My grandmother loved entertaining. I grew up believing it was normal to have extended family over nearly every evening of the week, and that every house had an assortment of homemade cookies ready for children to snack on, and for adults to enjoy with their coffee.
Everyone who walked through our door knew that they would leave well fed. My grandmother and aunts spent hours in the kitchen together baking, sharing, gossiping and loving every minute of it. As a small child, I sat in the kitchen with them drinking my milk and waiting impatiently to eat the warm cookies as soon as they came out of the oven. When I got older, I joined in. First I was assigned easy tasks: getting ingredients from the fridge, lining the baking sheets, rolling the dough in preparation to braid the koulouria. As I got more comfortable, my grandmother started to give me real tasks: adding ingredients, mixing until the dough was at the right consistency, actually braiding the koulouria, and watching them bake so I could learn to see when they were ready. In my grandmother’s later years, I started writing down every ingredient and instruction on whatever scraps of paper I had in my purse, and filing them away in my envelope of recipes.
Here is the recipe I captured for Koulouria, braided Vanilla Cookies that were a staple in her house and often served with coffee.
Prep time: 45-60 minutes Cooking time: ~30 minutes Makes: ~100 cookies
1 lb butter
2 cups sugar
10 eggs, separated + 1 egg white
2 tbsp baking soda
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup of milk
4-5 cups flour, sifted
- Preheat oven to 360F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
- In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and continue to mix.
- In a small bowl, whip egg whites. Once whites are frothed, add to batter.
- Add baking soda, vanilla extract and milk to batter, continue to mix
- Begin adding sifted flour to the batter, continuing to mix until the dough begins to form soft peaks
- Remove mixer, and continue to add flour to dough while needing, until the flour stops absorbing (about 5 cups)
- Use a dinner teaspoon (not a baking teaspoon) to scoop dough, roll and form a braid, and lay on baking sheet. Alternatively, you can form ovals, s-shapes or o-shapes.
- Whip one remaining egg, and brush egg wash over tops of cookies
- Bake for ~30 minutes, or until egg wash starts to brown
- Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy. Cookies store well in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.