My mom raised us on these “oil cookies” or Ladokouloura, a traditional cookie that’s made in households across Crete, the island from which both of my parents originated.
I fondly remember our koumbara Angelikoula, who passed away recently, bringing bags of these to our house when she and her family visited us during holidays. She was from Hania, where both my parents came from, and these cookies are regular features in bakeries there.
Thankfully, the recipes came over with the immigrants and they’re being passed from one generation to the next.
So when I saw my Facebook friend Evdoxia Vrentzos-Merekoulias from Toronto sharing images of her Ladokouloura on her newsfeed, I asked her to share. She generously responded with photos and the recipe. These traditional cookies from Crete are vegan.
*Special thanks to Evdoxia for being so generous with her recipe, photos and notes on how to make these tasty Ladokouloura from Crete!
zest of one lemon
1 cup of olive oil
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 a shot of Raki*
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of baking powder
4 cloves crushed
1 tsp of cinnamon
4 cups of sesame seeds
5 cups of flour
a pinch of salt
*Raki is common in Cretan households but may be hard to come by. It’s a pungent, alcoholic drink also known as Tsikoudia, or Tsipouro in other parts of Greece. Often times people replace Raki with Ouzo. These two drinks are nothing alike. Ouzo has a strong anise flavor and using ouzo in a recipe like this will drastically alter the taste and outcome. If Raki isn’t available, you can substitute Cognac.
(1) Place sesame seeds in a strainer and wash them thoroughly. Place a paper towel on a plate and lay the wet sesame seeds on the paper towel. Place another paper towel on top to capture the moisture. Set aside.
(2) In a bowl with a spatula mix, olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, raki and crushed cloves
(3) Mix the baking soda, the lemon zest and the orange juice and add to the mix.
(4) Mix the salt, baking powder and flour then slowly add to the mix, stirring with the spatula until thick.
(5) After the mixture thickens, use your hands to create a nice dough.
(6) Once the dough is consistent then place it to rest for 1/2 hour in the refrigerator.
(7) Uncover sesame seeds and spread them in a plate.
(8) After 1/2 an hour, take the dough out of the refrigerator and start making it into small round balls. You can also shape the balls into medium sticks (see picture) or round circles, then roll them into the sesame seeds.
Note from Evdoxia: I usually make all my cookies then roll them in the sesame seeds and then put them straight in the pan.
(9) Repeat you can do the small kourourakia, but you need to be careful with the dough, as it breaks easily so work it on your palms.
(10) Place in the oven for 1/2 hour 260 degrees Celsius. The final color should be brown.
(11) Place them on racks to cool. They should turn out crunchy.
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