Foods and recipes don’t only nourish our bodies, but they also sustain fond traditions and memories. Some dishes are easy, reliable, family favorites while others might be old and beloved holiday staples. Alexandra Stratou understands this well. In Cooking with Loula (Artisan Books, 2016), she invites readers to visit the kitchen where her family has met and cooked and eaten together for generations. From Greek classics to modern meals, Stratou presents a variety of favorite, satisfying, and soulful recipes from a real Greek family.
In her attempt to make sure these cookies last until Easter day, my mother hides them away from view. They are so soft and finely textured that we (specifically my brother) eat them by the handful, and she worries that there will be none left for our Easter guests. We laugh at her protective spirit because she ends up being mean in the name of goodness. We eat these cookies with a dollop of whipped cream and a fresh strawberry on top, or with a small chocolate Easter egg.
• 1 cup (2 sticks / 230 grams) unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
• 3/4 cup (100 grams) powdered sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until pale and fluffy, using either an electric mixer or a wooden spoon. Add the egg and continue mixing.
2. Add the vanilla and baking powder. Finally, add the flour, little by little, mixing after each addition, until a soft and smooth dough is formed (if it comes together into a smooth dough and stops sticking to the sides of the bowl before you finish adding all the flour, stop adding the flour!). Once the dough is ready, wrap it in parchment paper and set it aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Use your hands to form the koulourakia by rolling the dough into 2- to 3-inch (5- to 7.5-centimeter) snakes (the size depends on how important it is to you to make them delicately small). Overlap the two ends to form a loose circle. They need to be bite-size when raw so that they can expand to the perfect size while baking. Place on the prepared baking sheets.
5. Bake in the oven until they are a beautiful golden color, 15 to 20 minutes.
Tip: If you want a shiny finish, brush on beaten egg or milk before baking.
Tip: Add to the experience by dipping half the cookie into melted dark chocolate. Allow the chocolate to harden before serving.
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Excerpted from Cooking with Loula by Alexandra Stratou (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Ioanna Roufopoulou.