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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! 

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!

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 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.

What do you need to make Greek pumpkin hand pies?

There are only a few ingredients in these Greek pumpkin hand pies!!!

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 a combination of light brown packed sugar and white granulated sugar for the filling, but you can use just granulated sugar, if you want. I also use powdered sugar for dusting before serving.
  • Spices – I use a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves.

That’s it!

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!

HOW TO MAKE GREEK PUMPKIN HAND PIES 

They may look complicated, but they are really simple to make. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial:

how to peel a pumpkin, remove seeds, grate and squeeze it

greek pumpkin pie filling and assembly

how to coil greek pumpkin hand pies

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.

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.

~Voula

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

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 (see picture tutorials in the post to see how to do it)
  • 7 phyllo dough sheets (about 8 oz / 225 g)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup 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
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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 10 x 7.5 inch / 26 x 19.5 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!

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
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5 from 1 vote

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 10 x 7.5 inch / 26 x 19.5 cm pan.
© Pastry Wishes
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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:

How to make ancient Greek sesame bars (Pasteli)

Rizogalo (Greek Rice Pudding + Vegan Option)

Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookies) 

Greek Halva Cake

 

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
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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 to make Pasteli

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.

Here’s what I do:

pasteli steps

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.

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 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

 

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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.

 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
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KOULOURAKIA – GREEK EASTER COOKIES (Tips & Various Designs)

Koulourakia are traditional Greek cookies that are popular during Easter! They are buttery and crunchy, with hints of vanilla, orange juice, and freshly grated orange zest in every bite!

koulourakiagreekeastercookies

You’ll see these butter cookies on almost every Easter table in Greece!

Koulourakia (pronounced kou-lou-RA-kee-a) are traditionally shaped by hand into gorgeous twists, braids, rings, and lots of other designs.

They are pretty simple to make. I think it would be really fun to get the kids involved in making all the different designs, too!

Here’s what you’ll need to make Koulourakia

  • unsalted butter
  • sugar
  • vanilla
  • eggs
  • milk
  • orange juice
  • baking powder
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • orange zest (optional)
  • cognac (optional)

SUPER TIP

A secret to making these cookies is to rub the orange zest into the sugar by hand and then mix it with a hand mixer. I always do both in order to release all the aromatic oils from the zest. And the smell – OMG! You will be amazed! The sugar becomes so fragrant! It really helps make the cookies taste and smell INCREDIBLE. If you want a more vanilla flavor, though, you can omit the zest altogether.

KOULOURAKIA DESIGNS

I make a variety of traditional designs, but this year, I also wanted to make Easter bunny, too!

I honestly don’t remember where I first came across this Easter bunny, so I can’t take credit for the design, but it is so cute! Here’s a step-by-step tutorial I made.

HOW TO MAKE A CUTE EASTER BUNNY

bunnycookietutorial

Want more traditional Greek designs? Check out the picture below for some ideas!

koulourakiadesigns

MAKE AHEAD OPTION

If you don’t have enough time to make the koulourakia in one day, just cover and store the dough in the refrigerator and continue the following day.

Here’s what I do:

I weigh each piece of dough (around 35 g / 1.2 oz). It should be about the size of a walnut. By weighing each piece, all the cookies bake evenly because they’re the same size.

After that, I put all the dough balls in a large bowl, cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator.

The next day, I take the dough balls out of the refrigerator and soften each ball a little bit in my hands. Then I make different designs and bake.

koulourakiagreekeastercookies

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature.
  • I highly suggest you weigh the ingredients using a digital scale before you begin to get consistent results.
  • For fluffy and crunchy cookies that won’t crumble apart, you really need to beat the butter and the sugar together for at least 10 minutes
  • Only use as much flour as needed for the dough to come together. There are a few factors that can affect how wet the dough is such as the size of the eggs you use. Therefore, you might need more flour to make the dough pliable so it doesn’t stick to your hands. If more flour is needed, add it a tablespoon at a time.
  • Do not overmix the dough because it can make the cookies hard.
  • The dough needs to rest for about 20-30 minutes. This will make it easier to shape the cookies.
  • Weigh each piece of dough before shaping so that all the cookies are the same size & bake evenly.
  • Leave enough space between each cookie when you put them on a baking sheet, otherwise they may stick together as they bake. Place them at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the baking sheet.
  • Each oven is different and baking times may vary. For my oven, I bake the cookies one tray at a time, so I can keep an eye on all of them.
  • Don’t overbake the cookies. Take them out of the oven as soon as they turn light golden brown.

