On the days before Easter in Greece, the smell of baking koulourakia fills the air. Simple little butter sugar cookies, twisted into figure eights, coiled or braided, and sometimes sprinkled with sesame seeds, koulourakia are found in almost every Greek bakery. The perfect accompaniment to an afternoon tea or coffee, they are delicious fresh and they store well.
Makes 36 cookies.
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups flour, plus up to ½ cup as needed and more for the work surface
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- a pinch of baking soda
- a beaten egg, for the egg wash
- sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter your cookie sheets.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and pinch of soda together.
- In a separate bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat for several
minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, and then add the vanilla extract and beat just until it’s absorbed.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, a little at a time to form a soft, workable dough. Add as little of the extra flour as possible so that the cookies remain tender.
- Lightly flour a work surface; transfer the dough to the surface and knead for a few minutes, or if you’re using a stand mixer with a dough hook, you can use that, just for a minute.
- To form the cookies, take about a tablespoon of dough and roll it with your fingers, or across a floured board, into a small strand about 6 inches long. Fold each strand in half and either (1—my favorite) coil the top and bottom ends in opposite directions to form a figure eight, (2) twist one strand over the other to form a braid, or (3) wrap it into a circle.
- Brush the tops of the cookies with the beaten egg, and if you choose, sprinkle them—or some of them—with sesame seeds.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until light golden brown, and remove from baking sheets. Cool completely and store them (if you don’t eat them all) in airtight tins.
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