The Mediterranean seafood restaurant next to my office has been doing an insanely brisk lunch and dinner business everyday since they moved in a few years ago. Considering three or four other restaurants tried and failed to make it at that location previously (all were there 1 year or less, I heard), that’s pretty impressive. The food there is all pretty light and fresh and delicious, and they have amazing happy hour deals daily between 3-9pm ($1 oysters!), but…I’m pretty convinced the restaurant’s longevity is really because of its free cookies.
Yes, free cookies. Stacked generously on a three-tier tower between the bar area and the hostess stand, and totally up for grabs, fo’ free. Three different kinds: a crunchy fried one, a shortbread-like one coated in powdered sugar, and a soft round one soaked in honey. They’re all tasty, but the honey-soaked cookie is my favorite and I have eaten an embarrassing number of them since I started working at my firm.
I found out recently that the honey cookies are a Greek dessert called “Melomakarona”, and are traditionally eaten around Christmas time. The recipe for these cookies is crazy simple and full of pretty basic ingredients – regular flour, semolina flour, a tiny bit of sugar, orange zest and juice, brandy, cinnamon and olive oil. Mix it all together, roll out little balls, and bake. Then (the best part), let the baked cookies sit for a while in a ton of honey syrup and sprinkle the finished product with chopped nuts. The cookies, which are themselves a little bit dry and bland, soak up all of the syrup and become tender, super-moist, sugary morsels of deliciousness.
I made these a few weekends ago when it was rainy and gross outside, and they turned out to be the perfect rainy-day treat with my afternoon tea. When I brought them in to work the next day, they were even more delicious after sitting overnight, and were quickly gobbled up by my coworkers.
You can eat these plain, with ice cream (Dan’s preferred method), or dipped in coffee/tea – they’re amazing no matter how you eat them.
- 1-1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups semolina flour
- 3 cups AP flour
- 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice.
- Zest from 1 orange
- Zest from 1 lemon
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2-1/2 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup brandy
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F). Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine your orange zest, lemon zest, orange juice, olive oil, sugar and brandy. Mix well.
- In a separate bowl, mix together all of your dry ingredients and slowly stir them into your bowl of wet ingredients. (The resulting dough should be very moist and springy/spongy)
- Cover the dough and let it chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
- Scoop out about 1 tbsp of dough at a time and roll it into a ball (or, the more traditional egg-shape). Place rolled dough on a cookie sheet. Repeat until all dough is rolled.
- Using a meat mallet or a pastry scorer, gently press down on each ball of dough to flatten it slightly and give it a dimpled/pitted texture (this will help them soak up syrup later).
- Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies are golden brown.
- While the cookies are baking, combine your sugar, honey and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stirring periodically, allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, until translucent.
- Combine your walnuts in a food processor with sugar and cinnamon. Pulse until nuts are finely chopped.
- Transfer the hot cookies fresh out of the oven into a shallow pan and pour your hot syrup over the cookies (or, if you baked your cookies in a high-sided baking sheet/jelly pan like me, just pour the syrup right into the sheet).
- Let cookies sit for 5 minutes and then flip them all over and let them sit for another 5 minutes.
- Flip them over again and let the cookies sit for another 5 minutes or so.
- Sprinkle cookies heavily with your walnut topping.
- Enjoy at least a few immediately, with tea.
NOTE #2 - Not sure why my cookies turned out to be so much lighter than the ones at the restaurant near work. Those are light brown/orange in color. Possible theories: they used different proportions of ingredients, I didn't bake mine long enough, I didn't let the syrup simmer long enough. Either way, the taste is very very similar!
(Recipe very slightly adapted from Sabor-ina)