: I top the bread with sliced almonds, but you could also use sesame seeds.

tsoureki bread on kitchen towel with orange and almond slices

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is mahleb?

Mahleb is ground cherry stone from St. Lucy’s cherry trees, which are popular throughout the Mediterranean. In Greece, it’s called mahlepi. Mahleb powder is very popular in numerous Greek and Middle Eastern pastries. It is extremely aromatic and offers a rich flavor, especially in baked goods.

What is mastic gum?

The Ancient Greeks harvested mastic over 2,000 years ago. Mastic is a resin from mastic trees. These trees are found in different parts of the world, but only the mastic trees on the island of Chios in Greece produce extractable resin, also known as mastic gum. Today, mastic gum is used for baking and cooking, but it’s also used in perfumes and cosmetics.

Can mahleb and mastic gum be substituted?

Unfortunately not. You could make this bread without them, but it won’t have the characteristic tsoureki flavor. But it will still be a really good sweet bread!

Where can I find mahleb and mastic gum?

In the US, you’ll usually find them in specialty stores or even in larger supermarkets, especially around Easter. You can also find them online.

Can this bread be made by hand?

Yes! This recipe uses a stand mixer which is really convenient, but you can totally make this by hand, just like my Yiayia did! The trick is to knead the dough really well for about 15-20 minutes.

Can I bake this bread with a dyed egg?

Many Greeks bake this bread with a dyed egg on top for Easter. If you want to add the egg, just tuck it into the braid before baking. I usually avoid this because I don’t like how the dye gets into the bread, so I usually add the eggs after I bake the bread and it has cooled.

How do you store this sweet bread?

I usually wrap it in plastic wrap or a freezer bag. It will last for about 3-5 days at room temperature. Just make sure it’s cooled completely before wrapping it.

Can this bread be frozen?

Yes! I often freeze individual slices or small rolls after the bread has baked. You could freeze the entire loaf, too, if you want. Just make sure that it has completely cooled. Then wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in a freezer bag. It can be frozen for up to 2 months.To thaw, just put it in the refrigerator overnight, or let it thaw on the kitchen counter without removing the wrapping.

Can this bread be made ahead?

Sure! You can prepare the dough and then put it in the refrigerator overnight. It will rise slowly. The next day, leave it out on the counter until it reaches room temperature. Then knead it for a few minutes before you start cutting, shaping and baking it.

BEFORE YOU START

I always preheat my oven to 95°F / 35°C. Once the temperature is reached, I turn the oven off.

This will create a nice warm environment that will help the dough rise.

HOW TO MAKE TSOUREKI – TRADITIONAL GREEK EASTER BREAD

METHOD #1: STAND MIXER

Tsoureki steps 1-4

STEP 1

In a saucepan, add the milk, butter, orange zest, sugar, vanilla & spices & whisk together.

Gently heat on low until butter & sugar melt – do not boil (it should be no more than 100 F / 40 C).

STEP 2

Whisk the egg and salt together and add it to the milk mixture.

STEP 3

Into a bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and the active dry yeast.

STEP 4

Add the milk/egg mixture and mix on high speed for exactly 15 minutes – it will look very sticky, but it’ll come together – don’t add more flour.

HOW TO TELL WHEN THE DOUGH IS FULLY KNEADED

While kneading the dough (either in the stand mixer or by hand) you will notice that it’s quite sticky. Don’t be tempted to add more flour because it’ll make the bread really tough. Just keep kneading it! It will eventually come together. You’ll know it’s fully kneaded when it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl and most of it gathers around the hook. When the dough is elastic and you can pull it from the bowl, you’ll know that it has been fully kneaded, as you can see in the picture below.

fully kneaded tsoureki dough being pulled from bowl

After that, grease a large bowl with vegetable oil and put the dough in it. Toss it around so it’s covered in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel. Place it in the preheated oven and let it rise until it’s double in size, about 2 hours. In the pictures below, you can see how it doubled.

tsoureki dough before and after it rises

HOW TO BRAID THE DOUGH TO MAKE A STRAIGHT LOAF & A BRAIDED RING

how to braid tsoureki steps 1-3

how to braid tsoureki steps 4-5

how to braid tsoureki steps 6-7

how to braid tsoureki steps 11-14

STEP 1

Grease your hands and shape the dough into a log.

STEP 2

Stretch and fold the dough 10-12 times – this helps create the stringy texture.

STEP 3

Cut the dough in half and then cut each half into 3 even pieces and form balls.

I like to weigh the dough first before dividing it and rolling the pieces into ropes. That way, they are all the same size and the tsoureki will be evenly shaped all around. You don’t have to do this, but it just makes the loaf look nicer.

STEP 4

Roll out each ball into 3 ropes, about 18-20 inches (45-50 cm) long.

Place 2 ropes side by side, and pinch the top ends together.

STEP 5

Place the 3rd rope in the middle and pinch the top ends together.

STEP 6

Loosely braid the ropes.

Start by placing the right rope over the middle one.

STEP 7

Then place the left rope over the middle one.

STEP 8

Continue until you reach the bottom.

Pinch the ends together and fold them under to seal the braid.

STEP 9

Pinch the ends of the top part of the braid and fold them under to seal.

STEP 10

Place it on a baking sheet and straighten if necessary.

STEP 11

Repeat with the remaining dough.

For a braided ring, place it in a well-buttered springform pan.

STEP 12

Pinch the ends  together and tuck them under to seal.

STEP 13

Cover the dough and let it rest for about 30 minutes until it’s slightly puffy.

Gently brush the tops with egg wash.

STEP 14

Add the sliced almonds and bake.

METHOD #2: NO-KNEAD

No Knead Tsoureki step 1-2

No Knead Tsoureki step 3-4

No Knead Tsoureki step 5-8

STEPS 1 & 2

In a medium-sized bowl, add the active dry yeast, a teaspoon of sugar and the warm milk (not hot). Stir everything together.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it activate. It should take about 10-15 minutes.

STEPS 3 & 4

In a saucepan, add the milk, butter, orange zest, sugar, vanilla & spices & whisk together.

Gently heat on low until butter & sugar melt – do not boil. If it’s too hot, set it aside to cool.

Whisk the egg and salt together and set it aside.

STEPS 5 & 6

Add all the wet ingredients to the flour and mix with a silicone spatula (or spoon). It will be very shaggy and wet. Do not add more flour.

STEPS 7 & 8

Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until it’s doubled in size (about 2 hours).

STEPS 9 & 10

Grease your hands and work surface with oil and stretch and fold the dough 10-12 times. Lightly grease a bowl and toss the dough in it to cover it on all sides.

Let it rise again in the prepared oven until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).

If you want, you can put it in the refrigerator now and let it rise slowly overnight and continue the next day.

Then you cut and braid the dough as shown in the steps above and bake.

Here’s what the no-knead tsoureki looks like:

no nead tsoureki on baking sheet

As you can see from the other pictures, there is no difference in texture and it tastes exactly the same as the one that was made with the stand mixer!

HOW TO MAKE COILED TSOUREKI ROLLS

Instead of a straight braided loaf, you could make individual rolls, which are just perfect for breakfast! They are not only pretty, but they are really easy to make, too!

how to make coiled tsoureki rolls

STEP 1

Roll the dough into two ropes, about 15 inches (38 cm) long and place them side by side.

STEP 2

Lift one rope and go over and then under the other rope.

STEP 3

Continue twisting (going over and under) until you reach the bottom.

STEP 4

Start at one end and begin rolling the dough into a spiral.

STEPS 5 & 6

Continue rolling and then pinch the end and tuck it under.

coiled tsoureki rolls on a plate and in a basket with red dyed eggs and red and white kitchen towel

TIPS FOR THE BEST TSOUREKI – TRADITIONAL GREEK EASTER BREAD

  • Before beginning, make sure your yeast hasn’t expired.
  • All the ingredients should be at room temperature when you start.
  • You really need bread flour to make tsoureki, as it has more protein needed to make gluten for the perfect texture.
  • Tsoureki dough isn’t supposed to be fluffy like my swirled cinnamon raisin bread, it’s a bit dense. If more flour is added, it could get really hard.
  • For best results, I suggest measuring the flour properly with a digital scale, which is such a huge time-saver in the kitchen. Check out this post for more detailed information about how to measure flour properly.
  • If you can’t find ground mahleb and mastic gum, you can get them as seeds and easily grind the spices yourself in a spice grinder or food processor. You could also use a mortar and pestle. If you’re using a mortar and pestle, add half a teaspoon of sugar so that it’ll be easier to grind.
  • Be careful not to add more mastic gum than what is in the recipe. Too much mastic gum can make the Tsoureki very bitter.
  • Every kitchen is different and the environment plays a major role in how long it takes for the dough to rise. For me, it takes an average of 2 hours, but for some, it may take as long as 5, depending on how cold the kitchen is.
  • Be really gentle when brushing the top with the egg wash. Make sure not to poke the dough with the brush, otherwise, you might deflate it and it won’t come out as fluffy.

close up of tsoureki bread cut in half on kitchen towel with red eggs in background

SECRETS FOR SUPER SOFT TSOUREKI BREAD WITH THE PERFECT STRINGY TEXTURE

  • I’ve noticed that when I twist the ropes BEFORE I braid or shape them, it helps to create an even more stringier texture inside.
  • I always use a small glass baking dish filled with about 1-2 cups of hot water and put it under the tsoureki while it’s baking. This creates some steam that will make the tsoureki really soft, pillowy and shiny on top!

Ideas for Leftover Tsoureki

This sweet bread is heavenly on its own, however, I love using it for lots of other yummy treats, too!

