That’s what my daughter called it. This plain looking little brown cookie comes in a very boring little package. Sure, it might look fancier in a different wrapper, but the plain brown cupcake wrappers were all I had when I realized there was no way these things could be served without something to hold them together and separate. It had been years since I had made them, and I had forgotten how sticky they could get.
The recipe comes from Theresa Karas Yianilos’ “The Complete Greek Cookbook” that I stole off my mother’s shelf. I don’t know if she ever used it. I’m pretty sure the only thing I’ve ever made from it is this cookie. My first batch was sometime in 1985 or 1986 when I made a care package to send off to Bill who was at MIT while I was still living in Reno. I probably put in some other things, but these cookies were definitely part of my routine. His memory includes the packaging that came with the cookies–a less than charming odor of second hand smoke from my parents that puffed out of my boxes when he opened them. If you’ve ever had something sent to you by someone who smokes, you can probably imagine what I’m describing pretty accurately. Once the stale smokey smell cleared away, he was faced with a couple of dozen of these honey laden yummies to wile away his lonely hours.
I don’t remember making them at all since we got married, but I have been assured that I have made them at least once. Neither of us can remember when, and my sixteen year old is certain she’s never had them before. As I was looking through my cookbooks for an interesting addition to the dessert party I was having for the school fundraiser I was putting on, I decided to pull this one out of the closet and give it a fresh spin.
I sometimes wonder why I bother with cookies for this party because they usually get ignored in favor of the lemon cake, tiramisu or other gooey treats I make. Actually. I take that back. I know why I make cookies. I love them. I always have. I used to make 1-015 different kinds of cookies to send to relatives at Christmas time. I’d start the day after Thanksgiving and bake a different kind almost constantly for a few weeks, starting with the buttery rich nut cookies that taste wonderful after resting for weeks.
I make the cookies for the dessert party knowing full well only a few will get eaten and the rest will be left for me. It’s a nefarious plan, but there it is. The truth is out. I made these cookies though, knowing I don’t particularly like them and would be less tempted to actually eat them. They don’t exactly fit my diabetic friendly vegan-like diet. Here’s the recipe from page 170:
I didn’t use nuts this year as I wanted to minimize allergy risks for folks…and, I don’t just dip the cookies briefly–I leave them on the cookie sheet and spoon the syrup over the cookies and let them sit on the trays until most of the honey is absorbed. Might be overkill for some people, and probably not very traditional. Whatever. People seemed to eat them up. I somehow managed to not put them all out, though, so we had a few leftover.
Venetian Honey Cookies (Fenekia, melomakarona)
These marvelous honey cookies fragrant with spice were brought to Greece by Venetian bakers during the time when Venice ruled certain islands of Greece from te 14th to 17th centuries. The women of these islands, particularly of Kefallinia, Zakynthos, Corfu, and Ithaka which are part of the Ionian Islands, pride themselves on making the best fenekia or melomakarona in all of Greece.
1 egg Yolk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 ounce whiskey
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups butter or oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup farina (regular Cream of Wheat)
1 1/2 cup regular flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon each clove and grated orange rind
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups honey
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup ground walnuts or almonds (optional)
Melt butter. Allow to cool slightly. In a bowl or blender, put egg, juice, soda, whiskey and sugar and mix or blend together. Add butter or oil and continue blending until thick as mayonnaise.
In a bowl, sift flours and baking powder and spices. Add orange peel. Mix in batter, and finish by kneading smooth. Dough will be stiff. Place a tablespoon of dough in your hand and squeeze it to form an oblong egg shape. If a filled cookie is desired, add a small amount of nuts in the center before pressing it.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and press top slightly with a fork making a crisscross design or press with a cookie mold. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 350 F.
Bring honey and water to a boil and allow to simmer. Dip cookies for a few seconds in syrup and place on a cookie sheet to absorb syrup. Sprinkle with nuts and allow to cool. These cookies keep very well and taste better after a day. (or ten.)