Greek Walnut Sugar Cookies

I first had this cookie this past summer in Greece at what could be best described as something like an Illinois highway oasis. Usually in Greece you get your snacks and drinks at small kiosks that dot the streets, but at this stop we found a huge behemoth of a food court in the middle of the Greek countryside. This place had everything and the foodie in me was way happy! I went up and down the aisles of a small market-type area off to the side when I found them. Piled high, covered in ample snowy sugar were the Kourabiedes behind a glass counter. The man behind the counter asked if I’d like a sample and of course I said yes! It was so yummy – think light and crisp with delicate notes of walnut and butter. I think the cookie that comes closest in flavor is the almond crescent but this one is a smidgen heartier.

So when I saw that kourabiedes were Food Network’s cookie of choice for the 4th day (out of 12) of Christmas cookies, I decided to try my hand at making them myself. Mine didn’t come out quite as delicate but they are mighty tasty nonetheless. Recipe below. I left out the brandy and orange flower water (now where am i supposed to find that?) but they turned out fine!

3/4 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons orange flower water
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toast the walnuts until golden brown and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Let cool, then chop about half of the nuts (you should have about 1/2 cup chopped). Pulse the remaining nuts in the food processor until finely ground (about 1/4 cup ground).

Stir the flour, baking powder, salt and nuts together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolk, brandy and vanilla extract together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the mixture gets light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.

At low speed, stir in the nut mixture to make a crumbly dough. Cover the bowl and set dough aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or coat with nonstick spray.

With a tablespoon, scoop out 1-inch pieces of dough and roll into balls between the palms of your hands. Pinch the ends of the balls to make a football shape. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies set and start to brown, about 18 minutes.

Remove cookies from the oven and immediately sprinkle them lightly with the orange water. (If you don’t have a brush, simply dip your fingers into the water and flick it over the cookies a few times.) Take care not to douse them, just enough for them to carry the scent of flowers.

Put the confectioners’ sugar in a bag, and add 5 to 6 of the warm cookies to it. Very gently toss the cookies to coat with sugar. Remove them from the bag and cool cookies on a rack. Repeat with remaining cookies. Serve.

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