koulourakia

I really hope you enjoy these koulourakia! Have a wonderful Easter (Kalo Pascha)!

~Voula

KOULOURAKIA – GREEK EASTER COOKIES (Tips & Various Designs)

Koulourakia are traditional Greek cookies that are popular during Easter! They are buttery and crunchy, with hints of vanilla, orange juice, and freshly grated orange zest in every bite!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Bunny cookie, Greek Easter Cookies, koulourakia
Servings: 40 cookies, approximately

Ingredients

  • 6 cups / 800 g / 1 lb 12.3 oz all-purpose flour (you may need 1-2 tablespoons extra)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • ½ tablespoon orange zest (optional)
  • 1 cup / 200 g sugar
  • 1 cup + 5 tablespoons / 300 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • ½ cup milk at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons cognac (optional)
  • ¼ cup / 60 ml orange juice at room temperature
  • a few whole cloves (1 for each bunny cookie)

FOR THE EGG WASH

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon water

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, rub the orange zest with the sugar using your fingers. Then beat the sugar mixture on low speed for about a minute.
  • Add the butter to the sugar and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add the milk, vanilla, cognac, and orange juice and beat until well combined.
  • Gradually add the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time. Start beating on low speed with a hand mixer and then use a rubber spatula until the flour is just combined. At this point, if the dough is too wet or sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. The dough should be pliable and soft – not sticky. Don’t overmix the dough because it will make the cookies hard.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for about half an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 175 °C / 350 °F.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Weigh each piece of dough (about 35 g / 1.2 oz) before shaping to ensure all the cookies are the same size and bake evenly.
  • Make different shapes (see notes & photos in the post) and place them on the baking sheets. Make sure they are at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

MAKE THE EGG WASH

  • In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with the water. Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg wash using a pastry brush. 
  • Bake the cookies for about 20-30 minutes or until light golden brown.
  • Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 ½ weeks.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • I highly suggest you weigh the ingredients using a digital scale before you begin to get consistent results.
  • For fluffy and crunchy cookies that won’t crumble apart, you really need to beat the butter and the sugar for at least 10 minutes
  • Only use as much flour as needed for the dough to come together. There are a few factors that can affect how wet the dough is such as the size of the eggs you use. Therefore, you might need more flour to make the dough pliable so it doesn’t stick to your hands. If more flour is needed, add it a tablespoon at a time.
  • Do not overmix the dough because it can make the cookies hard.
  • The dough needs to rest for about 20-30 minutes. This will make it easier to shape the cookies.
  • Each oven is different and baking times may vary. For my oven, I bake the cookies one tray at a time, so I can keep an eye on them.
  • Don’t overbake the cookies. Take them out of the oven as soon as they turn light golden brown.
© Pastry Wishes
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GREEK HALVA CAKE (STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL + VARIATIONS)

This delicious no-bake cake is made with semolina, honey syrup, nuts, and raisins. It’s delicately spiced with cinnamon and cloves.

Greek Halva Cake

Halva (pronounced hal-VA) is a popular Greek dessert. If you’re not familiar with this dessert, it is made with semolina and honey syrup.

This stove-top dessert is pretty straightforward to make and it’s so delicious!

What is halva?

Halva has origins in the Middle East and you can find many different variations in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, too.

Halva is popular in Greece, especially during periods of Orthodox Christian fasting because it’s dairy free and egg free.

In Greece, there are 3 main kinds of halva.

