This recipe comes from my friend and roommate's Greek grandmother Mary, who sadly passed away in her sleep earlier this week just days shy of her 102nd birthday. I never got to meet her, but heard stories from him and his wife about what an amazing soul she was - and what an incredible cook, too!
Some years ago, her daughter-in-law sat with her to create a cookbook of all her famous recipes. What a treasure that is now! She was NOT gluten-free and if anything tried to consume extra sugar every day, so as-written most of these recipes are not paleo, but they are easily adapted to be.
Where I come from, cooking a fabulous meal or a delicious treat is one of the sweetest, nicest things you can do for someone when they're down. For me, cooking is a way to express love and also a fantastic way to derive joy and channel my gratitude -- for the farmers who grew or raised the ingredients, for my family members who taught me to cook and passed down our traditions to me, for my health and energy to be able to cook from scratch, and of course gratitude for the person (or people) I'm preparing the food for.
So, of course, It made my heart well up to think about finally cooking one of her famous recipes to share with my roommates during this sad time. We had talked about it quite a few times over this last year of living together, but I just never got around to it. That's ok, because this was the perfect timing for it to happen.
Luckily, turning her koulourakia shortbread cookies into a grain-free, paleo-friendly treat was incredibly easy thanks to Otto's Natural Cassava Flour, which can be used as a 1:1 substitute for wheat in many recipes, including this one! This flour is by far my favorite paleo flour thanks to its incredible versatility, ease of use, and neutral flavor.
Her recipe does call for two types of alcohol: ouzo and cognac. I have NOT experimented with making an alcohol-free version, but I'm providing you with some suggestions for substitutions. Please be warned that I can't guarantee they will turn out perfectly since I haven't experimented!
I hope you enjoy this recipe - I think Grandma Mary would be proud to know you are enjoying her famous cookies!
Grandma Mary's Traditional Greek Koulourakia Shortbread Cookies (grain-free, paleo option)
This recipe for koulourakia shortbread cookies comes from Grandma Mary, a 102 year old Greek who loved to cook for those she loved. Her legacy lives on through her delicious authentic recipes - this one has been adapted from the original to be grain-free with a paleo modification.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 12-15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: about 30 cookies
- 1 and 1/4 sticks butter, softened (10 Tbsp)
- 1/3 cup unrefined sugar (I prefer sucanat but you can also use coconut sugar)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups Otto's Natural Cassava Flour
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 cup ouzo (see notes for substitution)
- 1/8 cup orange cognac (Grand Marnier) OR plain cognac + zest of 1 orange (see notes for substitution)
- 1 and 1/4 tsp corn-free baking powder
- 1/8 tsp unrefined salt (like this)
- Soften butter by leaving at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes (or just set it outside a minute if it's 100 degrees like it is here in Florida!)
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Add softened butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl and cream using a mixer or a fork and some elbow grease.
- Add eggs to a small bowl and whisk. Add about 3/4 of the whisked eggs to the creamed butter and sugar and mix. Add all remaining ingredients and mix well until a dough forms.
- If the dough is too dry and crumbly, you can add more egg a little bit at a time and incorporate into the dough. BE SURE to reserve some egg to brush the tops of the cookies with right before putting them in the oven. NOTE: if your eggs are on the small side, you may need an additional egg for the dough and to have some reserved for the tops of the cookies.
- Pinch off about one tablespoon of dough and roll it out into a pencil shape, then fold over and twist the ends together (see photos). The dough is fragile and will crack; just do your best to smooth it out with your fingers. You can have a bowl of water nearby and dip your fingers in it to help make the cookies smooth.
- Repeat until all the cookies are formed, arrange on a cookie sheet, brush with the reserved egg, and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
- Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!
Notes about this recipe:
Ouzo has a distinct anise flavor, so you could experiment with using anise extract or ground anise seeds in place of the ouzo. Just be sure to replace 2 Tbsp worth of liquid (I would suggest water). I would probably start with 1/2 tsp extract, maybe 3/4 tsp and replace the rest of the volume with water. For ground seeds, I'd start with 1/4 tsp.
Grandma Mary's original recipe calls for plain cognac and the zest of one orange, but an easy shortcut is to just use Grand Marnier (orange cognac, how convenient!) You can swap it out for fresh-squeezed orange juice instead.
These are the ingredients and tools I use in my own kitchen and think you'll love as much as I do! Click on any image to learn more about the products. Note: the baking powder is grain-free!