We love our Greek cooking vacations, and think anything Greek is sure to please. And when it comes to the Christmas holiday in Greece, there are traditions galore — and many of them surround food! Many of them too relate to keeping bad spirits — known as “kallikantzaroi’ – away. These kallikantzaroi, as the stories go, get in through the chimney and make trouble by doing things like putting out the fires.
To keep them away, many Greeks will put up a decoration that is made with a bowl of water along with a wire and a wooden cross. Someone in the house then regularly dips a sprig of basil into the bowl’s holy water to sprinkle water throughout the house.
Another tradition is making sweet bread to keep the goblins away. As Chef Katerina of our Greek Cooking Odyssey culinary vacation recounts, women used to put the sweet bread out (along with melomakrona — sweet honey cookies) to keep the goblins busy eating so they wouldn’t come into their homes.
Katerina’s Christmas muffin recipe is a spin on this traditional sweet bread recipe and it’s one inspired by her aunt’s own recipe. Feel free to make it your own too by having fun with the decorations. Katerina often uses colored chocolates as well as pomegranates, just to name a couple options!
Greek Christmas Muffins
- 150 grams butter
- 150 grams sugar
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 2 eggs
- 150 grams self-rising flour
- Shot of orange juice
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- White icing and/or chocolate (with 50-55% cocoa)
- Your choice of decorations, like chocolates and pomegranates
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cook method: Baking
1. In a bowl, beat together the sugar and butter on a high speed. After they’ve turned creamy, continue to beat while adding in the eggs.
2. Turn off the mixer, and then add in the flour little by little.
3. To the dough, add in the orange zest and juice, as well as cinnamon and raisins. Stir this all together lightly.
4. Pour the mixture into a muffin tin.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F), and then bake the muffins for 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Remove them from oven and allow to cool.
7. Once they’ve cooled, it’s time to have fun decorating! Start with the icing or melted chocolate. (For the chocolate, be sure to chop it up first and then melt in a stainless bowl that has been mounted to a pan over a little boiling water.
8. Add the decorations however you wish, and enjoy!
Discover more culinary traditions of Greece by visiting Chef Katerina on the island of Poros. Her trip features four hands-on classes, as well as guided visits to local points of interest on the Greek islands. Interested in other Greek Christmas recipes? Check out Katerina’s recipe for Greek Christmas Chocolate.
By Liz Hall
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