With my dad being from Cyprus we always celebrated Easter differently to all of my friends. While everyone else seemed to be given chocolate eggs my brothers and I each chose a brightly coloured, hard-boiled one from a basket of many that my dad had dyed that morning. I loved the tradition of cracking the eggs together to see who had the strongest one when I was younger, but when I first realised that I was missing out on chocolate eggs and cornflake nests I felt like I’d pulled the short straw.
Now that I’m older and less concerned with how many excuses I get to eat chocolate all day, I love the tradition that we follow and value that part of my heritage deeply. This year is one of the first that I’m not able to visit my family in Cyprus for the holiday, and I’m really missing all of that Easter goodness! Along with dyed eggs there’s a whole host of food that we celebrate Easter with; roast lamb with Cyprus style roast potatoes or orzo, cheese-filled flaounes, braided tsoureki fresh from the bakery, and of course koulourakia.
Koulourakia are little, not-too-sweet cookies that every grandma, aunt, distant relative or friend will offer you when you visit for afternoon tea. They are magical. If you’ve never tried them before imagine a butter cookie lightly flavoured with vanilla or citrus and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Now take that imaginary cookie and dunk it into a cup of Greek coffee. That my friends is what I like to call heaven.
You know what else is heaven? These Easter recipes that I love:
Souvlaki for the Soul – Roast Leg of Lamb
Afrodite’s Kitchen – No-Fail Modern Cyprus Easter Bread (Flaounes)
Thyme – Tsoureki Greek Easter Bread with Cardamom Spice and Orange Peel
… and finally, these gorgeous gold leaf marbled eggs
I hope you all have a great Easter!
Makes 40 cookies
For the cookie dough:
450g unsalted butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
60ml whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
530g all-purpose flour
370g self-raising flour
For the egg glaze:
2 egg yolks whisked with 2 tablespoons of water
In a stand mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, around 5 minutes. Add the milk, citrus zest, vanilla bean seeds and mix to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated.
In another bowl, whisk together the two flours, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then add to the butter mixture a cup at a time with the speed on low. The dough will be fairly sticky. Leave to rest in the bowl for about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°c/160°c (fan) and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper
To shape each cookie, take a ping pong ball sized amount of the dough and roll it out into a rope around 20cm long. Fold the rope in half, then twist two times. You can leave the two ends loose at the bottom, but I tend to pinch them off for a closed twist. Arrange your cookies on a baking sheet about an inch apart.
Brush with the egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds, bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden.
Recipe adapted from here