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koulourakia cookies
The twists have a tongue-twisting name: koulourakia.

In general, we don’t like making cookies. Especially as treats for others. After all, everyone makes cookies. And why is that? Well, they’re really, really good, but, they’re also really easy, and we like a challenge. Plus, if we’re bringing a treat, we want it to be a treat, something a little different. So, when we read about these Greek cookies, we knew we had to try them ourselves.

We saw the recipe in Baking with the Brass Sisters, by Marilynn Brass and Sheila Brass, and almost passed them right by because there wasn’t a picture near the recipe — we love pictures; they’re so helpful — we think there might have been one elsewhere in the book, but, to be honest, once we read about how you shape these cookies, we were hooked.

We think you’ll want to make these Koulourakia, too, so we’ll show you how we made them here in the Scratchin’ It Test Kitchen.


Yield: about 60 cookies



    For cookies
  • 3 1/2 cups (490 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
  • For topping
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • sesame seeds

Abbreviated Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium until smooth and glossy. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add sugar, and continue to beat until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, waiting until the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla extract, and beat on medium for at least 5 minutes.

Add flour mixture in three additions, mixing on low until the flour is just incorporated. Cover dough and refrigerate until completely chilled, 2-4 hours.

Meanwhile, mark two pencil lines on waxed paper 6 inches apart. Turn paper over and tape to a clean work surface.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or baking parchment.

Whisk together egg and vanilla extract.

Scoop out a rounded teaspoon of dough, and, working rapidly, place on waxed paper. Using the lines as a guide, roll into a rope 6 inches long. Fold in half, twist 2 times, and place on prepared sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between cookies.

Brush cookies with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake, rotating sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through, until golden brown, about 22 minutes.

Let cool on sheets fro 5 minutes, then remove from baking sheets to cool completely.


Ingredient discussion:

mise en place
You need to let the butter and eggs warm, so you might as well measure out the remaining ingredients while you wait. Doing so makes baking easy.

Eggs: use the ones from happy, healthy hens; we get ours from Josh’s Foraging Fowls, and, having seen them, they do seem happy. You can check farmers’ markets, or maybe your neighbor has a few hens, or maybe you want to try your hand at raising hens. Butter is unsalted so you — not some factory — can control how salty your cookies are. And vanilla extract is the real deal. Always.

Procedure in detail:

mixing dry ingredients
This is your only chance to mix the dry ingredients well, so, take advantage of it.

Mix dry ingredients. We want all the dry ingredients well mixed, as they won’t get mixed a lot when we add them later, so, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. We didn’t use a whisk, just a spoon, but we mixed very thoroughly just to make sure there were no pockets of baking powder. Once mixed, set the dry ingredients off to the side.

creaming butter
We try beating the butter before adding the sugar; if it takes just a minute for the butter to be smooth and glossy, the temperature is perfect.

Cream butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, on medium speed, until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute. We use this as a test to see if the butter is warm enough for creaming in the sugar. If, after a minute, your butter isn’t smooth and glossy, let it warm for about 30 minutes more and try again.

adding powdered suagr
We add the sugar only as rapidly as it’s incorporated into the butter — to prevent the powdered sugar Vesuvius effect.

Add sugar. When the butter is creamy, continue beating on medium speed, while you slowly add the confectioners’ sugar. We like to add the sugar at about the same rate it gets incorporated into the butter so the sugar isn’t flung out of the bowl. Once all the sugar is added, continue beating until it’s smooth, light, and super creamy, like frosting. Feel free to stop the mixer periodically to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

adding eggs
As you add eggs the mixture will appear curdled, but it’ll smooth out and look creamy once again.
beating in eggs
As the eggs get beaten in they form an emulsion with the fats, making for a light, airy mixture.

Add eggs. Add those eggs, one at a time, and beat into the butter and sugar mixture. At the start, the mixture will appear curdled, but let the mixer run on medium speed and it will smooth right out as the mixture emulsifies. Once the mixture is smooth, repeat with the next egg until all four eggs are incorporated. In between the additions, feel free to scrape down the bowl.

adding vanilla
Use real vanilla for real flavor.

Add vanilla. Add the vanilla, and beat in, then increase the mixer speed to medium and let it beat the mixture for a good 5 to 7 minutes, just to make sure everything is well-mixed. At this stage, the mixture might look slightly curdled, but that’s okay.

adding flour
Use a rubber spatula to start mixing in the dry ingredients, again to help prevent the Vesuvius effect.

Add dry ingredients. This is the part we don’t like because, no matter how hard we try, some of the dry ingredients get flung out of the bowl. In three separate additions, add the flour and use a spatula to start incorporating it, then beat on low until the dry ingredients are barely mixed in.

chilling dough
Chilling will make the dough easy to handle. Right after mixing, it would be a mess to try to shape.

Chill. Immediately after mixing, the dough is too soft to shape, so place it in the refrigerator and chill completely, 2 to 4 hours, or even overnight.

wax paper guide
For nice-looking cookies, make guidelines on waxed paper. That way, you can roll out all the cookies the same length.

Make rolling guide. To make all the cookies uniform — they’ll bake evenly and look nicer — make a rolling guide from waxed paper. Simply draw two pencil lines on a piece of waxed paper 6 inches apart. Turn the paper over — you’ll still see the lines, but you won’t get pencil lead in your cookies — and tape it to a clean work surface.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or baking parchment.

egg wash
The glaze is nothing but an egg and vanilla, but it will leave the cookies slightly shiny and help the sesame seeds stick.

Make glaze. Simply whisk together an egg and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. The original recipe called for 2 egg yolks, but we didn’t want to deal with the extra egg whites, so we just used a single whole egg.

rolling cookies
The guide makes rolling cookies fast and accurate.

Shape cookies. Scoop out a slightly heaping teaspoon of cookie dough, and, working rapidly so the dough doesn’t warm too much, place it on your waxed paper guide. Roll it into a rope 6 inches long, or long enough so that each end touches one of the lines. Fold the rope in half, give it two twists, and place on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between the cookies. Continue until you have both sheets filled.

shaping koulourakia
A fold, a couple of twists, a bit of glaze, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and you have koulourakia.

Glaze and sprinkle. Brush each cookie with egg wash and follow up with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Bake. Slide the cookies into the oven and bake, rotating front to back and top to bottom, until lightly browned, about 22 minutes.

cooling cookies
Cooling for 5 minutes on the sheets help the cookies firm up and let the sheets cool down. Win-win!

Cool. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. This waiting and cooling on the sheets will also help ensure they’re cool before shaping the next batch of cookies.

We liked the shapes of the cookies, and, while the cookies were good, they weren’t great. The upside is that they’re not as sweet as most cookies, but, unfortunately, they’re lacking in flavor. Next time we’d increase the amount of cinnamon — at least 1 teaspoon, or even 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon wouldn’t go amiss. For that reason, we’re giving these koulourakia just four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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