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These spicy and aromatic Greek Christmas cookies, (sometimes loosely translated as honey macaroons but rather resembling a syrup-drenched Mediterranean version of gingerbread or a softer speculoos cookie, but without the ginger and with lots of orange), exist in as many variations as there are villages in Greece and cities around the world where Greek expats live today ! Let’s explore all of this together and see how we could modernize and perhaps even dare to update and customize all of these already perfect and traditional recipe variations.

MELOMAKARONA are usually rounded and oval like slightly flattened eggs. All are flavored with spices like cinnamon and cloves and orange zest. All are made with flour but some are made with some wheat semolina and some include walnut powder too. Some are made with only olive oil but some use vegetable oil too. Most include some cognac, of course … It is the holiday season, right ?!

Some are baked and then straight from the oven, while still hot, are soaked in a cold syrup, while some cookies are completely cooled down and then soaked in a hot syrup.

Some are so soft and moist that they fall apart and melt in your mouth because they’re like syrup-soaked sponges, but are hard to hold, while others are firmer with a more sandy and granular texture and sticky with sweetness, because the syrup is mostly absorbed by the outer layer and they remain shiny.

Some are stuffed with a chopped walnut mixture while others are simply sprinkled or coated in chopped walnuts and pistachios.  

As I said, there are so many variations and there is no ultimately perfect recipe but here’s my version.

Firstly, they are not egg-shaped but resemble thin pine cones and I use a whole half walnut inside of each, as a filling but also to act as a structural reinforcement or a hidden backbone to help the tapered cone cookies to hold their shapes while baking and to avoid them from spreading.

Secondly, I add some nutmeg and allspice but also a hint of mastic resin, for a fresher more resinous taste.

Fourth detail, I use walnuts in several ways, in powdered form for the dough, a whole half-walnut inside as a filling, and some chopped walnuts as a garnish, alongside with some pine nuts and a few flashes of bright green slivers of candied angelica (that I sometimes like to call Europe’s more modest version of vanilla).

Fifth detail, mine are baked a few extra minutes until firmer and thus need to be soaked in the syrup longer because of their crunchiness. They hold their shape beautifully and are granular enough to be a cookie, but sticky and sweet enough to be a holiday version of a cookie.

The preparation is often rapid and not fussy because over-mixing the dough will make the oil separate from the dough. And please remember that baking soda and baking powder react with the orange juice so if you are going to chill them, add the rising agents only at the end before shaping them into balls.

And the last detail is the shaping which is actually quite easy, starting from a small round ball of spongy dough, in which you insert a half walnut, then roll between your palms to taper the shape, then lay down, create a few crisscross indents as a pattern and re-shape again and bake.

Of course, most of the people who regularly make these will make at least double if not 4 times as much, starting with 1 kg of flour, because many are offered to friends and family but begin with a small batch of 24 cookies (or even half a batch of 12 cookies) and you’ll see if they suit you. Or even better, make one large batch of dough, and separate into smaller baking batches and modify the baking time for each to figure out what you prefer, softer or crispier !

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes … :)

«melomakarona» spice & honey syrup christmas cookies


24 cookies x 38 grams each


cookie dough (total weight 720 grams) :

cookie dough dry ingredients (430 grams) :

  • 250 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted (you could replace 2 tsp of flour with 2 tsp of barley malt powder)
  • 100 grams (½ cup) wheat semolina, fine
  • 50 grams (½ cup) walnut powder
  • 25 grams (2 tbsp) golden cane sugar
  • 1,5 grams (¾ tsp) cinnamon powder
  • 0,33 gram (¼ tsp) nutmeg, grated
  • 0,33 gram (¼ tsp) allspice (4 peppercorns), ground
  • 0,33 gram (¼ tsp) cloves, ground
  • 1 grams (¼ tsp) sea salt
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) baking powder
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) baking soda
  • optional : 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) crushed mastic resin

cookie dough liquid ingredients (290 grams) :

