As I look back on my marathon of Greek culinary exploration I realize that there are no sweets present. Every culture has something sweet to indulge or celebrate the holidays or special occasions.
When I think of Greek desserts I think of that flaky treat baklava. I'll be writing more about that in the next few days. I'm determined to take on the first time challenge of homemade Greek pastry using this baking component.
Clarified butter is frequently used in Greek baking as this imparts a rich, nutty flavor. Olive oil is often used with savory pastries or used as it is here in the following recipe where it is featured in this delicious olive cookie. This baked treat originates from the island of Lefkada, where they are known as ladokoulouro.
Often a lemon-honey syrup is used to dress many Greek desserts after baking. In classical mythology, the golden syrup was said to be food for the gods; adding lemon juice to the honey prevents it from crystallizing.
Fruit, such as oranges or figs, sometimes served with yogurt is often served at the end of a Greek meal. More elaborate desserts are an afternoon treat or a gesture of hospitality.
The most illuminating tidbit I learned was that Greek havlas, a semolina and almond cake, differs from that in Middle Eastern countries where it is a confection from sesame seeds and honey.
The Complete Book of Greek Cooking has been a great discovery during this Greek culinary odyssey here at World on a Plate. This book assembled by the members of the Recipe Club of St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New York is charming and full of explanations on culinary and cultural traditions. Favorites such as creamy rizogalo (rice pudding), karithopita (Kefalonian walnut cake), galaktoboureko(custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell) are featured.
If you want immediate virtual gratification there's a number of recipes provided over at Greek Boston , the Boston Greek online community forum.
Photo credit of Dionysus: http://www.kirtland.edu
Recipe for OLIVE OIL COOKIES WITH ANISE AND SESAME SEEDS
OLIVE OIL COOKIES WITH ANISE AND SESAME SEEDS
The Complete Book of Greek Cooking
by the Recipe Club of St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Cathedral
(Makes 4 dozen cookies)
6 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. aniseed
1/2 tbsp. sesame seeds
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
2 1/4 c. sifted all- purpose flour
1/2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
Sliced blanched almonds for topping
Cinnamon sugar for topping
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. In a saucepan, heat oil, aniseed and sesame seeds over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Cool. Add sugar, lemon juice, lemon and orange zest.
3. Combine flour and cinnamon. Stir flour, 1 c. at a time, into oil mixture. Work dough with hands until smooth. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
4. Roll dough out on lightly floured board to a thickness of 1/4 in. Cut with a 2-in. round cookie cutter and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Decorate with almond slices, pressing so they adhere.
5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until light brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and cool on racks.