One of the two Christmas treats you find almost in every Greek home these days is Kourambiethes. Cookies with a delicious toasted almond crunch, coated in lots of icing sugar. At my husband’s birthplace (the area of Kavala Northen-East Greece), kourambies in enjoyed throughout the year, and this area is known for the most highly aromatic and fluffy Kourambiethes.
Two weeks ago, I visited Konstantinos who owns a small “Cookies” store (the Boulangerie Boutique) on the way up to the Kavala Castle. Konstantinos won the Gold Metal for his Kourambiethes at the FRESH HOME MADE Competition hosted for 2017 in Ankara-Turkey.
This guy is more Greek than the Greeks. He is a professional ballet dancer from Russia. He has traveled a lot, he speaks 10 languages, he likes painting and he is also a very good handcraftsman. Some years ago, he fell in love with Kavala city (I can imagine why), chose to live there and to do what he loves the most. Baking cookies.
When I entered his store, I was welcomed by the sounds of Tchaikovsky (The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy……so very Christmassy) and the smell of fresh butter and roasted almonds. I had this feeling that my heart was warmed and I got immediately a festive mood.
Most of the people that visit this cookie shop are tourists on their way up to visit the old city of Kavala. Konstantinos told me that every customer has different preferences concerning the kourabiethes taste. The Turks like them with a pinch of cinnamon; the Bulgarians buy Kourambiethes with chocolate and the visitors from Athens like the ones with orange flavor. I was amazed by the stories he could tell about the character and the ancestry of his clients, only by the flavor of Kourambiethes each of them chooses.
According to Konstantinos the secret for a good Kourabies is the butter. He couldn’t tell me where he buys his supplies……..that’s his secret after all, but he told me that butter should be full of fat and made from cows milk. At first he used sheep’s butter and this is the taste he likes the most, but the customers found the flavor too intense. The next secret is to whip the butter until it is completely white. The longer you whip the butter, the lighter (less dense) the cookie will be. And finally roast the almond before you put it in the dough.
So many people will claim that their kourambiethes are "the best” in town. What I realized this weekend is that making a good kourambies, besides the good quality butter and eggs, depends on what each individual like. The one thing for sure is the tradition behind this Christmas treat. Their white color symbolizes wishes for happiness and good fortune. Offer Kourambiethes to your dearest and wish them a Happy and Prosperous New Year.