Here are a few ideas in case you have any leftovers:

  • Slice and toast it and then slather it with butter!
  • Use it to make caramelized croutons! It’s absolutely delish over this Chocolate Soup!!
  • Make bread pudding with it!
  • Use it to make the most incredible French toast you’ve ever had!
  • Spread some Nutella over it.
  • Dip it into Greek coffee.
  • Spread some butter and jam or marmalade on it.
  • Cut into pieces and put over Greek yogurt. Sprinkle some walnuts or almonds and drizzle with honey.
  • Cut into pieces and serve with ice cream and pour some of this  Chocolate Syrup on top! DIVINE!

tsoureki bread ring on blue surface with orange and almond slices

I really hope you try this amazing Tsoureki – Traditional Greek Easter bread, even if it isn’t Easter!

~Voula

MORE BREAD/DOUGH RECIPES

Swirled Cinnamon Raisin Bread (2 Ways)

The Best Cinnamon Rolls From Scratch (+ Make-ahead Options)

MORE GREEK RECIPES

Traditional Greek Custard Pie Galaktoboureko (Easy + Tips)

Easy Egg-free Chocolate Salami – Greek Kormos/Mosaiko (N0-bake + Vegan Option)

Portokalopita – Greek Orange Phyllo Cake

MORE EASTER RECIPES

Koulourakia – Greek Easter Cookies (Tips + Various Designs)

Let me know how this traditional Greek Easter bread turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

 

Tsoureki - Traditional Greek Easter Bread (Stand Mixer Method)

This traditional Greek Easter bread is buttery, sweet and aromatic. It is pillowy soft, ultra fluffy and has a wonderful stringy texture. Tsoureki is a sweet bread infused with exotic spices and orange zest and topped with sliced almonds. 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time3 hrs
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Tsoureki, No-knead, Easter Bread, sweet bread, Greek
Servings: 2 loaves or 1 loaf and 4 coiled rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk (250 ml)
  • 2.5 oz (70g) (½ a stick + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter 
  • zest from one orange
  • 1 cup sugar (200 g/ 7 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely ground mahleb (about 8 g / 0.3 oz whole mahleb seeds) 
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground mastic gum (about 5-7 whole mastic gum pieces)
  • 1 medium egg (about 50 g / 1.8 oz), at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ½ cups +2 tablespoons (600 g / 1 lb 5.2 oz) bread flour, sifted
  • some light vegetable oil to grease the bowl, about 2 tablespoons

For the topping

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • sliced almonds

Instructions

  • In a saucepan, add the milk, butter, orange zest, sugar, vanilla & spices & whisk together.
    Gently heat on low until butter & sugar melt - do not boil (it should be no more than 100 F / 40 C).
  • Whisk the egg and salt together and add it to the milk mixture.
  • Into a bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and the active dry yeast.
  • Add the milk/egg mixture and mix on medium-high speed for exactly 15 minutes - it will look very sticky, but it'll come together - don't add more flour.
  • You’ll know it’s fully kneaded when it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl and most of it gathers around the hook.
  • Grease a large bowl with vegetable oil and put the dough in it. Toss it around so it’s covered in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel. Place it in the preheated oven and let it rise until it’s double in size, about 2 hours.

Braid & Bake

  • Preheat the oven to 356°F / 180°C.
  • Grease your hands and shape the dough into a log.
  • Stretch and fold the dough 10-12 times - this helps create the stringy texture.
  • Cut the dough in half and then cut each half into 3 even pieces and form balls.
  • Roll out each ball into 3 ropes, about 18-20 inches (45-50 cm) long.
    Place 2 ropes side by side, and pinch the top ends together.
  • Place the 3rd rope in the middle and pinch the top ends together.
  • Loosely braid the ropes. Start by placing the right rope over the middle one. Then place the left rope over the middle one.
  • Continue until you reach the bottom. Pinch the ends together and fold them under to seal the braid. Pinch the ends of the top part of the braid and fold them under to seal.
  • Place it on a baking sheet and straighten if necessary.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough. For a braided ring, place it in a well-buttered springform pan. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under to seal.
  • Cover the dough and let it rest for about 30 minutes until it's slightly puffy.
  • Fill a small glass baking dish with 1-2 cups of hot water and place it on the lowest rack in the oven. 

Make the egg wash

  • In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and water together until just combined.
  • Gently brush the tops with the egg wash. Make sure not to poke the dough with the brush, otherwise, you might deflate it and it won’t come out as fluffy.
  • Add the sliced almonds and bake for 30-40 minutes until dark golden brown.
  • When it’s done, let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.
  • It can be stored at room temperature for about 3-5 days. Make sure it has cooled completely first and then wrap it in plastic wrap and then a freezer bag or an airtight container. 
  • Enjoy!

Notes

HOW TO MAKE COILED TSOUREKI ROLLS

Cut the dough in half (I like to weigh it first) and then cut each half into 4 even pieces and form balls. 
Roll out 2 balls into 2 long ropes, about 15 inches (38 cm) long and place them side by side (vertically).
Take a rope and go over and under the other rope.
Continue twisting (going over and under) until you reach the bottom and then pinch the ends together and tuck them under.
Starting at one end, start rolling into a spiral. Continue rolling and then pinch the end and tuck it under.
Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and place on the prepared baking sheet. 

FREEZING OPTIONS

Tsoureki can be frozen for up to 2 months. You can either freeze individual slices or the whole loaf. Just make sure the bread has cooled completely. Then wrap in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bag. To thaw, just put it in the refrigerator overnight, or let it thaw on the kitchen counter without removing the wrapping.
 © Pastry Wishes
 

Tsoureki - Traditional Greek Easter Bread (Easy + Tips) (No-Knead Method)

This traditional Greek Easter bread is buttery, sweet and aromatic. It is pillowy soft, ultra fluffy and has a wonderful stringy texture. Tsoureki is a sweet bread infused with exotic spices and orange zest and topped with sliced almonds. 
Prep Time20 mins
Rising Time2 hrs
Total Time4 hrs
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Greek, tsoureki, easter, bread, sweet bread, brioche
Servings: 2 loaves or 1 loaf and 4 medium rolls

Ingredients

For the yeast mixture

  • ½ cup warm milk (not hot) (125 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 0.6 oz (16 g) active dry yeast (about 2 packets)

For the dough

  • ½ cup milk (125 ml)
  • 2.5 oz (70 g) (½ a stick + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter 
  • zest from one orange
  • 1 cup sugar (200 g/ 7 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 1½ tablespoons finely ground mahleb (about 8 g / 0.3 oz whole mahleb seeds) 
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground mastic gum (about 5-7 whole mastic gum pieces)
  • 1 medium egg (about 50 g / 1.8 oz), at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons (600 g / 1 lb 5.2 oz) bread flour, sifted
  • some light vegetable oil to grease the bowl, about 2 tablespoons

For the topping

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • sliced almonds

Instructions

Before you start

  • Preheat your oven to 95°F / 35°C. Once the temperature is reached, turn the oven off.
  •  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set it aside.
  • If you have whole mastic pieces and mahleb seeds, grind them separately in a food processor, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle. Then measure them accordingly and set aside.

Activate the yeast

  • In a medium-sized bowl, add the active dry yeast, a teaspoon of sugar and the warm milk (not hot). Stir everything together. 
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it activate. It should take about10-15 minutes.

Make the dough

  • In a saucepan, add the milk, butter, orange zest, sugar, vanilla and spices and whisk together.
    Gently heat on low until butter & sugar melt - do not boil. If it's too hot, set it aside to cool.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and salt and set it aside.
  • Add all the wet ingredients to the flour and mix with a silicone spatula (or spoon). It will be very shaggy and wet. Do not add more flour.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until it's doubled in size (about 2 hours).
  • Grease your hands and work susrface with oil and stretch and fold the dough 10-12 times.
  • Grease a large bowl with the oil and put the dough in it. Toss it around so it’s covered in oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel. Let it rise again in the prepared oven until it’s double in size, about 1 hour.

Shape & Braid the Dough

  • Preheat the oven to 356°F / 180°C.
  • Lightly grease your hands with oil and shape the dough into a log. If you want you can lightly grease your work surface, too. 
  • Gently knead the dough by stretching and folding it 10-12 times (this helps create a stringy texture).
  • Cut the dough in half (I like to weigh it first) and then cut each half into 3 even pieces and form balls. 
  • Roll each ball into 3 long ropes, about 18-20 inches (45-50 cm) long. Make sure each has even thickness throughout.
  • Place 2 ropes next to each other, vertically, about 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) apart and then pinch the top ends together.  Place the 3rd rope in the middle and pinch the top ends together again.
  • Start braiding them loosely. Place the right rope over the middle one, then the left over the middle one. Repeat until the braid is complete and you reach the end. Pinch the bottom ends together and tuck them under to seal. Braid the top end fold under to seal (this is optional, I just think it looks nicer when I do this after I finish the braid).
  • Place it on the prepared baking sheet and straighten it out, if necessary.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining dough (* or see the NOTES below on how to make coiled Tsoureki rolls and the pictures in the post).
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes, until it gets slightly puffy.
  • Fill a small glass baking dish with 1-2 cups of hot water and place it on the lowest rack in the oven. 

Make the egg wash

  • In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and water together until just combined.
  • Gently brush the tops with the egg wash. Make sure not to poke the dough with the brush, otherwise, you might deflate it and it won’t come out as fluffy.
  • Sprinkle with the almond slices.
  • Place the bread on the rack above the dish with the hot water. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until it’s a deep golden brown.
  • When it’s done, let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.
  • It can be stored at room temperature for about 3-5 days. Make sure it has cooled completely first and then wrap it in plastic wrap and then a freezer bag or an airtight container. 
  • Enjoy!

Notes

HOW TO MAKE COILED TSOUREKI ROLLS

Cut the dough in half (I like to weigh it first) and then cut each half into 4 even pieces and form balls. 
Roll out 2 balls into 2 long ropes, about 15 inches (38 cm) long and place them side by side (vertically).
Take a rope and go over and under the other rope.
Continue twisting (going over and under) until you reach the bottom and then pinch the ends together and tuck them under.
Starting at one end, start rolling into a spiral. Continue rolling and then pinch the end and tuck it under.
Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and place on the prepared baking sheet. 