There is a halva called “Halvas Farsalon” (from a region in central Greece called Farsala), which is made with cornstarch, butter, almonds and a unique caramel crust.

Then there’s one made with tahini paste, almonds and/or honey and sugar.

Finally, there’s one made with semolina and honey syrup, which this post is about.

Here’s what you need to make Greek Halva Cake:

halva ingredients

HOW TO MAKE GREEK HALVA CAKE

1 MAKE THE SYRUP – Just put all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan, stir and boil for 5 minutes.

halva syrup

After 5 minutes, remove the spices and the peel. The syrup will be a light caramel color.

honey syrup

2 HEAT THE OIL & TOAST THE SEMOLINA – Heat the oil on medium-high, then add the semolina. Stir continuosly while toasting, otherwise it will burn.

halva pot

3 TOAST UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN – When it turns golden brown, add the raisin and nuts and stir.

halvapot

4 GRADUALLY ADD THE SYRUP – Take the pot off the heat and add the syrup a little bit at a time, allowing the semolina to absorb it. Be careful because it will splatter. When all the syrup has been added, put the pot back on the heat, reduce to low and stir until it thickens.

5 SPOON THE MIXTURE INTO A PREPARED CAKE PAN – Spread the mixture into a cake pan and use the back of a spoon to smooth out and flatten the top.

halva pan

6 ALLOW TO COOL  – Let it cool for about 1 ½ hours, then turn the halva cake over onto a platter, dust with cinnamon, and top with walnuts.

greek halva cake

TIPS FOR SUCCESS:

  • Make sure you have a deep pot like a soup pot because the semolina needs a lot of space when cooking. It will also offer better protection from the splattering when you add the syrup.
  • A long wooden spoon makes stirring easier. The handle will also stay cool while stirring the hot semolina.
  • When you add the semolina to the hot oil, you need to stir constantly so that it doesn’t burn. You’re ready to remove it from the heat when the semolina turns a golden brown and smells toasty. If the semolina burns, it gets dark and the halva will have a bitter aftertaste. Once the semolina is ready, take the pot off the stove before adding the syrup.
  • Let the halva cool for at least an hour before slicing it, otherwise it may fall apart.

halva cake slice

POSSIBLE VARIATIONS:

If you want to customize your Halva cake, feel free to…

  • use different pans/serving bowls. Instead of a bundt pan or cake pan, you could serve the Halva in individual bowls.
  • use different nuts. This cake would be great with pistachios, almonds or even pine nuts!
  • add semisweet/bittersweet chocolate. You could add chunks of semisweet/bittersweet chocolate to the semolina mixture and stir until it melts. You can never go wrong with chocolate!
  • use a different topping. You could top the cake with melted chocolate! Yum!
  • serve it with ice cream or whipped cream. Delish!
  • serve it warm with some extra honey on top. This is how I enjoy Halva cake! I just heat a slice in the microwave and drizzle some honey over it! 😋

I hope you enjoy this Greek Halva Cake!

~Voula 😊

halva cake

Let me know how this Greek Halva Cake turns out for you in the comments below!

I’d love to hear from you!

If you want more yummy Greek desserts, you’ll love these:

GREEK HALVA CAKE (STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL + VARIATIONS)

This delicious no-bake cake is made with semolina, honey syrup, nuts, and raisins. It’s delicately spiced with cinnamon and cloves.
Prep Time20 mins
Resting Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Greek, Halva, Cake, No-bake, honey, semolina
Servings: 10 -12

Ingredients

For the syrup

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 cups (400 g / 14.2 oz) sugar
  • 2 heaping tablespoons honey (about 50 g / 1.7 oz)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 1 whole lemon peel

For the cake

  • 1 cup (250 ml / 8 oz) olive oil
  • 2 cups (400 g / 14.2 oz) coarse semolina (or 1 cup coarse & 1 cup fine)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) walnuts

For the topping (optional)

  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • chopped walnuts
  • cinnamon

Instructions

Prep the pan

  • Lightly grease a bundt pan (or other cake pan) with some olive oil. Set aside.

