Greece is often called the cradle of modern civilisation and its history is marked by developments that have been adopted the world over. Democracy? That’s Greek. The alphabet as we know it? That’s right, it’s Greek.
But Greece’s sweetest creations are its desserts. Made from locally produced ingredients such as honey, nuts, fruit and pastry, these tasty morsels are the perfect ending to a delicious Greek meal.
While Greek savouries are also one-of-a-kind (and certainly deserving of their own dedicated space), on this page we will present a few of our favourite recipes. With the right, quality ingredients, you too can create these delectable Greek desserts in your kitchen at home.
These pastry ‘cigars’ can have a sweet or savoury filling, which includes minced meat and herbs. The sweet version is not as sugary as the more familiar baklava and offers a lighter alternative to the famous favourite.
- 1 1⁄4 cups sugar
- 3⁄4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon honey (preferably, Greek Thyme)
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 cups ground walnuts
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 egg whites, room temperature, beaten to consistency of mayonnaise
- 1 lb phyllo pastry
- 1 cup butter, melted
- Icing sugar to dust
For syrup: Cook all ingredients in saucepan over low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar dissolves, then boil 15 minutes.
- Cool completely; strain.
For filling: Combine walnuts, cinnamon and cloves.
- Blend in 1 cup syrup and whites (mixture should not be too stiff; add up to ¼ cup additional syrup, if necessary.).
- To assemble: Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cut phyllo into 5 x 8 inch strips.
- Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel until ready to use.
- Take a strip and brush it lightly with melted butter.
- Spread 1 heaping teaspoon of filling along narrow edge.
- Fold in sides ½ inch toward center; brush sides lightly with butter; roll up tightly.
- Repeat with remaining strips.
- Arrange seam side down on baking sheet.
- Brush with remaining butter.
- (They can be frozen at this point – increase baking time to 30-35 minutes if baking them frozen).
- Bake until golden and crisp, 20-25 minutes.
- Cool completely.
- Dust lightly with powdered sugar.
Traditionally a Christmas recipe, we think these citrusy biscuits would be welcome any time of the year. Easy to make, they will bring a mix of Mediterranean flavours to your meal.
- 1 1⁄2 cups light olive oil or 1 1⁄2 cups corn oil
- 1⁄2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup beer (or more) or 1 cup orange juice (or more)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 2 oranges, zest of, grated
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups fine ground semolina (cream of wheat or farina)
- 6 cups flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
- 1 1⁄2 cups greek thyme honey
- 1 cup water
- 3⁄4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- Put the corn oil, butter, beer (or orange juice), cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until they are thoroughly blended.
- Sift about one cup of flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt and blend into the oil mixture.
- Add the semolina, a cup at a time, into this mixture.
- Add enough of the remaining flour, a cup at a time, until you get a rather firm dough (you may need a bit more or less than the amount of flour mentioned in the ingredients list).
- Use your hands to do the mixing, as an electric mixer will be useless after the first two or three cups of flour have been added.
- Roll the dough into cylinders, about two inches long and one inch in diameter, flatten them with your hands, and place them on cookie sheets that have been greased with a little olive oil.
- Bake at 350 degree Fahrenheit for half an hour.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and pour hot syrup over them.
- Lay the cookies out in a rimmed baking pan large enough to contain them and pour the hot syrup over the cookies, sprinkle them with the chopped walnuts and let them soak overnight.
- (Alternatively, if you do not have enough rimmed baking sheets to accommodate all the cookies, you can dip them in batches directly into the hot syrup – keeping the syrup at the lowest possible simmer – and allow to soak in the syrup for 8-10 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon).
- For the syrup: mix the sugar, honey and water, and bring to a boil.
- Cook on low heat for four minutes and skim off the foam that forms on top.
- The next day put them on your prettiest platter, sprinkle each layer evenly with the finely chopped walnuts and wrap with plastic wrap (or put in an airtight container) and serve.
Wrapped in angel hair pastry, this sweet, nut-filled pastry roll is hugely popular in Greece, Turkey and other places in the Middle East. Crunchy, sweet and moreish, we can totally understand why!
- 1 package Kataifi dough (450-500g)
- 180g butter, melted
- 120g pistachios, no shell, finely chopped
- 140g blanched almonds, finely chopped
- 100g sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 1 cup honey
- 2½ cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- Peel of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Thaw the Kataifi dough in a fridge overnight, taking it out about 2 hours before working with it and letting it to come to room temperature.
- Pulse the nuts in a food processor. Reserve 2 teaspoons of pistachios for sprinkling. In a bowl, combine together pistachios, almonds, sugar, cinnamon and egg white and mix well.
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) degrees.
- When the pastry thaws, divide it into 18-22 pieces. The length of one piece in my case was about 10 inches (25cm). Work with one piece at a time and cover the remaining pieces with a damp towel (we have to keep it moist). Brush the surface of a piece with the melted butter and place a heaping tablespoon of the filling at one end of it. Roll it up firmly.
- Place all the rolls seam side down in a slightly buttered 9×13-inch baking dish. Brush well with the remaining butter. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool.
- To make the syrup add all the syrup ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes more. Pour the syrup over the rolls. It is important: the syrup has to be hot, while the rolls have to be cool.
- Allow the pastry to absorb the syrup. Sprinkle with reserved pistachios and serve.