FREEZING OPTIONS

Tsoureki can be frozen for up to 2 months. You can either freeze individual slices or the whole loaf. Just make sure the bread has cooled completely. Then wrap in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bag. To thaw, just put it in the refrigerator overnight, or let it thaw on the kitchen counter without removing the wrapping.
 © Pastry Wishes

 

 

Traditional Greek Custard Pie Galaktoboureko (Easy + Tips)

If you’re a custard lover, you’ll definitely love this traditional Greek dessert! Galaktoboureko is a creamy vanilla custard pie that’s encased in crispy phyllo dough and drenched in a delicious, flavored syrup. 

traditional greek custard pie galaktoboureko on a plate and in a pan on a white countertop with cinnamon sticks and dried roses

Galaktoboureko (pronounced ga-la-kto-BOU-re-ko) is one of the most popular of all Greek pastries! This dessert is not only popular in Greece! You will also find variations of it in Turkey and Syria, too!

What Galaktoboureko tastes like

It’s basically a velvety custard baked in layers and layers of buttery, crunchy phyllo dough and topped with syrup. The vanilla custard is similar to pastry cream and it’s not “eggy” at all. Despite the amount of aromatic syrup, I find it tastes lighter than most other traditional Greek desserts.

The recipe in this post is a slightly adapted one by Stelios Parliaros, a very famous Greek pastry chef. Stelios Parliaros is one of my favorite pastry chefs! He’s an absolute culinary genius! He has many different recipes for Galaktoboureko, but this one is my favorite! I’ve been making it for many years and it’s practically foolproof! It’s a family favorite and it has never let me down!

WHAT MAKES THIS RECIPE STAND OUT FROM TRADITIONAL ONES

There are 3 main things that makes this recipe unique:

  1. There is NO semolina flour in it! Traditional Greek Galaktoboureko is made with semolina flour, which is a coarse flour made from durum wheat. To me, semolina flour makes the custard too grainy. So, for this recipe, I don’t use any semolina flour at all!  As a result, it’s a whole lot EASIER to make and the custard has a really smooth, creamy texture.
  2. This recipe uses vanilla bean powder instead of vanilla essence. You can still make a wonderful Galaktoboureko with vanilla essence, but I find that vanilla bean powder gives it a more intense vanilla flavor, which is amazing! If you want, you could scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean. I also love all those tiny black specks of vanilla. For me, vanilla bean powder is a lot more convenient and much easier to use, so it has become a staple in my kitchen! I use it for Vanilla no churn ice cream and vanilla sugar.
  3. This recipe WORKS! Even if you’ve never made Galaktoboureko before, you can easily follow my steps, picture tutorials and tips and still feel confident enough to make this amazing Greek dessert! It’s definitely worth the time and effort!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do you store Galaktoboureko?

It’s best served at room temperature, preferably on the same day it was made. If you want to keep it longer than that, you can refrigerate it for up to 4-5 days.

How long does it last in the refrigerator?

You can keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but keep in mind that the phyllo won’t be as crunchy. 

How do you keep it crispy?

The best way is NOT to put it in the fridge at all! Refrigeration will soften the phyllo dough. So, if you like it crispy, I suggest eating it on the same day it’s made.

Can you reheat it ?

Although most people I know enjoy it at room temperature or straight out of the fridge, you could reheat it in the microwave a bit if you prefer.

Can it be frozen?

I’ve never tried freezing it before as I think it will get too soggy and fall apart. I never needed to freeze it, either, because it’s usually gone within 2 or 3 days!

What you’ll need to make Galaktoboureko:

Eggs & egg yolks

Butter 

Cornstarch

Sugar

Vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract

Milk & heavy cream

1 package phyllo dough

lemon juice

1 cinnamon stick 

TIPS FOR LAYERING THE PHYLLO DOUGH SHEETS & ASSEMBLING THE DESSERT

As with all desserts made with phyllo dough, you have to work fast because the phyllo will dry out quickly. Once you remove the sheets from the package, cover them with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. 

Begin layering by putting a sheet of phyllo dough in the pan so that it fits nice and snug in a corner of the pan, while the remaining sheet extends and hangs over the other sides of the pan. After that, drizzle with butter so it won’t dry out. Continue layering this way, moving clockwise, so that by the time you add all the sheets, all the sides of the pan will have overlapping sheets of phyllo dough. 

When there are no more sheets left, you add the filling and even it out. Then you fold over the sheets, one at a time and buttering each one. 

The reason I layer the sheets this way is to ensure that the filling won’t ooze out while it’s baking. 

Also, don’t worry if the phyllo dough tears a bit as you’re layering, it won’t make any difference after it’s baked. Just make sure to butter the sheets well.

WHAT SIZE PAN TO USE

The great thing about this recipe is that you don’t really have to worry about pan sizes. This dessert can be made in just about any pan, square, rectangle or round! You could even use a lasagna dish! The only thing you need to remember is that the smaller your pan, the thicker the dessert will be.

For the pictures in this post, I used a 10 x 12 inch (25 X 30 cm) pan, so the pieces were quite thick – about 2.5 inches (6.3 cm)! If I were to use a bigger pan, the dessert would be much thinner, of course. So, it’s really a matter of preference. 

HOW TO MAKE TRADITIONAL GREEK CUSTARD PIE – GALAKTOBOUREKO 

galaktoboureko steps 10

STEP 1

heat the milk, cream, vanilla bean powder & 2 tablespoons of sugar

STEP 2

in a bowl, whisk the remaining sugar & cornstarch with the egg yolks & whole eggs

STEP 3

pour some of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture & whisk to combine

STEP 4

pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the cream & whisk on medium heat until it thickens

STEP 5

place a sheet of phyllo in the pan letting it hang over the other sides (left side & top) – butter it well

STEP 6

add another sheet (let it hang over top & right side) & gently press it in the corners & sides – continue moving clockwise with the remaining sheets so they overhang on all sides of the pan

STEPS 7 & 8

now that the sheets are hanging over all the sides of the pan, add the filling & then fold all the sheets over it – butter each sheet well

STEP 9

score the top & bake

STEP 10

when done, remove from the oven & pour the cold syrup evenly over it

TIPS FOR THE BEST GALAKTOBOUREKO

  • Use good quality butter and phyllo dough.
  • Don’t skimp on the butter. Phyllo dough should be very well-buttered, so you’ll need all the butter that’s listed!
  • The lemon juice in the syrup helps prevent crystals from forming. If crystals form in the syrup, they can make the syrup grainy, so lemon juice helps avoid that.
  • You will need to pour the cold syrup on the dessert as soon as it comes out of the oven. If you want, you could make the syrup a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator.
  • You shouldn’t overcook the filling since it will be in the oven for at least an hour. Take it off the heat as soon as it thickens.
  • As soon as the filling has thickened, take it off the heat and place some plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a crust from forming. Then let it cool slightly before pouring it in the prepared pan.
  • You will need to bake this dessert for 60-80 minutes. However, ovens vary. I suggest checking on it after an hour. It’s ready when the phyllo turns a nice golden brown color, as shown in the pictures.
  • I find it’s best to score the top before baking as it will allow the sheets to bake more evenly that way. It also makes it easier to cut into pieces when it’s done.
  • Don’t add the syrup all at once. Add a ladle at a time and wait awhile for the dessert to absorb it before adding more.
  • The amount of syrup for this dessert is what’s traditionally used and the sweetness is not overpowering. However, if you prefer less syrup, I suggest pouring a little syrup over the dessert. Then wait for it to be absorbed and taste it to see if you want more syrup or not.
  • After the syrup is added, let the Galaktoboureko sit for about an hour before serving. This will give it plenty of time to absorb the syrup and develop the flavors. Also, it won’t fall apart because it will have time to solidify a bit as it cools.
  • This dessert is best eaten the day it’s made. If you refrigerate it, the phyllo dough will soften and lose its crunchiness, but it’ll still taste great.

a close-up of a piece of galaktoboureko on a plate with a pan in the background

VARIATIONS

You can flavor the syrup for a richer or distinctive flavor. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add a shot of cognac or Grand Marnier.
  • Add a teaspoon of rosewater for a more exotic flavor, just make sure it’s food grade.
  • Add a lemon or orange peel for a nice, citrus overtone.

traditional greek custard pie galaktoboureko on a plate and in a pan on a white countertop with cinnamon sticks and dried roses

MORE GREEK RECIPES!

 

Let me know how this Galaktoboureko turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

~Voula 

 

Traditional Greek Custard Pie Galaktoboureko (Easy + Tips)

If you’re a custard lover, you’ll definitely love this traditional Greek dessert! Galaktoboureko is a creamy vanilla custard pie that’s encased in crispy phyllo dough and drenched in a delicious, flavored syrup. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Greek, vanilla, custard, phyllo dough, galaktoboureko, syrup dessert
Servings: 8 large or 16 small pieces

Ingredients

For the syrup

  • 2 ½ cups (500 g) white sugar
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (300 ml) water
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick

For the vanilla custard filling

  • 2 ¾ cups (700 ml) milk 
  • 1 ¼ cup (300 ml) heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla bean powder OR 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (160 g / 5.6 oz) sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (80 g / 2.8 oz) cornstarch

For assembling the pie

  • 1 package phyllo dough (about 12-14 sheets), thawed
  • 1 cup (250 g) butter, melted 

Instructions

Make the syrup

  • Put all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for EXACTLY 4 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside.

Make the vanilla custard filling

  • In a small saucepan, heat the milk, cream, vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Whisk on medium heat to combine, but don't bring to a boil.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, cornstarch, whole eggs and egg yolks. 
  • Pour some of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
  • Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the cream and and whisk on medium heat until it thickens, about 2-4 minutes. When it thickens, take it off the heat and place some plastic wrap on the surface to prevent crusting.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F / 165°C.

