Christmas: Kourabiedes, or Greek Butter Cookies

I have a cookbook. (Nobody is surprised at this.)

I have 2 copies of the same cookbook, because the first one fell apart.

My Mum used it to learn to cook Greek food for my Dad after they got married, then I found it, and started reading it. It had a cover, back then. One of those 1970s brown ones, all earnest and lentilly.

The back pages came off, then the front cover, and then the book itself started to disintegrate. I put it away on the bookshelf, and it survived 2 house moves, probably by staying hidden at the back of the shelf, sheltered by Delia and Nigella.

I found it again when I needed a recipe for tahini cake. It had the recipe alright but there was a small drawback.


Time to see if I could find another copy. Thankfully the wonder that is Abe Books came to my rescue. When it turned up, the cover was a bit of a surprise!


But it’s the same book alright. So tahini cake was made. (Write up on that soon.)

My next favourite recipe is the one for Greek Christmas Cookies. We have them at weddings too. Essentially a very buttery shortbread with icing sugar and brandy. LOTS of icing sugar. Sometimes we add almonds, or pistachios too. I’ve had them with a cinnamon walnut mix in the middle, and even rose Turkish delight, which melts to a beautifully soft centre.

The original recipe calls for unsalted butter, bicarb and no added salt, but to my mind that makes everything too sugary and sweet, and possibly a little bland, so I use salted butter (grass fed for preference), and no bicarb as I hate the taste.

This time I wanted them plain and simple. I only had an evening in which to bake, as I needed to take something along to Thane Prince’s cookbook club the next day, and I had all of the ingredients in.

Off I went! Once I’d sorted out the cup measurements. Handy guide here!

The recipe called for a moderate oven *rolls eyes* so here’s a useful table:


I set my not terribly accurate oven dial to about 165C fan.


1 cup soft salted butter (it worked out to 225g)

1 cup icing sugar (I just used my American measuring cup for this one)

1 egg yolk (that meant I got to make meringues later)

1 tbs brandy (I used apricot brandy but you can use orange juice)

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1 tsp orange flower water

3 cups plain flour

(You can also add in 1/2 cup blanched and very finely chopped almonds)

1lb icing sugar to dredge (I DID NOT USE THIS MUCH. I don’t think they need it.)

Whisk butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy.

Mix in the egg yolk and brandy, then add the sifted flour a cup at a time and mix it all in.

Bring it together as much as you can then tip out onto a work surface and knead well until the dough is smooth. This is a beautiful dough, very easy to work with. Too easy to eat, if truth be told…

If it’s too soft for shaping, add a little more flour.

The book says to shape into balls, the size of a small egg, but I made mine smaller, maybe the size of a walnut. Don’t worry at all about perfection, make them any shape you want!

Place on a lined baking tray about an inch apart, as they do spread a little.

I pressed each one down with the back of a fork, because I like the pattern, and the ridges hold some icing sugar.

Bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes.

They will spread a little, puff slightly and then gradually turn lightly golden.

You are then supposed to roll the warm cookies in that 1lb of icing sugar, but I just put them in a box, and sprinkled maybe a cup of it in. It did stick to the cookies, and in some cases it will form a soft buttery layer on top. THIS IS FINE. It is also delicious.


They keep quite well in an airtight box, if you can stop yourself eating them all at once.

If you do want to sneak one, here’s a tip; don’t wear all black.

2 thoughts on “Christmas: Kourabiedes, or Greek Butter Cookies

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