Make the syrup

  • In a saucepan add all the ingredients listed for the syrup, stir and bring to a boil. Allow it to boil for about 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and remove the spices. Set aside.

Make the cake

  • Heat the olive oil in a deep pot on medium-high heat. Add the semolina and stir with a wooden spoon. Be careful! You need to stir it continuously, otherwise it will burn. When it turns golden brown, add the raisin and nuts and stir. Take the pot off the heat. Carefully pour a little bit of the honey syrup to the semolina and stir constantly until it has absorbed the syrup. Be careful! It will splatter! Add the remaining syrup and put the pot back on the heat, reduce to low and stir until the mixture thickens.
  • Transfer the semolina mixture to the prepared bundt pan and spread the top evenly with the back of a spoon. Allow it to cool completely (about 1 ½ hours).
  • Turn the halva over onto a cake platter/dish. Sprinkle with some cinnamon and top with nuts and honey.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

* Keep the Halva Cake covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
© Pastry Wishes
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Vasilopita – Greek New Year’s Cake

Ring in the New Year with this easy, yummy, mildly spiced traditional Greek cake! It is the highlight of the New Year’s celebration among Greeks all around the world!

Vasilopita Greek New Year's Cake

What is Vasilopita?

Vasilopita (pronounced va-see-LO-pee-ta) is a traditional Greek New Year’s cake commemorating St. Basil. The name Basil in Greek is Vasili, hence the name Vasilopita, which means Basil’s cake/bread.

In Greece, there are two kinds of Vasilopita: a cake and a brioche-style bread.  Recipes and decorations vary from region to region. A coin is hidden inside the Vasilopita and whoever finds the coin in their slice is said to have good luck for the entire year!

Why is there a coin hidden inside?

St. Basil is believed to have started this tradition over 1500 years ago when he hid coins and jewelry in breads to give to the poor. This is why some Orthodox Christians exchange Christmas gifts on January 1 instead of December 25. You can read more about St. Basil here: https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2019/01/01/100003-saint-basil-the-great-archbishop-of-caesarea-in-cappadocia

What are some of the customs associated with Vasilopita?

In Greece, eating Vasilopita is not just for families. Businesses, clubs, and associations also serve Vasilopita, where members or employees who find the hidden coin inside their slice are usually given money or a gift.

Some families serve it right after midnight on New Year’s Eve, while others serve it on New Year’s Day.

In my family, we always have it on New Year’s Day, with a big family dinner. When it comes time for dessert, you’ll  always find Melomakarona and Kourabiedes on the table, but the center of attention is the Vasilopita, where it is cut to bless the house for the New Year.

Vasilopita Greek New Year's Cake

What you’ll need:

Butter: I always use unsalted butter.

Flour & baking powder: I often use self-rising flour for convenience, but you can use all-purpose flour, too.

Spices: I use a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Fruit: Some orange zest and orange juice.

Alcohol: Cognac or Brandy.

Nuts: Chopped walnuts.

Sugar & salt: I use granulated sugar, powdered sugar and a pinch of salt.

Eggs: I use organic.

Vanilla: Some vanilla essence/extract.

Milk: I use skimmed milk, but you can use any kind of milk.

Coin & aluminum foil: A clean coin wrapped in aluminum foil.

White chocolate & food coloring: I used white chocolate mixed with some gel food coloring to write the year on the top of the cake, but this is optional.

How do you add the coin?

There are two ways to add the coin. One way is to wrap a coin with aluminum foil and put it in the batter before baking the cake. The other way is to insert the foil wrapped coin into the bottom AFTER the cake is baked.

I prefer adding the coin after the cake is baked because if you put the coin in the batter before baking, it will drop to the bottom of the pan. But if you insert the coin after the Vasilopita is baked, you ensure that it will be well-hidden inside and no one will be able to find it by looking at the bottom of their slice!

How do you decorate the Vasilopita?

