Melomakarona (also known as Finikia in some Greek regions) are a traditional and delicious holiday staple. These soft cookies are flavored with orange zest, orange juice, brandy, and warm spices, then soaked in a honey syrup before topping with crushed walnuts.
Updated on December 20th, 2020: New recipe instructions and photos (written content has mostly stayed the same for now aside from some minor typo changes). Yay! See more details below the recipe, including some of the original photos!
Originally published on .
Oh, hi! It's been a little while. I took a mini break from blogging. Because holidays. This time of year always gets a little hectic with Christmas shopping, holiday parties, etc. You know what I'm saying.
But I'm back today and sharing one of my favorite Greek cookies: Melomakarona (meh-loh-mah-KAH-roh-nah)! Also known as finikia (fih-KNEE-kya). They're oval-shaped biscuit cookies spiced with orange, cinnamon, and cloves, soaked in a honey syrup. Oh, they also have brandy in them. When it comes to Greeks and Christmas, you can absolutely bet these cookies will make an appearance. Like kourabiedes, these scream Christmas cookies.
Melomakarona or Finikia?
One cookie with two very different names? What gives? Good question. I was recently shopping at my favorite local store, Sophia's Greek Pantry, where Sophia was giving out samples of her melomakarona (which were AMAZING, like everything she makes) and a customer asked Sophia why some people call them finikia. She jokingly answered, "I don't know. I think Greek-Americans just got lazy." 😂
Several years ago, when I first started experimenting with this recipe, I had asked my parents that same question and they didn't exactly know either. My mom guessed it depended on where in Greece you "came from." I grew up knowing them as finikia and didn't even realize melomakarona was another term until I wanted to learn how to bake them myself.
According to wikipedia, finikia are slightly different, stating the cookie isn't dipped in a honey-syrup is instead rolled in a mixture of walnuts and spices, which may be true in some areas! This was not the case in my experience. I still use the two names interchangeably, though I've started referring to these cookies more as melomakarona than finikia, mainly because I don't want to be a lazy Greek-American. 😉
Each year I've made these, I tinkered with the recipe. They were always "pretty good," but never quite how I remembered them. That is, not until this year. Back in the day, I baked more with vegetable and canola oils, and I always ended up overworking the dough, which resulted in tougher cookies. Then I switched to a combination of extra light olive oil and butter, which was better, but I still had the problem of overworking that damn dough (also adding too much flour) and missing that familiar taste. This year, I found the magic combo. After talking with my mom recently and learning that authentically, these cookies are made with extra virgin olive oil, I went for it. I also made sure not to overwork the dough, so I made this by hand. I had a really good feeling about it when I tasted the raw dough because I could taste a hint of what was missing every other time I made it. The end result was just like what I remembered growing up, eating these delicious cookies at family Christmas gatherings. <3
How to Make Melomakarona/Finikia
Making these cookies is fairly easy, but it's a bit time consuming! For one thing, because this is a holiday cookie, the yield of the recipe is pretty large. It makes about 68 cookies. Yes, you read that number right. Because it's the season of giving and nothing expresses love and friendship quite like a home-baked good, so that your friend, family member, or loved one can also share the experience of not being able to fit into their pants anymore.
What makes this recipe time consuming other than the volume of cookies, is the shaping of the cookies, the dipping of the cookies (they have to be soaked in honey for a couple minutes and you have to work in batches), and the cooling of the cookies. You know when you make something like chocolate chip cookies and you're so excited when they come out of the oven, you dive right in? And they're delicious and gooey and amazing? Yeah, you can't really do that with these. I know, it's heart-breaking, but hear me out.
What makes these cookies really shine is the honey syrup. And to make these just right, you have to soak hot cookies right out of the oven in the syrup. Adding hot cookies to the syrup is crucial as that will help the cookies absorb that delicious honey. I suggest waiting at least three hours before serving or eating. Waiting overnight is even better. Trust me on this. Every time I eat one of these cookies shortly after dipping them, they just don't taste right and I end up second guessing the recipe. Then I wait a few hours, try again, and sigh in relief.