Assemble the pie

  • Generously butter your pan.
  • Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan letting it hang over the other sides (left side and top).  Butter the sheet well.
  • Add another sheet and let it hang over the top and right side of the pan. Gently press it in the corners and sides. Butter it well.
  • Continue moving clockwise with the remaining sheets so that you end up with sheets overhanging on all sides of the pan. 
  • When there are no more sheets left, add the filling and even it out. 
  • Fold the sheets over the filling, one at a time, and butter each one well.
  • Score the top of the pie.
  • Bake for 60-80 minutes, until it's golden brown.
  • When done, remove from the oven and pour the cold syrup evenly over it. Don’t add the syrup all at once. Add a ladle at a time and wait a bit for the dessert to absorb it before adding more*.
  • Let the dessert sit for about an hour before serving. 
  • This dessert is best eaten the day it’s made. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days**.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

*The amount of syrup for this dessert is what’s traditionally used and the sweetness is not overpowering. However, if you prefer less syrup, I suggest pouring a little syrup over the dessert. Then wait for it to be absorbed and taste it to see if you want more syrup or not.
**When refrigerated, the phyllo dough will soften and lose its crunchiness, but it’ll still taste great.
© Pastry Wishes

Greek Style Gingerbread Cookies (NO CHILL, NO SPREAD)

Mavrodaphne wine adds a Greek twist to an all-time favorite Christmas cookie! These gingerbread cookies are slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy inside. They are easy to make and hold their shape perfectly. This recipe is also a real time-saver because you don’t need to chill the dough! 

greek gingerbread cookies on a wooden tray surrounded by christmas decorations on a red satin cloth

Nothing says Christmas like gingerbread cookies! I make them together with the traditional Greek christmas cookies, Melomakarona and Kourabiedes. They also make really nice gifts, too, because they keep so well!

This year, though, I wanted to experiment and make something we could also have during the Orthodox Christian Nativity fast, which is mostly vegan. So, this recipe is vegan, although you could adapt it for non-vegans, as well. For example, you could use regular butter instead of vegan butter/margarine, or regular milk instead of vegan/plant-based milk.

I introduced a Greek flavor to this recipe by adding some Mavrodaphne wine. In my opinion, the result is extraordinary! 

Mavrodaphne wine gives these cookies a beautiful subtle flavor. It really pairs well with the spices, too! It’s a unique flavor combination!

grek gingerbread cookies on a plate with a candy cane and candle in the background

WHAT MAKES THIS RECIPE STAND OUT FROM TRADITIONAL ONES:

  • NO CHILLING REQUIRED! Unlike classic gingerbread cookie recipes where you need to chill the dough, this recipe is pretty quick and convenient because you don’t have to do that. Just roll it out, cut out the cookies and bake! It’s a HUGE timesaver! How many of us actually have a couple of hours to spare to wait for the dough to chill??
  • You don’t need a stand mixer OR a hand mixer! No creaming the butter and sugar here! You just fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones! It really couldn’t be any easier than that!
  • You don’t have to flour your work surface or rolling pin! Just roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper. No extra flour, no mess, no fuss! This also makes cleanup a breeze! 
  • Amazing dough! The dough is a DREAM to work with! It doesn’t even crack while you roll it out (*check out the picture tutorial below)!
  • The cookies DO NOT spread! The cookies really hold their shape well. They don’t really puff up or spread at all. I took pictures of the cookies before and after I baked them. As you can see, there’s not much of a difference – they really maintained their shape! Check out the photos below!

greek gingerbread cookies on tray before and after baking

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is Mavrodaphne wine?

Mavrodaphne wine is a traditional Greek wine. It’s sweet and dark brownish red in color. It’s also known as a dessert wine, similar to Port. It’s most commonly made from a dark grape variety from the Peloponnese, an area in Greece that is famous for its wine-making since ancient times. It is an excellent aperitif, but it’s also used in cooking and baking today.

What does Mavrodaphne wine taste like?

Mavrodaphne wine has a unique exotic aroma and flavor. It’s rich and sweet with subtle hints of caramelized raisins.

Can I omit the wine?

Of course! If you don’t want any alcohol, you could easily replace the Mavrodaphne wine with regular milk or a plant-based, non-dairy milk for a vegan option.

What’s a good substitute for molasses?

If you don’t have molasses, you could replace it with equal amounts of good-quality honey. The taste will be different, though, as molasses has a very distinct flavor. I’ve made these cookies with honey and they were much lighter in flavor, but I much prefer them made with molasses! Molasses and Mavrodaphne wine really compliment each other!

Can I freeze the dough?

Yes! Just wrap the dough in some plastic wrap and then put it in a freezer-safe container. You can freeze the dough for about a month.

Can I make these cookies crunchy?

Sure! There are 2 ways to get crunchier cookies. You could either roll the dough really thin before cutting them out and baking them. Or, you can bake them a few minutes longer.

How long will these cookies stay fresh?

These cookies will last for about 2 ½ weeks in an airtight container.

How do you store these cookies?

I store them in an airtight container. You could also put a small piece of parchment paper between each cookie to prevent them from sticking together.

Can I freeze these  cookies?

Yes! I always freeze my cookies undecorated. I wrap each cookie in plastic wrap and then I put them in a freezer-safe container. You can store them in the freezer for a couple of months.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Flour: I  use all-purpose flour. 
  • Margarine: I always use block margarine, not the spreadable tub kind because there’s too much moisture in it. Margarine makes the dough really pliable. If you want, you could use vegan butter or regular butter.
  • Mavrodaphne wine : This is the secret ingredient! If you don’t have it, you could omit it from the recipe, but it will have a different flavor. I’ve tried it with and without the Mavrodaphne wine and it’s still delicious, but the Mavrodaphne wine really gives it a richer flavor!
  • Spices: I use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, of course!
  • Sweeteners: I use molasses and dark brown sugar.
  • Salt: I use a little to boost the flavors.
  • For the Eggless Icing I use powdered sugar, cornstarch, and some milk.

5 IMPORTANT SUPER TIPS! 

SUPER TIP #1: MAKING THE DOUGH 

In the recipe, I started off with 2 ½ cups flour and ended up adding ½ cup more to get the right consistency. You should just add enough flour, a little at a time, until it comes together and doesn’t stick to your hands. This dough should be thick enough to pick up and hold in your hand (see the picture tutorial below). 

SUPER TIP #2: PREP YOUR COOKIE CUTTERS 

Have a small bowl of flour nearby and dip each cookie cutter in it before placing it on the dough to cut out shapes. This will help prevent any dough from sticking to the cookie cutters.

SUPER TIP #3: HOW TO MAKE USE OF AS MUCH DOUGH AS POSSIBLE

Whenever I make these cookies (or any cut out cookies), I need to use up as much dough as I possibly can, because I don’t want to roll it out too many times, as this would risk overworking the dough. If you overwork the dough, it can make the cookies tough and hard.

Here’s what I do to avoid this:

After I roll out the dough, I place my cookie cutters as close together as I can. That way I make use of as much dough as possible because I have fewer scraps to re-roll.

SUPER TIP #4: HOW TO PREVENT THE COOKIES FROM SPREADING WHILE BAKING

I don’t use any baking powder or baking soda in this recipe, so they aren’t very light and airy. However, I found that omitting the leaveners made a stronger cookie – perfect for packing and shipping them without sacrificing the flavor.

SUPER TIP #5: HOW TO PREVENT THE COOKIES FROM LOSING THEIR SHAPE WHEN TRANSFERRING THEM TO A BAKING SHEET

Here’s a trick I do that keeps the cookies from falling apart or getting misshapen when I transfer them onto a baking sheet! It’s really simple! 

First, cut some parchment paper the same size as your baking sheet.

Place your dough on top of the parchment paper and then place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough. If you want, you could use plastic wrap on top, instead.

Roll out the dough to your desired thickness.

Then LIFT OR SLIDE the entire sheet of parchment paper onto your baking sheet.

Remove the top parchment paper & cut out your shapes with your cookie cutters.

Then carefully remove all the scraps.

Voila! 

This trick is perfect for whenever you’re making really intricate cookies, too, because you don’t touch the cookies at all!

HOW TO MAKE THESE GREEK STYLE GINGERBREAD COOKIES

greekgingerbreadcookiessteps1-3

greekgingerbreadcookiessteps4-5

ABOUT THIS EGGLESS ICING

This eggless icing isn’t runny like a glaze, it’s much, much thicker.

The reason why I wanted to make it thick is because I wanted to make detailed designs on the cookies, like I would with royal icing. However, whenever I made regular glazes (which are great to use in squeeze bottles), the design would often spread on the cookie. 

This was never a big deal for me when I made really big cookies, but for smaller ones, I could never get the intricate details I wanted and I didn’t want to make traditional royal icing because it uses egg whites.

So, after a lot of experimenting, I came up with this eggless, vegan icing. 

One thing to keep in mind with this icing is that it’s really thick. As a result, it doesn’t spread on the cookie and the design dries hard. The consistency needs to be so thick that it won’t come off the spoon unless you shake it off! 

Then you can use a pastry bag to decorate the cookies. I used a Wilton tip #4 for the cookies in the pictures.

Here’s a picture tutorial:

HOW TO MAKE EGGLESS ICING

eggless icing four steps

MORE TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • The size of the cookies will affect the overall baking time. Smaller cookies will need less time as opposed to larger ones.
  • Don’t bake them longer than 10 minutes unless you want really crunchy cookies. The cookies will harden as they cool on the baking sheet.
  • The egg free icing can be colored. I would suggest using a thick gel paste, so it doesn’t affect the consistency of the icing. I use Wilton gel food coloring. You only need a really tiny amount. Start off with a small amount using a toothpick.

greek gingerbread cookies on a wooden table with some kitchen twine

MORE CHRISTMAS RECIPES!