For this Vasilopita cake you could just dust with powdered sugar, or you could write the year on top of the powdered sugar using melted chocolate, sliced almonds or even pomegranate seeds. You could also cover it with melted white chocolate.

Vasilopita Greek New Year's Cake

I wish you all a joyous 2020 full of love, happiness and prosperity!

Happy New Year!

 Please let me know how this Vasilopita turned out for you in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

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5 from 1 vote

Vasilopita - Greek New Year's Cake

Ring in the New Year with this easy, yummy, mildly spiced traditional Greek cake! It is the highlight of the New Year’s celebration among Greeks all around the world!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Vasilopita, Greek, New Year's, Cake
Servings: 12 (approximately)

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 250 g (1 cup/ 8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 g /14 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup (55 ml/ 2 fl oz) cognac or brandy
  • 1 cup (250 ml / 8 fl oz) milk
  • 500 g (4 ¼ cups/ 18.2 oz) self-rising flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups (200 g/ 7 oz) finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • a clean coin wrapped in aluminum foil

For the Topping

  • about 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • some pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 100 g (4 oz) white chocolate, melted (optional)
  • 1-2 teaspoons light vegetable oil (optional)
  • some red gel food coloring (optional)

Instructions

  • Make the topping first. Add some vegetable oil to the melted chocolate and stir. Then add some red food coloring and mix. Add more oil if the chocolate gets too thick.
  • Put the melted chocolate in a piping bag or your container of choice and write the year on
    some wax paper. Set it aside and allow it to dry completely.
  • Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
  • Grease and line a 26 cm (10 in) round pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, walnuts, spices and salt together. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer for about 1-2 minutes on low speed.
  • Add the sugar, and the orange zest to the butter and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently.
  • Then add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed for about a minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl a few times until everything is well incorporated.
  • Add the dry ingredients, the orange juice, the cognac/brandy, and the milk alternately to the butter mixture, beating on high speed until thoroughly combined. If you want, add the foil wrapped coin to the batter now, otherwise insert it after the cake is baked.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
  • When the cake is done, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool completely.
  • Remove the cake from the pan, flip it over and remove the parchment paper. Add the foil wrapped coin now if you didn’t put it in the batter.
  • Place the cake on a plate and dust it with powdered sugar. Decorate with pomegranate seeds.
  • Gently remove the chocolate decorations from the parchment paper and place on the cake.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

*If self-rising flour is not available, you can use 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour mixed with 4 teaspoons baking powder, instead.
Every oven is different, so baking times may vary. Check on the cake after about 40 minutes. Also please test to see if the cake is done by inserting a toothpick in the middle of the cake. You’ll know it’s done when it comes out clean.
© Pastry Wishes
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Kourabiedes Greek Butter Cookies

Kourabiedes Greek Butter Cookies (Easy! + tips & variations)

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, these heavenly, festive almond cookies are just what you need! They are deliciously light and buttery and will make your Christmas cookie plate look amazing! Learn the secrets to making these melt-in-your-mouth cookies!

Kourabiedes Greek Butter Cookies

Kourabiedes (pronounced kou – rab – YE – des) are traditional Greek cookies made during Christmas. In some parts of Greece they are also handed out to guests at christenings and weddings.

They are a type of shortbread cookie filled with chopped almonds. A Christmas in Greece is not complete without melomakarona and kourabiedes!

They are one of the tastiest gifts I make for family and friends every year! And, kourabiedes are absolutely FANTASTIC with coffee!

You’ll only need 5 ingredients:

  • Butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Flour
  • Almonds

HOW TO MAKE KOURABIEDES – GREEK BUTTER COOKIES IN 5 EASY STEPS:

STEP 1: BEAT THE BUTTER AND POWDERED SUGAR

Beat the butter and powdered sugar on high speed for about 20 – 25 minutes. Then add the vanilla extract and mix.

STEP 2: ADD THE ALMONDS AND THE FLOUR

Add the almonds by hand and mix until just combined. Then add the flour, ½ cup at a time, and gently mix by hand until the dough forms into a ball and is pliable. If necessary, add more flour (you may need up to 4 cups). The dough should easily come off the sides of the bowl without sticking to it. Don’t overmix.