If you want to speed up the time on making these cookies, I suggest a cookie party! Celebrating the holidays is all about being surrounded by ones you love. And being in the kitchen together baking tasty cookies like these? Makes celebrating even better. The best part: these cookies will keep for weeks and weeks. Store in an airtight container and leave them at room temperature.
That's all for today. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to do some yoga, followed by eating some finikia. I mean, melomakarona! 😉
What's your favorite holiday cookie? Let me know in the comments! I loooove talking about cookies.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Kitchen Tools Used:
- 2 Large Bowls (I used my pyrex 4-qt bowl and 4-qt stainless steel bowl)
- Silicone Spatula
- Baking Sheet(s)
- Large Baking Dish
- Wax Paper
Melomakarona / Finikia (Honey-Dipped Cookies)
For the melomakarona/finikia
- 6 ½ cups (870 grams) all-purpose flour, see notes*
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups (485 grams) extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup brandy
- zest from 1 orange
- ⅔ cup orange juice, see notes*
- ¾ cup (160 grams) sugar
For the syrup
- 1 ¼ cup (300 grams) sugar
- 1 ¼ cup (16 ounces) honey
- 1 ¼ cup water
- 1 strip of lemon rind
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
For the walnut topping
- 1 heaping cup (135 grams) walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Making the syrup
- Add the sugar, honey, water, lemon rind, lemon juice, cloves, and cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan. Place on the stove over medium heat for ten minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Making the cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In one large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
- In a second large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, brandy, orange juice, orange zest, and sugar until well combined.
- Continue whisking the wet ingredients while gradually adding in the flour mixture, about one cup at a time, adding the next cup as soon as the former is blended in (be careful not to overwork the dough). After mixing in two or three cups of flour, swap out the whisk for a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.
- Once you've incorporated all of the flour, the dough will be smooth, soft, and a little greasy.
- Hand-roll two tablespoons of dough (~27-30 grams or the size of a walnut) into an oval shape (a good baseline is two inches in length).
- An optional step is to create a pattern on the cookie by either rolling it down a grater or take the back of a fork and press it lightly against the length of the cookie (if doing the latter, you can also press the fork cross-wise for a cross-hatch pattern).
- Place the cookies on a baking sheet one inch apart and bake for 20 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly golden. Due to the volume of the recipe, you may have to bake in batches.
- While the cookies are baking, combine the walnuts and ground cinnamon for the topping and set aside, then prepare your cookie and syrup assembly station!
- Grab a large baking pan and line it with wax paper (this allows for easier cleanup and prevents the honey-dipped cookies from sticking to the pan).
- At your station, you should have an empty space reserved for the baked cookies, the syrup, the wax paper-lined pan, and walnut topping.
- When the cookies are done, remove them from the oven and immediately add hot cookies to the cool syrup face-down (5-7 at a time depending on the size of your pan), for one minute. Flip the cookies and let soak an additional minute.* Using a slotted spoon, move the cookies to the wax-lined pan. Sprinkle with the walnut topping.
- Repeat these steps as each batch comes out of the oven.
- Once the cookies have completely cooled, they can be transferred to a platter to serve (it's traditional to stack the platter high with melomakarona. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep up to 5 weeks.
- If measuring flour by volume, it's important to be precise! Be sure to use the scoop and level method.
- If a juicer is available to you, use that for the orange you zested. Freshly squeezed juice is always a great bet and it allows you to use the whole ingredient!
- Adding warm/hot cookies to cool syrup will allow them to better absorb the syrup.
HOW TO PRONOUNCE MELOMAKARONA AND FINIKIA
- Melomakarona (meh-loh-mah-KAH-roh-nah)
- Finikia (fih-KNEE-kya)
HOW TO STORE THEM
- Either cover the pan with plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container. Store at room temperature. They will keep up to five weeks.
HOW TO GIFT THEM
- Just like with kourabiedes, it's fashionable for a Greek to place a melomakarono into a cupcake liner before packaging in an airtight container for gifting/bringing to a holiday gathering (honestly, I also sometimes line them all in cupcake liners after they've cooled for easy gift-prepping). Plus, it's easier and less messy for folks to grab and eat!
Update Notes: This post was originally published on and was republished on December 20th, 2020 with new and improved recipe instructions and photography. Here are a couple of original photos for this post!