Sunday, April 1, 2012

Traditional Greek Easter Cookies

My grandmother made these cookies every Easter. And every Easter I looked forward to them. My grandmother came from Holland and married my grandfather a Greek immigrant. She was an excellent cook and prepared both Dutch and Greek specialties, all from recipes kept inside her head. I wish I had inherited that trait every time I find myself looking for a specific recipe. And then again, I wish she had written them all down.
These cookies vary from other Traditional Greek Easter Cookies in that they include the key ingredient - Mastiha (or Mastic Gum Tears). Gum Mastic is a transparent, lemon-white coloured, tear-shaped natural resin from the mastic tree, which grows on the southern part of the island of Chios, Greece and nowhere else in the world. I can be purchased on-line or at a Greek market.

I found some interesting facts about Mastic Gum Tears here:

This may explain why I can eat so many and not get sick. Good thing I only make them once a year.

My grandmother would always tell us the ancient Greeks used Mastiha in these cookies and that nowadays they are made with vanilla. I searched Traditional Greek Easter cookies and found vanillin as the listed ingredient in most of these recipes which is a product of the Vanilla bean. I have never tried to make them with vanilla or vanillin.  My mother adjusted a recipe she found for these cookies and it's just like grandma's - Love you mom!

Traditional Greek Easter Cookies

2-1/2 Cups sugar
1 lb. butter softened
1 dozen eggs
1 Cup whipping cream
1 oz. ground mastiha
2-1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
5 lbs. flour
1/2 Cup sesame seeds
1 egg for topping

Cream butter, add sugar, cream until sugar is dissolved. Add eggs one at a time and mastiha. Add baking powder, add whipping cream, alternating with flour, mix with mixer as long as it is not too thick, then mix by hand just until the dough can be manipulated without sticking. Refrigerate dough.

Roll dough into 12 x 1/2" strips, roll in sesame seeds and twist into pretzel shapes. Beat egg with 1 teaspoon  water, brush onto cookies before baking. bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes. Let cool. They are better as they dry out.

Mastic Gum Tears.

Grind into powder - For this you will need a mortar and pestle.
Every kitchen has one right??? If yours doesn't - you can pick one up at a
 kitchen specialty store or do what my grandmother did and use a straight
 sided glass bottle like a rolling pin to crush the Mastiha.

If you don't have one of these scraper paddles for your Kitchen Aid -
 I recommend you get one and forget about stopping to scrape the bowl.
This recipe makes a lot of cookies.

Mix in additional flour until dough is not sticky working in
batches (This is 1/3 of to dough), refrigerate until ready to use. 
Roll into 12 x 1/2" strips.

Roll in sesame seeds.

Twist into pretzel shapes.


Enjoy!  Cookies will keep for several weeks.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a fabulous Easter!


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