STEP 3: SHAPE

Divide the dough in half. Put half of the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it to a thickness of about an inch / 2.5 cm. Cut out different shapes with a cookie cutter. Repeat with the remaining dough.

STEP 4: BAKE

Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven until just light brown. Allow the cookies to cool slightly.

STEP 5: DUST WITH SUGAR

Generously dust a cookie plate with powdered sugar. Add the cookies and dust with powdered sugar while they’re warm.

Kourabiedes Greek Butter Cookies

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  1. Butter: Make sure the butter is at room temperature. You also really need to beat the butter and sugar together until it’s light and fluffy and that takes around 20 – 25 minutes on high speed. You want to incorporate as much air in it as possible.
  2. Flour: Mix the flour in by hand, but don’t overmix it because the cookie will become tough. Use just enough flour to make a pliable dough, so there may be extra flour that won’t be used.
  3. Almonds: Traditionally, almonds are roasted and then added to the dough, but I never roast them because they tend to become really hard after the cookies are baked. I always use chopped, blanched almonds in the dough.
  4. Dough: Cover the dough and let it rest for about 15 minutes. This will make it easier to work with. I always chill my sugar cookie dough to prevent spreading, but it’s not necessary for this recipe! These cookies will not spread because there are no leaveners, so you can bake them straight away without chilling the dough and save time! Without any leaveners, I found that these cookies are sturdier – this is especially important if you’re packaging cookies!
  5. Parchment paper: This is one of my favorite things in the kitchen. It makes baking easier! Traditionally, these cookies are shaped by hand into small mounds or crescent moon shapes, but I use parchment paper, instead! By rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, I save so much time in the kitchen! First of all, there’s no mess because I don’t have to flour my work surface and it’s a lot faster and easier to shape the cookies.
  6. Baking: These cookies should be baked until JUST light brown in color, otherwise they can get hard.
  7. Dusting with powdered sugar: Allow the cookies to cool slightly before adding the powdered sugar. If you add the powdered sugar when the cookies come straight out of the oven, a damp layer of sugar will form, making them soggy on top.

 Variations

  • You could use almond extract or even ouzo instead of vanilla extract!
  • For chocolate kourabiedes, add 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the dough and mix by hand.
  • Many traditional Greek kourabiedes recipes call for rose water. If you’d like to add it to the kourabiedes, just sprinkle some rose water on the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven. Then let them cool slightly before dusting with powdered sugar.

Kourabiedes Greek Butter Cookies

Have a very Merry Christmas!

 Please let me know how these kourabiedes turn out for you in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

KOURABIEDES - Greek Butter Cookies

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, these heavenly, festive almond cookies are just what you need! They are deliciously light and buttery and will make your Christmas cookie plate look amazing! Learn the secrets to making these melt-in-your-mouth cookies!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Kourabiedes Greek Butter Cookies Christmas Easy
Servings: 45 cookies*

Ingredients

  • 250 g (1 cup / 8.8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 60 g ( 1/2 cup / 2.1 oz) powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 150 g (1 cup / 5.3 oz) blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 360 g (3 cups) all-purpose flour (you may need an extra cup (121 g)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 180° C / 350° F and line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Beat the butter and the sugar on high speed for about 20 - 25 minutes. 
  • Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
  • Add the almonds by hand and mix until it’s well combined. 
  • Add the flour**, ½ cup at a time, and gently mix by hand until the dough forms into a ball and is pliable. If necessary, add more flour (you may need up to 4 cups). The dough should easily come off the sides of the bowl without sticking to it. Don’t overmix.
  • Divide the dough in half. Put half of the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it to a thickness of about an inch / 2.5 cm. Cut out different shapes with a cookie cutter. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until just light brown, about 10 – 15 minutes. 
  • Allow the cookies to cool slightly.
  • Generously dust a cookie plate with powdered sugar. Add the cookies and dust with powdered sugar while they’re warm. 
  • Enjoy!

