food. family. life.

koulourakia {greek sesame twist cookies}

My parents have told me hundreds of stories of when they first arrived in New York from Italia. They had to learn so much and were often feeling so overwhelmed and lost in this new strange place, a place that was nothing like home.

My favorite part of their story is when they speak of the different people they met who came from all over the world to create a new, better life for themselves and their children here in America. These newfound connections eventually became great friends who helped my parents find their own place in this new world.

Mammina Loreta spent time cooking with her new friends, many of which came from Poland, Germany, Greece and even other parts of Italia that she found unfamiliar and intriguing. She loved to learn about the foods they grew up making and eating back in their home countries, one of her favorites is a wonderful Greek sesame cookie called Koulourakia.

She was given a recipe and has included them in her collection for as long as I can remember. Traditionally, they are made with white sesame seeds scattered across the top of the cookies that have been brushed with an egg wash.

It was while making these cookies and many other recipes that Mammina Loreta and Papa Pierino learned of in this new place, that they began to feel better. Amidst cups of café with cookies, the countless meals and the endless glasses of wine shared with new friends and family, my parents slowly created what they sought… a place to call home.

The history of these cookies goes back as far as the early Egyptians. The cookies are formed and twisted or often seen made into into small coiled snakes; done by the Minoans as they worshiped the snake for its healing powers (Mammina Loreta hates snakes.) In recent Greek history, these cookies are made by local families and bakeries for their Easter holiday.

My husband Daniel loves Mammina Loreta’s cookies; she has been known to bring a batch for us when she comes to visit our famiglia and she will also store a secret stash in the freezer just for him (it’s their secret.)

My adaptation uses Mammina Loreta’s recipe and a recipe I found on a Greek food site with some personal additions and changes of my own. I have added a dash of cognac to the dough and to the egg wash for a richer depth of flavor.

These cookies are really wonderful when served with café or tea for breakfast, after dinner with espresso or anytime you need a little special something.

Note: I made this batch in honor of Daniel’s birthday; he is and will always be the love of my life and I know great pleasure and satisfaction when I am able to make something that I know he loves and appreciates. This is the key to why I love finding ingredients, creating a dish and feeding the people in my life.

koulourakia {greek sesame twist cookies} 

INGREDIENTS

{dough}

1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, softened

6 tbsps. organic unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 tbsps. or so fresh orange zest

1 scant cup of organic sugar

1 tbsp. sugar

1 large organic egg

1 1/2 tsps. vanilla

2 tbsps. Rémy Martin XO cognac

4 cups unbleached flour

2 tsps. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

chinese organic black sesame seeds

{egg wash}

1 organic egg

1 tbsp. Rémy Martin XO cognac

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Grease two large cookie sheets and set aside.

In your large mixer bowl; combine the 1/2 cup and 6 tbsps. of butter, oil and orange zest. Blend until well combined and creamy.

Add in the scant cup and tablespoon of sugar; blend until well mixed. Now add in the egg, vanilla and cognac and continue to combine until mixed through and very creamy.cuciandimammina_greeksesamecookies_01

Slowly begin adding the flour, one cup at a time, mixing each time until all ingredients are combined.

When all the flour is added, blend in the orange juice, baking powder and baking soda until a smooth creamy dough forms.

The dough will be soft and somewhat sticky and holds well together.

Begin to shape the cookies by taking about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dough and roll it log shape until it is about 1/2 or so thick.

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Note: If the dough sticks to your hands; rub a bit of olive oil on your hands before rolling.

Form a “U” shape with the rolled log then braid or twist to the end and press lightly to seal.

Place on the greased cookie sheet and continue rolling and twisting until the first tray is full (place the cookies about an 1 inch or so apart as they do increase in size.)

In a small cup, whisk the egg and 1 tbsp. of cognac together until blended. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg wash over the top of the cookies and sprinkle with the black sesame seeds.

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Place in the preheated oven for about 11 minutes or so.

These cookies need to have a light golden brown appearance and must be immediately removed from the oven to cool.

Overcooking them will change the flavor and texture so watch your oven temperature and cooking times carefully.

Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the tray (or they will crumble and crack.)

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Place on a large serving platter to enjoy immediately or once cooled, store in containers or large plastic bags in the freezer for future use.

This recipe yields about 24 to 28 cookies.

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Note: Photography by Annette L. Venditti

Buon Appetito!

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