I've been on a bit of a Greek food kick lately. After making Moussaka and Spanakopita, I was browsing the web looking for new Greek recipes, and I came across a recipe for melomakarona, popular in Greece during holidays. Plain little cookies reminiscent of shortbread are dipped in a rich, spiced syrup and topped with walnuts. I followed the recipe from About.com, but I took a few tweaks from a recipe in The Washington Post. The only veganizing I had to do was to replace the honey with agave nectar. I also cut the recipe in half.
The recipe warns not to refrigerate the cookies as they'll get hard, so after we scarfed down half of them, I hid the rest away in an airtight container in the pantry for Christmas weekend.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon (packed) orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brandy
3-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Oil two large baking sheets. Beat the olive oil, canola oil, sugar and orange zest in an electric mixer until well combined. Add the orange juice and brandy and beat until creamy.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Turn the electric mixer to the lowest setting and add the flour a heaping soup spoonful at a time. When the last of the flour has been added, turn off the machine and finish stirring in the flour by hand. Only stir until the flour is just combined with the rest of the ingredients.
Transfer the dough to a cutting board and cut into 4 pieces. Cut each fourth into 8 pieces for a total of 32 cookies. Roll each cookie into a ball and transfer to the baking sheets. Use the tines of a fork to flatten the dough slightly in a crosshatch pattern.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until just starting to brown at the edges. While the cookies are baking, make the syrup.
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 1-inch piece cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 1-inch piece lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
In a medium saucepan, combine the agave nectar, sugar, water, cinnamon, cloves, lemon peel and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon, cloves and lemon peel and discard.
When the cookies come out of the oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Then use a spatula to transfer 6 or so cookies to the syrup. Allow the cookies to soak up the syrup for 2 or 3 minutes and then transfer to a plate. Once all of the cookies have been doused in syrup, top with the walnuts and a few pinches of cinnamon.