Let me know how these Greek style gingerbread cookies turn out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

Have a Merry Christmas!

~Voula

Greek Style Gingerbread Cookies (NO CHILL, NO SPREAD)

Mavrodaphne wine adds a Greek twist to an all-time favorite Christmas cookie! These gingerbread cookies are slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy inside. They are easy to make and hold their shape perfectly. This recipe is also a real time-saver because you don’t need to chill the dough! 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, Greek
Keyword: greek, gingerbread, vegan, cookies, Christmas, holidays, mavrodaphne wine, eggles icing, icing
Servings: 30 cookies, approximately*

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 2 ½ cups (254 g / 9 oz) all purpose flour (+ up to ½ cup more if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½  teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼  teaspoon salt
  • ½ cups (113 g / 4 oz) block margarine (not spreadable kind)  
  • ¾ cup (150 g / 5.3 oz) packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons / 2 fl oz) mavrodaphne wine

For the eggless icing

  • ½ cup (60 g / 2.1 oz) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1-2 teaspoons vegan/plant-based milk

Instructions

For the cookies

  • In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt and spices together. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan, add the margarine, sugar, molasses and wine and whisk everything together over low heat until the margarine melts and the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones (I start byusing a spatula & then I use my hands). If the mixture is too wet, add more flour, about ¼ cup at a time, until it comes together and doesn’t stick to your hands. You may need up to ½ cup more to get the right consistency. The dough should be just stiff enough to pick up and hold in your hand (see the picture tutorial in the post). Don’t overwork the dough.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F / 180° C.
  • Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out to your desired thickness (I roll out mine about ¼ inch / 0.5 cm thick).
  • Then lift or slide the entire sheet of parchment paper onto your baking sheet.
  • Dip your cookie cutter in some flour.
  • Remove the top parchment paper and cut out different shapes as close as possible.
  • Carefully remove all the dough scraps.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes.
  • Allow cookies to cool completely before decorating with icing.

For the eggless icing

  • Mix the powdered sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl.
  • Stir in the milk, a FEW DROPS at a time, until it’s smooth, but thick. Use the back of the spoon to remove any lumps. If necessary, add more milk or powdered sugar to get the right consistency. If you accidentally add too much milk, just add more powdered sugar. The consistency is perfect when the icing doesn’t fall off the spoon unless you shake it off (see the picture tutorial in the post).
  • Put the icing in a pastry bag fitted with a tip and decorate.
  • Allow the icing to dry, about 1 ½ - 2 hours.
  • Store the cookies in an airtight container for about 2 ½ weeks.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • The number of cookies will depend on the size of your cookie cutters.
  • If you bake these cookies longer than 10 minutes, they become harder and crunchier.
  • The cookies harden as they cool on the baking sheet. 
Freezing Options
  • The dough can be frozen for up to a month. Just wrap it in some plastic wrap and then put it in a freezer-safe container. 
  • Undecorated cookies can be frozen for a couple of months. Just wrap each cookie in plastic wrap and then put them in a freezer-safe container. 
© Pastry Wishes
Adapted from  https://www.hotforfoodblog.com/recipes/2014/11/06/gingerbread-snowflakes/

Easy Egg-free Chocolate Salami – Greek Kormos/Mosaiko (No-bake + Vegan Option)

Chocolate and salami together? Well, there’s no actual salami in this recipe, it just looks like salami! It’s a delicious combination of chocolate, cookies, and nuts! It’s so easy to whip up and it would also make a nice gift!

chocolate salami covered in powdered sugar and cut with two slices

I often make chocolate salami at different times during the year and it’s a great accompaniment for coffee or on its own. It’s an easy, egg-free no-bake dessert made with crushed cookies, chocolate and nuts.

There are lots of different versions of chocolate salami all around the world. It’s very popular here in Greece, too. It’s called kor-MOS, which means a tree log. It’s also called mo-sa-ee-KO, which means mosaic, because of the design inside.

What I love most about this recipe:

You only need a few ingredients.

It’s super simple to make.

It’s adaptable.

It’s a no-bake dessert.

It’s egg-free.

It lasts for up to 2 weeks in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.

There’s a vegan option.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What kind of chocolate can I use?

I use couverture chocolate, which is just perfect for baking. I think it produces the best texture and flavor for this recipe. You could use good quality bittersweet chocolate, too.

What kind of cookies can I use?

You can use your favorite plain cookies, like vanilla wafers, graham crackers or tea biscuits. If you don’t use plain cookies, you won’t get the same “salami” look inside.

How do you store chocolate salami?

You can store this chocolate salami in the refrigerator or the freezer. I like to have some in the freezer for unexpected guests.

To freeze, wrap it well in plastic wrap and then put it in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Then slice it and allow it to soften up a bit at room temperature. Or, you can put it in the refrigerator a day before to thaw.

How long does chocolate salami last?

Chocolate salami keeps really well in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just make sure it’s in an airtight container.

chocolate salami sliced and wrapped in kitchen twine

ADD-INS & ADAPTATIONS

  • There are lots of different things you could add, although I don’t usually go overboard with a lot of add-ins, because I want more of a chocolate flavor. Pistachio nuts adds some color and a savory touch. You could also add caramelized nuts or even crushed pretzels. Dried fruit, like cranberries, raisins would be nice, too. Feel free to add whatever you like – this recipe is very adaptable!
  • Instead of cognac or brandy, you could use whiskey, or rum. The touch of alcohol really brings out the overall flavor, but you could omit it if you don’t drink alcohol.

VEGAN OPTION

For a vegan option, just replace the butter with vegan butter or margarine and the milk with a non-dairy vegan milk alternative.

HOW TO MAKE EASY EGG-FREE CHOCOLATE SALAMI – GREEK KORMOS/MOSAIKOhow to make chocolate salami in six steps

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • Most recipes require placing the salami in the refrigerator for hours (or even overnight) to firm up and harden, but I found that freezing it is MUCH faster.
  • When the salami has set, it’s usually flat on the bottom. Some people don’t mind this, but I like making a perfectly round log shape, especially if I’m going to give it as a gift. To do this, I simply re-roll it after it has set and then put it in the fridge for a few minutes before removing the plastic wrap and rubbing it with powdered sugar.
  • Make sure it’s stored in an airtight container so it doesn’t absorb other smells in the fridge or freezer.

MORE NO-BAKE DESSERTS!

Let me know how this Easy Egg-free Chocolate Salami turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

 

chocolate salami sliced and wrapped in kitchen twine
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Easy Egg-free Chocolate Salami – Greek Kormos/Mosaiko (No-bake + Vegan Option)

Chocolate and salami together? Well, there’s no actual salami in this recipe, it just looks like salami! It’s a delicious combination of chocolate, cookies, and nuts! It’s so easy to whip up and it would also make a nice gift!
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: chocolate, no-bake, easy, dessert, kormos, mosaiko, egg-free, vegan option
Servings: 10 -12

Ingredients

  • 8.8 oz / 250 g bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I use couverture chocolate)
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter
  • 7 oz / 200 g plain vanilla cookies, coursely crushed
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 oz / 56 g walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cognac/brandy (optional)
  • a pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar (for the coating)

Instructions

  • Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pot of just simmering water. Stir until they've melted.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients except for the powdered sugar. Mix until well combined.
  • Spread the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log. Fold the plastic wrap over and shape like candy by rolling it back and forth a few times. Tie the ends.
  • Put it in the freezer for an hour to firm up. When it sets, the bottom is slightly flat. Take it out of the freezer and roll it again to make it all round.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and rub it with the powdered sugar. For an authentic salami look, wrap it with kitchen twine.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

You can store this chocolate salami in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or the freezer for up to 2 months.
To freeze, wrap it well in plastic wrap and then put it in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Then slice it and allow it to soften up a bit at room temperature. Or, you can put it in the refrigerator a day before to thaw.
© Pastry Wishes

 

Greek Pumpkin Hand Pies – Kolokithopita (Vegan, No Mixer)

These Greek pumpkin hand pies are made with fresh pumpkin and shaped into pretty spirals. They’re vegan and they don’t require a mixer! 

greek pumpkin hand pie on a plate with cinnamon sticks and a pumpkin

Pumpkin season is officially here! I absolutely love pumpkin desserts and these Greek pumpkin hand pies are amazing! 

This recipe has been in our family for generations and has been handed down to me from my Yiayia (Grandma). It’s a traditional Greek pumpkin pie recipe, but instead of making one large pie, I adapted it and made hand pies. If you’re a pumpkin lover, you should definitely give this recipe a try!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is kolokithopita?

The name is a real tongue twister:  ko-lo-kee-THO-pee-ta!

The word kolokithi has different meanings in Greek. It can mean squash, zucchini (or courgette for my British friends), or pumpkin. Generally speaking, any variety of pumpkin or squash is called a kolokithi in Greece! Pita means pie and together you get kolokithopita, pumpkin pie (or kolokithopites in the plural form)!

 

Greek pumpkin hand pie on a plate with pumpkin, leaves and kitchen towel

What’s in Greek pumpkin pie?

In Greece, there are both sweet and savory versions of pumpkin pie. The savory ones often have feta cheese in them. This recipe is a sweet vegan pumpkin pie with sugar and spices. It’s very popular this time of year in Greece. 

What kind of pumpkin is used for kolokithopita?

Most parts of Greece traditionally make it with butternut squash, but other pumpkin varieties are used, as well.

For this recipe I use a tan skinned pumpkin, which is similar to the Buckskin variety in the States. You could use any sweet pumpkin or pie pumpkin. Butternut squash would be great, too.

Why squeeze freshly grated pumpkin?

Pumpkins and squash have a high water content. In order to avoid soggy pies, traditional Greek recipes usually include one of 3 methods to remove the excess water.