  • 165 grams (¾ cup) light olive oil or vegetable oil (or a mix of both)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) orange juice (from 1 orange)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) cognac
  • 5 grams (½ tbsp) orange zest (from 1 large orange)

filling :

  • 50 grams (¾ cup) whole walnut halves (24 walnut halves or 1 walnut half for each cookie)

syrup (total weight 500 grams) :

  • 180 ml (¾ cup) water
  • 200 grams (1 cup) sugar
  • 160 grams (½ cup) thyme honey
  • 1 gram (½ whole) vanilla bean, split in two and scraped
  • 3 grams (½ whole) cinnamon stick, broken in several smaller pieces 
  • 5 grams (2-3 pieces) orange peel

garnish :

  • 15 grams (2 tbsp) walnuts, coarsely chopped 
  • 15 grams (2 tbsp) pine nuts, coarsely chopped 
  • 3 grams (1 tsp) candied angelica (bright green), very thin slices


  • prepare the syrup by boiling the water with the sugar, the split vanilla bean, the cinnamon & orange peel until the sugar has dissolved and then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for several minutes, then remove from heat and add the honey, stir well, sprinkle the crushed mastic resin powder on top, stir well and set aside until completely cooled and remove the solids
  • combine the liquid ingredients with the zests and whisk until mixed
  • add ½ cup of the liquid mixture to all of the semolina and let sit for 30 minutes 
  • prepare the dry mixture ingredients (but do not add the baking powder or baking soda yet) and set aside
  • add the semolina mixture to the remaining liquid ingredients mixture and whisk, then add the dry ingredients slowly and mix until just combined (do not overmix or the oil may separate) and chill the dough before shaping (if the kitchen is too warm or the dough seems too soft to handle)
  • remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, sprinkle the baking powder and baking soda onto the dough, combine well and then shape the dough into 24 small balls of 2 tbsp each or approximately 30 grams each
  • slightly flatten the balls of dough, insert a half walnut inside each (for reinforcement and to hold the shape), roll the dough between your palms and keep rolling until tapered and slightly pointed at the 2 ends, then place on a baking sheet (the half walnut inside should be upright and vertical, not flat and horizontal) and create crisscross indents or patterns on top with a knife and place each on a baking sheet with baking paper, reshape them slightly and chill them as the oven preheats
  • preheat oven to 210°C with the rack in the middle
  • transfer the baking sheet to the oven, then immediately lower the oven heat to 180°C and bake for 20 minutes until golden (or 18 minutes for a softer cookie and up to 22 minutes for a crispier cookie), then turn off the oven, leave the door slightly open and carefully remove some of the cookies to soak them immediately in the cooled syrup, while still hot, in small batches while keeping the other cookies still warm (I soak 8 at a time and do 3 batches)
  • soak the oven-warm cookies for 1 minute (if baked for under 18 minutes and softer) or for up to 5 minutes (if baked for 22 minutes and crunchier or firmer) and gently turn them over repeatedly in the soaking syrup until all sides of the cookies are soaked in syrup
  • *note : each baked cookie will weigh 25 grams each and each should absorb a minimum of 12,5 grams of syrup after 5 minutes of initial soaking but could absorb up to 18 grams of syrup if left to soak even longer, so each syrup soaked cookie should weigh 38 grams minimum and 43 grams maximum …
  • place the cookies in a slightly deep dish and pour the remaining syrup on top and let the bottom of the cookies rest in the thin layer of syrup, to soak up even more syrup and then leave as is (or place the cookies on a rack if they seem too soft or too syrupy)
  • *note : another method for syrup-soaking is to soak room-temperature and cooled cookies in a hot syrup which may be an easier option if you double or triple or quadruple the recipe because keeping 48-96 cookies all warm before soaking them all, may be difficult …
  • carefully garnish the syrup-soaked cookies with chopped walnuts and some chopped pine nuts and some thin slivers of green candied angelica (you can re-brush the tops with any remaining syrup so that the garnishes stick better) 
  • store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to several weeks (with no syrup at the bottom of the dish if they are very moist and could fall apart or with some syrup at the bottom of the dish if they are firmer, so that they do not dry out) …