Notes

These cookies will keep for up to 3 weeks stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
* The number of cookies this recipe makes depends on the size of your cookie cutter(s).
** Don’t add the flour all at once. Add about ½ cup flour at a time until the dough forms into a ball and is pliable. If necessary, add more flour. The dough should easily come off the sides of the bowl without sticking to it.
©Pastry Wishes
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Greek Christmas Cookies

Melomakarona – Greek Christmas Honey Cookies

These classic Greek Christmas cookies will fill your house with a warm aroma of spices! My comprehensive guide will break down all the steps, tips and tricks you need to make the perfect Greek honey cookies!

MELOMAKARONA – Greek Christmas Honey Cookies

These traditional Greek Christmas honey cookies are mildly spiced and dipped in honey.

Melomakarona (pronounced mel-o-ma-KA-ro-na) are traditional Christmas cookies that are popular all over Greece. They are thick cookies spiced with clove, nutmeg and cinnamon, and lightly soaked in syrup. If you haven’t made them before, you should definitely give them a try!

What you’ll need:

  • Flour: I use sifted, all-purpose flour together with fine semolina flour. 
  • Oil: I always use a combination of olive oil and light vegetable oil.
  • Spices: A combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  • Fruit: Some lemon and orange juice, and some orange zest.
  • Alcohol: Cognac or Brandy (optional).
  • Sweeteners: I use confectioner’s sugar, granulated sugar, and honey.
  • Nuts: Chopped walnuts.

Making melomakarona is pretty straightforward and the best thing is you don’t even need a mixer!

Can I make melomakarona without semolina flour?

Traditionally, melomakarona are made with a combination of all-purpose flour and fine semolina flour, but you could make them with just all-purpose flour. Keep in mind, though, that if you don’t use semolina flour, the texture inside will NOT be the same – it will be a bit crumbly. Semolina flour also helps absorb the syrup better as opposed to cookies made with just all-purpose flour.

Can I omit the alcohol?

Sure! Cognac really goes well with the spices, but you can leave it out and still have great melomakarona! 

Why do you use powdered sugar in the dough instead of granulated sugar?

Powdered sugar dissolves a lot better than granulated sugar and results in a more denser cookie consistency, which is perfect for soaking up the syrup. Powdered sugar also contains cornstarch which helps prevent the cookies from spreading too much.

Why do you use a digital scale?

I always use a digital scale to weigh the dough for each cookie BEFORE I bake them. That way they ALL bake evenly at the same time. I think they also look nicer when I put them on a serving platter because they’re all the same size. If you don’t have a digital scale, try and make each piece of dough the same size before baking.

Should they be baked with or without a fan?

An oven with a fan (convection oven) is ideal because the air circulation from the fan creates a uniform temperature inside, baking all the cookies evenly. If your oven doesn’t have a fan, you might want to try rotating the cookie sheets halfway through the baking time, just to make sure all the cookies are evenly baked.

Should the syrup be hot or cold?

Many Greek desserts are made with syrup, which is either used hot or cold, depending on the recipe. In my post Easy Greek Baklava Rolls – Refined Sugar Free , I mention how opinions differ among chefs on whether or not a dessert should be hot when pouring cold syrup on it or the other way around. Some like it hot and some like it cold! I have tried both ways and found that this cookie is sturdier when it’s hot and then dipped into really cold syrup.

MELOMAKARONA – Greek Christmas Honey Cookies

How to make melomakarona in 11 simple steps:

STEP 1: MAKE THE SYRUP FIRST

Make the syrup first, allow it to cool, then put it in the refrigerator.

STEP 2: PREHEAT THE OVEN

Preheat the oven to 180 °C / 350 °F.

STEP 3: PREPARE THE TOPPING

Set the honey and the walnuts aside.

STEP 4: MIX THE FLOURS

Mix the all-purpose flour with the fine semolina flour and set aside.