One method involves adding rice, breadcrumbs, or semolina flour to the filling. This helps absorb any extra liquid from the pumpkin.

Another method is to put the shredded pumpkin in a skillet  and cook it for a few minutes. This helps evaporate the excess water.

The third method is to squeeze out the liquid by hand.

I have tried all 3 methods and I found squeezing the liquid out by hand is the best one. It’s A LOT quicker than cooking it in a skillet! Plus, I don’t need to add any rice, breadcrumbs, or flour, which could affect the texture and overall flavor of the pie!

Can I make one large pie instead of hand pies?

Sure! Just double my recipe first and bake it in a bigger pan. The only thing you need to be careful of is the phyllo dough.

There are two ways to use the phyllo dough for a large pie:

  1. Put half of the phyllo dough sheets on the bottom, then add the filling, and then top with the remaining dough sheets. Just remember to drizzle each sheet with oil before adding the next one. 
  2. Place all the phyllo dough sheets in a pan, one at a time, drizzling each with oil, until they finish and then add the filling. After that, just fold all the overhanging sheets of dough on top! Then brush the pie with oil and cut it into pieces (but not all the way through) before baking.

What do you need to make Greek pumpkin hand pies?

There are only a few ingredients in these Greek pumpkin hand pies! And no mixer required!!

Here’s what you need:

  • Phyllo dough – I only use 7 sheets of phyllo dough, one per pie. 
  • Pumpkin or butternut squash, grated & squeezed – It only took me about 10 minutes to grate the pumpkin & 1-2 minutes more to squeeze out the liquid!
  • Olive oil – I use olive oil to grease the baking pan and the phyllo dough sheets.
  • Sugar – I use regular white sugar for the filling, but you can use brown sugar, if you want, or a combination of both. I also use powdered sugar for dusting before serving.
  • Spices – I use a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves.

That’s it!

HOW TO MAKE GREEK PUMPKIN HAND PIES – KOLOKITHOPITA

They may look complicated, but they are really simple to make.

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial:

Kolokithopita Greek pumpkin hand pies steps 1-4

Kolokithopita Greek pumpkin hand pies steps 5-8

Kolokithopita Greek pumpkin hand pies steps 9-11

STEP 1

Cut the top off and peel it all around.

STEP 2

Cut in half and scrape out the seeds and the stringy part with a spoon.

STEP 3

Cut a piece and grate it.

STEP 4

Put the grated pumpkin in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out all the excess liquid.

STEP 5

Put the shredded pumpkin in a bowl.

Add the sugar and spices and mix with a spoon.

STEP 6

Place a sheet of phyllo dough on a work surface (with the long edge facing you) and drizzle it with oil.

STEP 7

Spread 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin filling lengthwise, starting about 2 inches (5 cm) from the bottom and sides.

STEP 8

Fold the left and right edge of the phyllo dough over the filling.

STEP 9

Fold over the bottom part of the phyllo dough.

STEP 10

Roll into a log, starting from the bottom.

STEP 11

Starting at one end, loosely roll into a spiral and brush with oil.

 

 

 

VARIATIONS & ADD-INS

  • You could add chopped walnuts, sesame seeds, and/or raisins in the filling.
  • Soaking the raisins in some cognac or brandy adds additional flavor. Just make sure to drain them before adding them to the filling.
  • After it’s cooled, I like to dust it with powdered sugar and sprinkle it with some cinnamon before serving.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • Use a clean kitchen towel to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Any excess water can make the hand pies soggy.
  • When you add the sugar and spices to the shredded pumpkin, you’ll notice some liquid remains in the bottom of the bowl. Discard this liquid or put the filling in a a fine mesh strainer before making the hand pies.
  • Make sure the phyllo dough sheets are covered with a damp towel so that they don’t dry out while you’re making the hand pies. Try and work as quickly as you can because the phyllo dough can dry out fast!
  • Don’t coil the pies too tightly, otherwise the centers won’t bake evenly.
  • Whenever I bake with phyllo dough, I don’t usually line my pan with parchment paper; I just oil it with olive oil. If you want to make cleanup easier, though, you could line your pan with parchment paper before baking.
  • The baking time will depend on how much moisture is in your pumpkin. It usually takes around 50 minutes, but it could take up to an hour and ten minutes. Keep an eye on it after 45 minutes.

I hope you enjoy it!

~Voula

greek pumpkin hand pies, one on a plate and one in a hand with pumpkin and leaves

MORE GREEK DESSERTS!

Let me know how these Greek Pumpkin Hand Pies turn out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

Greek Pumpkin Hand Pies - Kolokithopita (Vegan, No Mixer)

These Greek pumpkin hand pies are made with fresh pumpkin and shaped into pretty spirals. They're vegan and they don’t require a mixer! 
Prep Time12 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 12 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: greek, pumpkin, pie, vegan, no mixer, sweet
Servings: 7

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups (14 oz / 400 g) freshly grated pumpkin, squeezed to remove excess water
  • 7 phyllo dough sheets (about 8 oz / 225 g)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • ¼ cup (60 g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • powdered sugar and ground cinnamon for dusting (optional)

Instructions

  • Generously grease a pan with olive oil. Alternatively, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease it with olive oil. Set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C / 350 °F.
  • Put the shredded pumpkin in a bowl.
  • Add the sugar and the spices and mix with a spoon until everything is combined. Discard any liquid that remains in the bowl or put the filling in a a fine mesh strainer.
  • Place a sheet of phyllo dough on a work surface (the long edge facing you) and drizzle with some olive oil. Cover the other sheets with a damp towel so that they don’t dry out.
  • Spread 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin filling lengthwise, starting about 2 inches (5 cm) from the bottom and the sides.
  • Fold the left and right edge of the phyllo dough over the filling.
  • Fold over the bottom part of the phyllo dough and roll into a log, starting from the bottom.
  • Starting at one end, loosely roll the log into a spiral.
  • Place the hand pie in the baking pan and brush with olive oil.
  • Repeat with the remaining 6 sheets and filling.
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Use a clean kitchen towel to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Any excess water can make the hand pies soggy.
  • Try and work as quickly as you can because the phyllo dough can dry out fast!
  • Don’t coil the pies too tightly, otherwise the centers won’t bake evenly.
  • Whenever I bake with phyllo dough, I don’t usually line my pan with parchment paper; I just oil it with olive oil. If you want to make cleanup easier, though, you could line your pan with parchment paper before baking.
  • The baking time will depend on how much moisture is in your pumpkin. It usually takes around 50 minutes, but it could take up to an hour and ten minutes. Keep an eye on it after 45 minutes.
© Pastry Wishes

Easy Honey-baked Figs

Impress your guests with this delicious, light dessert that you can make in less than an hour. These easy, honey-baked figs are a classy way to end a meal. 

baked figs with Greek yogurt

I love perfectly ripe fresh figs! Not only do they taste great, but they are nutritional powerhouses, too –  high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals!

Luckily, here in Greece, there are plenty of figs and lots of different varieties. The most popular ones are green and black.

For this recipe, I used a variety called Vasilika, or Royal figs. They’re dark purple, but some have green and pale yellow streaks, too. I like them because they’re a bit sweeter than the green ones. You can use any variety, really, as long as they’re fresh.

These honey-baked figs are divine and so EASY to make! You only need 5 ingredients!  

Whenever I have fresh figs, I usually make jam, but this year, I wanted to develop a new recipe. I decided to infuse different flavors together and bake them. I was really surprised with the outcome! 

I serve them over Greek yogurt (pictured in this post). They look so elegant with the flower-like shape! Perfect for a dinner party!

Aaaaaand, they’re absolutely AMAZING with vanilla ice cream (just about everything is, right?). Of course, they’re great on their own, too!

baked figs with greek yogurt

What do these honey-baked figs taste like?

I would say the taste is a combination of honey and jam, but with a mild, sweet flavor and a hint of nuttiness. The spices, honey, and cognac really enhance the delicate flavors of the fruit. The brown sugar adds a subtle caramel flavor that compliments the figs really well and gently caramelizes them. When you take them out of the oven, there’s a gorgeous red syrup in the baking dish – so good!

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE EASY HONEY-BAKED FIGS

Fresh figs – Any variety will do.

Honey – For this recipe, I used Greek flower honey. For a vegan alternative, use maple syrup, instead. 

Dark brown sugar – Perfect for a nice caramel undertone.

Spices – I use cinnamon and nutmeg.

Cognac/Brandy – It adds a nice aroma and really captures the overall flavor without being boozy. Instead of cognac or brandy, you could add a sweet wine, like Mavrodafni. 

HOW TO MAKE EASY HONEY-BAKED FIGS

They are really simple to make. Here’s what to do:

baked figs steps

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • You can use any variety of fresh figs, but I find the darker ones are better for this recipe, especially when they are ripe.
  • When you cut the figs, make sure you don’t cut all the way through. That way they keep their pretty flower shape after baking.
  • Use a small baking pan so that the figs are close together and hold their shape. I used a 9 x 6.5 inch / 23 x 16.5 cm pan.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

IDEAS FOR SERVING HONEY-BAKED FIGS

Here are a few ideas you may want to try:

  • Serve them just as they are! If you’re a fig lover, you will really like them on their own, especially with some walnuts. 
  • With Greek yogurt. The tanginess of the yogurt really pairs well with the syrup and the fruit. If you’re entertaining, this would make a very impressive dessert, too!
  • With vanilla ice cream. OMG! A remarkable combination!
  • Over oatmeal. This would make a nice breakfast.
  • With bread. You could have them over slices of sourdough bread as a snack or appetizer.
  • With cheese. Add them to your cheese board for a Mediterranian twist! In Greece, they’re sometimes served on top of Greek gruyere cheese or goat cheese. 

Enjoy!

MORE DESSERTS WITH 5 INGREDIENTS OR LESS!

