Koulourakia are a crispy, orange-scented Greek Easter Cookies that are the perfect treat with coffee or tea.
Greek Easter Cookies
If Italian biscotti were to have a dainty, Greek cousin, it would be koulourakia.
These finger-sized, Greek cookies are traditionally made on Holy Saturday, so that they are ready to be eaten come Easter Sunday morning.
Crispy on the outside, but tender on the inside, these cookies are buttery, with a hint of orange essence. And, they’re so small that you don’t feel bad reaching for another… and another to go with your morning coffee or afternoon tea.
They’re seriously addictive, with a crunch that is oh-so satisfying.
The name koulourakia (pronounced ku-LU-ra-KA) translates to “little koulouria”.
Koulouria (whose name comes from its round shape) are sweet, bready rings that can be served at dinner or as a street food.
Koulourakia, on the other hand are a much smaller, butter cookie that are hand rolled and shaped into fun twisted designs.
They traditionally have an egg glaze and are topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
A Substitute For Baking Ammonia
Traditional recipes for koulourakia call for baking ammonia, which isn’t all that common in kitchens nowadays, particularly in the States.
Baker’s ammonia (or ammonium bicarbonate) is your classic, old fashioned leavener. (NOT to be confused with regular, household ammonia. Which is a cleaner. And is poisonous.)
Baker’s ammonia was the primary leavening agent before the invention of baking soda and baking powder in the 19th century. It smells quite potent, so today, it is mostly used in baked goods that don’t have much moisture, like crackers and cookies. (The drier the end product, the less smell lingers.) That’s perfect because it tends to produce a lighter, crunchier end result than baking powder or baking soda.
The best substitue for baking ammonia is double acting baking powder, which can be used as a direct, 1:1, substitute.
If you don’t have double acting baking powder, regular baking powder can be substituted as well, but double the amount of baking ammonia called for in the recipe (2:1).
For our recipe below, you don’t have to worry about the math. We wrote the recipe to use the more common baking powder.
Making Our Koulourakia Recipe
Typical recipes for koulourakia make A LOT of cookies. That’s ok though, because they’re small, and they really don’t last that long.
Our recipe is a bit on the smaller end, but it still will give you around 60 little, finger cookies.
Since there is a lot of rolling and shaping that goes into even a small batch, these cookies are a fun recipe to make with helpers. So, grab the kids or grab some friends, and start rolling some dough!
The dough for these Greek Easter cookies should be soft and pliable, but not sticky. Depending on the humidity of the day, you may need to add a bit more flour to the dough to get just the perfect consistency.
After mixing, we chill our dough for 30 minutes, just to make it a bit easier to roll. You shouldn’t need too much flour as your roll and shape your koulourakia, just enough that is doesn’t stick.
Shaping The Greek Easter Cookies
Koulourakia can be shaped into rings, braids, scrolled “S” shapes, or hairpin twists, like we did for ours today.
Feel free to get as creative as you like when shaping your koulourakia. No matter the shape, they will be delicious!
Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookies)
- ½ c unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ c sugar
- 2 eggs
- ¼ c milk, warmed to 80F
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 orange, zested
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 ½ c unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp of water (for the glaze)
- Sesame seeds (to top)
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, and beat until lightly colored. Add the milk, vanilla, orange zest, and baking powder. Mixing as you add.
- Add the flour, a little at a time, while mixing, until you have a soft, but not sticky, dough.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill 30 min.
- While your dough is resting, preheat your oven to 350F
- Once the dough has rested, dip your fingers in a little flour and pinch off a 1 inch ball of dough. Roll the ball into a 7 inch rope on a lightly floured surface. Fold the rope in half and twist the two strands together to form the cookie. Continue with the remaining dough.
- Place the shaped cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, 1 inch apart.
- Brush each cookie with the egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water). Sprinkle the cookies with sesame seeds, if desired
- Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes, rotating your baking sheet halfway through baking time for more even cooking. Cookies are done when they are lightly golden.
- Let the koulourakia cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store the cooled cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
- (This recipe makes a lot of koulourakia) so, if you need to, just cover any excess dough while your first batch bakes, so it doesn’t dry out.)