December 9, 2016 Fly me to the moon

Traditional Greek Christmas Desserts

Christmas in Greece means all sorts of cultural and food traditions and that includes… dessert!  Indulging in Greek Christmas desserts are a wonderful part of the holiday experience.

kourabiedes-christmas-1

Traditional Greek Christmas Desserts

During the Christmas season, after a family’s home cooked main dishes and savory pies are eaten, Greek Christmas desserts take center stage.

Here is a rundown of the most traditional Greek Christmas desserts, sweets that are irresistible during the holiday season.

Melomakarona 

One of the top desserts are cookies called melomakarona.  Along with kourabiedes, these honey spiced cookies remind every Greek Christmas is around the corner.  The cookies are so tasty and popular there are many variations to them.  Melomakarona are deliciously unique — drenched in honey, orange, clove and cinnamon syrup. When warm, they especially melt in your mouth.

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While every Greek bakery sells them, these cookies are a favorite to make at home.

Kourabiedes

As aforementioned, these Greek Christmas cookies are just as popular as melomakarona. They are made with butter and almonds and the final step to completing them is dusting them with a generous layer of powdered sugar. These melt-in-your-mouth delights are perfect for the Christmas holidays because they even look like they’re made of snow.  Before the electric mixer, kourabiedes required significant preparation by hand making them even more special to taste during the Christmas season.

kourambiedes

Photo credit: Tasty Kitchen

Just like melomakarona, many Greek families make them at home.

Diples

These Greek sweets get their name from the Greek word meaning to fold.  Diples are thin sheets of dough that are folded while being fried, creating a uniquely shaped treat.  Then, they get a generous drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chopped walnuts.

diples

Photo credit: www.syntagesmekefi.gr

They are considered quite challenging to make but are a delight to see during the Christmas season in Greece.

Karidopita

Cake lovers crave this delicious dessert during the Christmas season. While it can be found in bakeries and restaurants all year long, it is super popular during the holidays. One reason is that this spiced walnut cake – soaked in a spiced syrup – has the amazing aromas that remind one of a cozy Christmas.

karidopita

Photo credit: Dionisos Restaurant

Made with semolina and flour, it retains a classic Greek cake nature because of the fact it is soaked in syrup. Every true Greek baker has his/her own version of this delightful cake.

Vasilopita

The vasilopita, a round cake, makes its way into bakeries throughout Greece. Beyond being a beautiful and tasty cake, the vasilopita is actually deep rooted traditional food from the Greek Orthodox church.  On the first of the year, a family will cut a vasilopita to honor the Holy Father Basil the Great, hence the name vasilopita. First, the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake.  Then pieces of the Vasilopita are cut and distributed in following order:
First piece is for Christ,

Second piece is for Theotokos,

Third piece is for St. Basil,

Fourth piece is for the poor.

akis-petretzikis-vasilopita

Photo credit: Akis Petretzikis

Then the rest of the cake pieces are given to all present, starting with the head of the household or oldest and down to the youngest.  It can vary depending on family tradition.  Then there’s the surprise…  The cake is baked with a coin inside. The person who receives the piece with the coin is said to have luck for the year.

Families cut the vasilopita together on the first day of the year.  However, workplaces, businesses, organizations, social networks and other types of groups make it a point to have a vasilopita cutting within their organization. Usually, a prearranged gift (a prize or money) is given to the person who has the piece with the coin.

Have you ever tried one of these delicious Greek Christmas desserts? If not, which one would you like to try first?

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