Let me know how these honey-baked figs turn out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

~Voula

baked figs with greek yogurt
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Easy Honey-baked Figs

Impress your guests with this delicious, light dessert that you can make in less than an hour. These easy, honey-baked figs are a classy way to end a meal. 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, Greek
Keyword: easy, honey, baked, figs
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 12 fresh figs
  • 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons cognac or brandy
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
  • Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream and a few walnuts (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 392 °F / 200 °C.
  • Wash the figs and pat them dry.
  • Cut the figs into quarters, but not all the way through.
  • Line the figs in a pan and open them like a flower.
  • In a small bowl, mix the honey and sugar together.
  • Add a teaspoon of the sugar mixture inside the center of each fig.
  • Pour the cognac/brandy over the figs.
  • Add the nutmeg and cinnamon sticks and bake for about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool for about 5 minutes.
  • Serve with Greek yogurt, vanilla ice cream, or on their own. Garnish with some walnuts, if desired.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • You can use any variety of fresh figs, but I find the darker ones are better for this recipe, especially when they are ripe.
  • When you cut the figs, make sure you don’t cut all the way through. That way they keep their pretty flower shape after baking.
  • Use a small baking pan so that the figs are close together and hold their shape. I used a 9 x 6.5 inch / 23 x 16.5 cm pan.
© Pastry Wishes

Portokalopita – Greek Orange Phyllo Cake

Portokalopita is a traditional Greek orange cake that is extraordinarily aromatic and moist. It is soaked in a mildly spiced orange syrup.

Portokalopita Greek Orange Phyllo CakePortokalopita (pronounced por-to-ka-LO-pi-ta) is a very popular dessert in Greece, but it’s a bit unusual and nothing like my other cake recipes on the blog!  

If you’re an orange lover, though, you will absolutely love this cake! It’s really fragrant and orangey.

What is Portokalopita?

In Greek, portokali means orange and pita means pie and portokalopita means orange pie. Technically speaking, this recipe is not a pie, but I’m assuming it got its name because of the phyllo dough that’s in it. 

Phyllo dough is often used in making Greek pies, like spanakopita (spinach pie) or tiropita (cheese pie).

However, for this recipe, instead of creating a filling in between sheets of phyllo dough, the phyllo dough sheets have been dried out and shredded ON PURPOSE and put INSIDE the cake batter! 

The result? Phenomenal!  The texture is fluffy and light and very moist.

Even though oranges aren’t in season right now, I always make portokalopita in the summer because my family loves it served cold with ice cream. Of course, you can serve it warm or at room temperature any time of the year.

What I really like, though, is that this recipe is very straightforward and simple!

WORKING WITH PHYLLO DOUGH

If you’ve ever made anything with phyllo dough before, like my Greek Baklava Rolls (Saragli) recipe, you’ll know that it’s very, very delicate and you need to protect it from drying out; otherwise you won’t be able to use it. 

Well, with this recipe, you don’t have to worry about that at all because you need to dry out the phyllo sheets and crush them into tiny pieces.

HOW TO DRY OUT PHYLLO DOUGH

There are different ways to do this. Some people choose to place the phyllo sheets on a large surface and let them dry out on their own. The downside is that this could take anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on where you live and the climate, as well as how humid it is. 

For me, the easiest and fastest way to dry out the phyllo sheets is to bake them in the oven. It saves so much time because it only takes about 10-15 minutes. Some people separate each sheet before drying them out in the oven, but I find this to be time-consuming and messy, so I dry them out a little differently (see the picture tutorial below).

HOW TO CRUSH THE PHYLLO DOUGH

When the phyllo dough sheets have completely dried out, you need to crush them. I usually do it over a large bowl, but sometimes I just crush the sheets over the baking sheet that I dried them on. If you have kids, I’m sure they would love to help you out with this! As you crush the dough in your hands, it’ll sound like someone is eating a lot of potato chips!

What you need to make Portokalopita:

Phyllo dough sheets 

Eggs

Orange juice & zest

Vegetable oil

Baking powder

Baking soda

Cognac or brandy

Greek yogurt

Sugar

Cinnamon sticks

Cloves (optional)

HOW TO MAKE PORTOKALOPITA

The first thing to do is make the syrup and let it cool. I usually make it a few hours ahead and put it in the refrigerator so it’s nice and cold.

After that, you dry out your phyllo sheets and crush them:

Portokalopita steps

Then you make the batter and bake the cake:

portokalopita steps part2

 

HOW TO SERVE PORTOKALOPITA

Portokalopita can be served in so many delicious ways! Here are a few of my favorites! You should definitely give them ALL a try!

Warm or cold

You can serve it warm or cold with some vanilla ice cream  or Greek yogurt. Personally, I really think Portokalopita tastes a lot better the next day, straight out of the fridge. It’s just perfect for hot summer days! 

portokalopita with ice cream

Chocolate

OMG! Chocolate and orange are a match made in Heaven!!! Chocolate  goes so well with Portokalopita! The combination is to die for! You can drizzle some homemade chocolate syrup on top or make the delicious chocolate ganache topping that I’ve included in the recipe card!

portokalopita with chocolate

Orange slices or fruit preserves 

You could also add fresh (or candied) orange slices or fruit preserves on top for a more impressive presentation and extra flavor!

portokalopita greek orange phyllo cake

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • The phyllo dough sheets need to be COMPLETELY dried out. Traditional Portokalopita is always made with dried, crushed phyllo dough. If you don’t dry out the phyllo dough, it will clump together in the batter. If there are clumps of fresh phyllo in the batter, the cake won’t bake evenly and you won’t get the same texture throughout the cake.
  • When adding the shredded phyllo sheets to the batter, you need to do it a little at a time; otherwise the pieces won’t be evenly distributed. 
  • I used a 10 x 12 inch (25 x 30 cm) pan, but you could also use a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) pan.
  • If you use a nonstick pan, you don’t need to butter and flour it.
  • When the cake is done, use a toothpick or a wooden souvlaki skewer to poke holes all over it before adding the syrup. This will help it absorb the syrup faster.
  • Like all Greek desserts made with syrup, you either add the cold syrup to the hot dessert or vice versa. For this recipe, I add the cold syrup to the hot cake.
  • Add the syrup one ladle at a time, allowing the cake to absorb it before adding more syrup.
  • Let the cake cool COMPLETELY before cutting it (at least an hour).

WANT TO TRY MORE GREEK RECIPES? CHECK THESE OUT:

Let me know how this Portokalopita turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

~Voula 😀

Portokalopita - Greek Orange Phyllo Cake

Portokalopita is a traditional Greek orange cake that is extraordinarily aromatic and moist. It is soaked in a mildly spiced orange syrup.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Greek, orange, phyllo cake
Servings: 12

Equipment

  • one 10 x 12 inch or 9 x 13 inch (25 X 30 cm) pan

Ingredients

For the orange syrup

  • 1 ¼ cup (250 g / 9 oz) sugar
  • 1 cup (250 ml / 8 fl oz) water
  • 1 cup (250 ml / 8 fl oz) freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3-4 whole cloves (optional)

For the cake

  • 1 pound (450 g) phyllo dough, thawed (1 package)
  • 1 cup (250 ml / 8 fl oz) light vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (200 g / 7 oz) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • zest from 3-4 oranges
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 container Greek yogurt (200 g / 7 oz - I used 2%)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl oz) milk 

For the chocolate ganache (Optional)

  • 4.4 oz / 125 g semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Instructions

Prep the pan

  • Lightly grease and flour the pan. Set aside.

Make the orange syrup

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar, water, orange juice, and cognac/brandy and whisk/stir it for about 1 minute to dissolve the sugar. Add the spices and gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool and then refrigerate while preparing the cake.

Dry and shred the phyllo dough

  • Preheat the oven to 212 °F / 100°C.
  • Without unrolling the phyllo dough, slice it into 8-10 pieces.
  • Unroll each piece and separate all the strips of dough.
  • Evenly spread the strips of dough onto 2 baking sheets and bake for about 10-15 minutes, bringing the strips of dough on the bottom of the sheet to the top halfway through the baking time.
  • Finely crush the dried phyllo, a few strips at a time, using both hands. You can do this on the baking sheet or in a large bowl. Set aside.

Make the batter

  • Set the oven temperature to 392 °F / 200°C.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the oil and sugar together for about two minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is a pale yellow color.
  • Add the zest, the baking powder, baking soda, yogurt, and milk and mix until everything is well combined.
  • Using a silicone spatula, gently fold in the crushed phyllo dough, a handful at a time. Do not add the phyllo dough all at once.
  • Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until it becomes golden brown.
  • When done, take it out of the oven and immediately poke the entire cake with a toothpick or souvlaki skewer and pour the orange syrup over it, one ladle at a time.
  • Let it cool completely before cutting or adding the chocolate ganache (at least an hour). Refrigerate.

Make the chocolate ganache

  • In a heat-proof bowl, preferably glass, add the chocolate, cream/milk, and butter and place it over a pot of just simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts completely. Spread it over the cooled cake.
  • Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • The phyllo dough sheets need to be COMPLETELY dried out. 
  • When adding the shredded phyllo sheets to the batter, you need to do a little at a time, otherwise the pieces won’t be evenly distributed.
  • Add the syrup a ladle at a time, allowing the cake to absorb it before adding more syrup.
  • Let it cool COMPLETELY before cutting it (at least an hour).
© Pastry Wishes

How to Make Ancient Greek Sesame Bars – Pasteli

These delicious sesame bars have been a part of the Greek culinary tradition since ancient times! You only need 2 ingredients to make this nutritious, ancient Greek superfood known today as Pasteli!

ancient greek sesame bars with honey

Pasteli is a classic, Greek snack! Not only is it delicious, but it’s healthy, too!  It’s an incredible treat dating back to ancient Greece!