STEP 5: MIX REMAINING INGREDIENTS FOR DOUGH

Whisk together the wet ingredients with the remaining ingredients for the dough.

STEP 6: MIX WET AND DRY INGREDIENTS

Gently add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix by hand. Do not overmix the dough.

STEP 7: REST

Cover the dough and let it rest for about half an hour.

STEP 8: WEIGH EACH PIECE OF DOUGH & SHAPE

Take a piece of dough and weigh it using a digital scale. Each piece should be about 20-25 g / 0.70-88 oz. Make each piece oval and thick. If you don’t have a digital scale, try and make each piece of dough the same size before baking. If you want, you can make a pattern on top using a closed scalloped crimper.

Tip: The pattern helps absorb the syrup and hold the walnuts on top.

STEP 9: BAKE

Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for about 25-30’ until they’re golden brown.

STEP 10: SOAK IN SYRUP

When cookies are done, take 7-10 of them and immediately dunk them into the cold syrup. Let them soak for about 40 seconds, dunking them so that they’re submerged in the syrup. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a serving platter. Repeat with the other cookies.

STEP 11: ADD THE TOPPINGS

Drizzle some honey over the cookies and add the chopped walnuts.

Please let me know how these melomakarona turned out for you in the comments!

I would love to hear from you!

Have a Merry Christmas!

Melomakarona Greek Christmas Honey Cookies

MELOMAKARONA – Greek Christmas Honey Cookies

These classic Greek Christmas cookies will fill your house with a warm aroma of spices! My comprehensive guide will break down all the steps, tips and tricks you need to make the perfect Greek honey cookies!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Greek Christmas Honey Cookies
Servings: 55 cookies
Author: Voula

Ingredients

For the Syrup

  • 250ml / 1cup / 8 oz water
  • 250 gr / 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • 125 ml / 6.5 oz good quality honey

For the Dough

  • 500 g / 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 100 g / 1/2 cup fine semolina flour
  • 200 ml / 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 200 ml / 3/4 cup light vegetable oil
  • 30 g / 4 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)
  • grated orange zest from 1 orange

For the Topping:

  • 120 gr / 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons good quality honey (optional)

Instructions

  • Make the syrup: Wash the orange and cut it in half. Put the orange halves in a large saucepan and add the remaining ingredients for the syrup. Boil for 5 minutes. Then take off the heat and discard the orange halves. Stir in the honey and set aside to cool. Then refrigerate.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350 °F.
  • In a bowl, mix the all-purpose flour with the fine semolina flour and set aside.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients for the dough.
  • Gently add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix by hand. Mix until just combined.
  • Cover the dough and let it rest for about half an hour.
  • If you have a digital scale, take a piece of dough and weigh it. Each piece should be about 20 - 25 g / 0.70 -0.88 oz. If you don’t have a digital scale, try and make each piece of dough the same size before baking.
  • Make each piece oval and thick. If you want, you can make a pattern on top using a closed scalloped crimper.
  • Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about an inch apart, and bake for about 25-30’ until they’re golden brown.
  • When cookies are done, take 7-10 of them and immediately dunk them into the cold syrup.
    Let them soak for about 40 seconds, flipping them over halfway through. Don't soak them too long, though, because they'll fall apart.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a serving platter. Repeat with the other cookies.
  • Drizzle some honey over the cookies and top with the chopped walnuts.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  1. You could make the syrup a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator.
  2. Do not overmix the dough; otherwise the cookies will become tough and hard. Mix until just combined. I usually count up to 15 seconds as I gently mix by hand and then stop.
  3. Don’t put too many cookies in the syrup at the same time, because you won’t have enough room to remove them with the slotted spoon. 
  4. The dough is very greasy, so you might want to wear gloves.
  5. Save any extra syrup in the fridge for your coffee or tea! Or, if you want more syrup in your melomakarona, just pour some more on the bottom of the plate the next day and let the cookies soak it up.
  6. These cookies will last for up to 2 weeks as long as they’re covered.
©Pastry Wishes

 

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