Sweets in ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, honey was believed to have come from the gods. It comes as no surprise that the ancient Greeks used honey for so many things since granulated sugar did not exist in ancient Greece; it arrived many centuries later. One popular honey and sesame seed delicacy was called Sisami (pronounced see-SA-mee), which is basically what modern-day Greeks refer to as Pasteli.

What is Pasteli?

Pasteli (pronounced pa-STE-lee) is a bar made with sesame seeds and honey. Various ancient Greek texts mention it, including Homer’s Iliad, where it was popular among the warriors. The father of history, Herodotus, also referred to it as “sweet cakes of sesame and honey”.

Variations of Pasteli today

Today, there are variations of Pasteli in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean, too.

In Greece, there is Pasteli made with sugar and/or a combination of nuts and spices. Pasteli made with sugar is hard and crunchy, almost like brittle. Pasteli made with just honey is much softer and chewier.  The recipe in this post uses honey instead of sugar.

Why I think you’ll love this homemade pasteli:

  • There are only 2 main ingredients, with a few optional add-ins.
  • It’s quick.
  • It’s pretty straightforward.
  • It’s very healthy.
  • It tastes great!

The health benefits of Pasteli

Sesame is known to be a great source of fiber, plant protein, and B vitamins. Pasteli is also rich in antioxidants, which are beneficial for overall health.

What you’ll need

All you need is honey and sesame seeds.

I always use good quality Greek honey. I briefly talk about the benefits of Greek honey in this post. Whenever I make desserts with honey, I find that the quality of the honey really makes a huge difference in the overall flavor. So, if you can’t get Greek honey, get the best honey you can or one you like!

How do you make Pasteli?

Different parts of Greece use different methods. Some areas make Pasteli in large metal pots and then the mixture is poured over a large marble slab or wooden board. Then it’s evened out and beaten with a wooden pin to the desired thickness.

Of course, these traditional methods aren’t really ideal for an ordinary kitchen! I have found a much easier way to make it at home.

First of all, I use a nonstick frying pan. It makes cleanup A LOT easier.

I also like putting the pasteli in a square pan lined with parchment paper. That way, I can just lift it out and then cut it when it’s ready.

pasteli steps 1-10

STEP 1

Oil the bottom and sides of a pan.

STEP 2

Line the pan with parchment paper.

STEP 3

Toast the sesame seeds, put in a bowl and set aside.

STEP 4

Heat the honey in a nonstick pan until it bubbles and foams.

STEP 5

Add the sesame seeds and stir continuously.

STEP 6

Add the remaining ingredients and stir until it thickens.

STEP 7

Spoon the mixture into the pan and even it out with the back of a spoon.

STEP 8

Put a piece of parchment paper on top and press to flatten. The parchment paper will prevent you from getting burnt.

STEP 9

After about 20 minutes it should easily bend, but still be in one piece and hold its shape.

STEP 10

Lift it out of the pan and cut into bars or squares.

If you don’t mind uneven slices, don’t use a pan at all! You can just spoon it onto a large sheet of parchment paper, but don’t touch it with your bare hands because it’s very hot!

Why use a pan?

A pan lets me make Pasteli as thick as I want. For example, a small pan will make thicker bars, whereas a larger pan will make thin ones. For this recipe, I used a 9 ½ inch (24.5 cm) pan and the bars came out to about ½ an inch (1 cm) thick. So, if you’re going to use a pan, pick one depending on how thick or thin you want your bars to be.

pasteli ancient greek sesame bars with honey

Add-ins

Here are a few ideas for add-ins to add more flavor:

  • orange or lemon zest
  • almonds, peanuts, or pistachio nuts
  • ground nutmeg
  • wine
  • black pepper – Ancient Greeks used to put a lot of black pepper in a sweet called gastris! Some parts of Greece today still add black pepper to Pasteli! You might want to give it a try!

 TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • I toast the sesame seeds in a nonstick pan, but you could toast them in the oven (350°F / 180°C) for about 15 minutes.
  • Don’t overcook the Pasteli, otherwise it may become hard.
  • When you spoon the mixture into the pan, don’t touch it! It’s very hot!
  • Cut into bars or squares after about 15-20 minutes. If you wait longer than that, it will be too hard to cut.
  • Store it in an air-tight container at room temperature with sheets of parchment paper between each bar to prevent them from sticking together.

MORE GREEK DESSERTS!

Let me know how this Pasteli turned out for you in the comments below!

I’d love to hear from you!

~Voula

pasteli ancient greek sesame bars with honey
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5 from 1 vote

HOW TO MAKE ANCIENT GREEK SESAME BARS (Pasteli)

These delicious sesame bars have been a part of the Greek culinary tradition since ancient times! You only need 2 ingredients to make this nutritious, ancient Greek superfood known today as Pasteli!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time6 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: ancient Greek, healthy, refined sugar free, honey, sesame

Ingredients

  • 200 g (7 oz) sesame seeds
  • 200 g (7 oz) good quality (Greek) honey
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

  • Line a pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a nonstick pan, until light golden brown. Put the toasted seeds in a bowl. Set aside.
  • In the same nonstick pan, heat the honey on medium heat until it bubbles and foams.
  • Add the seeds and all the remaining ingredients and stir continuously until the mixture thickens and isn't runny (about 5-6 minutes).
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and even it out with the back of a spoon. DON'T TOUCH THE MIXTURE WITH YOUR BARE HANDS - IT'S VERY HOT!
  • Put a piece of parchment paper on top and press down to flatten and even out the surface.
  • After about 15-20 minutes, it should easily bend, but still be in one piece and hold its shape. Lift it out of the pan and cut into bars or squares.
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature with pieces of parchment paper between each bar/square.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Instead of toasting the sesame seeds in a nonstick pan,  you could toast them in the oven (350°F / 180°C) for about 15 minutes.
  • Don't overcook the mixture, otherwise it may become hard.
  • Cut the Pasteli into bars or squares after about 10-20 minutes. If you wait longer than that, it will be too hard to cut.
  • Pasteli is best on the day it’s made. It becomes a little bit harder the next day, but it still retains its chewiness.
© Pastry Wishes

 

RIZOGALO – GREEK RICE PUDDING (+ Vegan Option)

Rizogalo is a classic, creamy Greek dessert! This recipe is really easy to make with just a handful of ingredients. 

rizogalo greek rice pudding

Rizogalo (pronounced ree-ZO-ga-lo) gets its name from the two main ingredients: rizi, which means rice and gala, which means milk. 

Growing up, rizogalo was such a comfort food! It still is, actually!

My family loves this rice pudding! In the summer, we have it cold, straight out of the refrigerator. In the winter, we have it warm, straight out of the saucepan. We even have it for breakfast sometimes!

Greek rice pudding is very creamy, but not too thick or sweet. There aren’t any eggs or cream, either, so it’s not that heavy or rich like a custard. Instead, it’s very light and velvety.

Here’s what you’ll need to make Rizogalo.

rizogalo greek rice pudding

HOW TO MAKE RIZOGALO IN 5 EASY STEPS

STEP 1: 

Wash the rice.

STEP 2: 

Boil the water & salt. Add the rice and cinnamon sticks and simmer until rice is done, about 20-25 minutes.

STEP 3: 

Pour ¼ cup of the milk in a bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch and whisk together. Set aside.

STEP 4: 

Pour the remaining milk into the rice mixture and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture and whisk continuously until it thickens, about a minute or so.

STEP 5: 

Ladle into small bowls.

Press some plastic wrap on the pudding (to prevent a film from forming) and store in the refrigerator.

Or serve immediately with lots of ground cinnamon on top!

Rizogalo Greek Rice Pudding

CUSTOMIZABLE VEGAN OPTION!

You can easily make this recipe vegan by replacing the regular milk with any other plant-based milk. I’ve tried both and they work great!

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • I suggest using short-grain white rice with a high starch content, like Arborio rice. This is important because it’s starchy and it makes the rice pudding thick and creamy. Long grain rice won’t give the same results.
  • The trick to getting rizogalo right is to keep tasting the rice to make sure it has cooked through.
  • After adding the milk, stir continuously until it thickens, otherwise the rice may burn and stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
  • When done, keep the rice pudding covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

MORE GREEK DESSERTS!

 Let me know how this Rizogalo turned out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

~Voula

RIZOGALO – GREEK RICE PUDDING (+ Vegan Option)

Rizogalo is a classic, creamy Greek dessert! This recipe is really easy to make with just a handful of ingredients. 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: easy,, egg-free, Greek, pudding, rice
Servings: 3 - 4 small bowls

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (50 g / 1.8 oz) uncooked, starchy, short-grain white rice (or Arborio rice)
  • 1 ½ cups (375 ml / 12 fl oz) water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cups (500 ml / 16 fl oz) fresh milk (regular or plant-based)
  • ¼ cup (50 g / 1.8 oz) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ground cinnamon

Instructions

  • Rinse the rice under cold, running water. I like to use a fine-mesh strainer. 
  • Put the water and salt in a pot and bring it to a boil. When it starts boiling, add the rice and the cinnamon sticks. Simmer on medium heat for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice absorbs the water. After 20 minutes, taste the rice to see if it has cooked through; if it hasn’t, add a little more water and continue to simmer. Do not drain. Continue tasting the rice until it’s done. Then, discard the cinnamon sticks.
  • Pour ¼ cup of the milk in a bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch and whisk together. Set aside.
  • Pour the remaining milk into the rice mixture and turn up the heat to medium-high. Cook for about 2 minutes. 
  • Add the cornstarch mixture and whisk continuously until it thickens, about a minute or so.
  • Ladle into small bowls. 
  • Press some plastic wrap on the pudding (to prevent a film from forming) and store in the refrigerator.
  • Or serve immediately with lots of ground cinnamon on top!
  • Enjoy!

Notes

You can store the rizogalo in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 
It will thicken a bit as it cools.
© Pastry Wishes