Greek Almond Shortbread Butter Cookies (Kourabiethes)
These Kourabiedes (or Kourabiethes) Greek Almond shortbread cookies often called butter cookies are delicious, melt-in-your-mouth and a staple in Greek households. They are quite often served during festive occasions but you will be wanting them on any occasion. This is a small batch recipe for them that I love because its quick and simple, not too sweet, nutty, buttery and downright addictive. A lot of recipes yield 80 sometimes 100 cookies - perfect if you are making them for a wedding but sometimes you just want a smaller batch. This recipe is very easy to double or triple if you ever need to make a larger batch.
These cookies fall under the shortbread category but I have heard them described as snowball cookies or crescent cookies depending on what shape you bake them in. They have a delicious buttery flavour similar to shortbread cookies with a slightly more crumbly texture. Our version has plenty of vanilla flavouring, a pinch of salt, and is coated in lots of powdered sugar.
This is what you will need to make these cookies:
- powdered sugar
- blanched slivered toasted almonds, chopped (whole blanched ones can also be used)
- egg yolk
- baking soda
As you can see these are made with pretty simple ingredients. Because butter shines in shortbread cookies including these, it’s always best to use the highest quality butter that you can find or use. It will add to the flavour and texture of the dough.
There are a few other flavour add ins that are optional or that can be swapped for other flavours. Here they are:
- can be substituted for other nuts like pecans, or walnuts, or many opt to leaving them out if they are allergic - they make wonderful vanilla shortbread cookies too
- Vanilla extract can be substituted with almond extract giving these almond cookies even more delicious almond flavour. You can also do a combo of the both to make up the same amount - I like doing 1 tsp vanilla and ½ tsp almond
- You can make these Gluten Free by using a good quality gluten free 1-1 flour. If I am doing that I will also add in a few tbsps or up to a ¼ cup of ground almonds in for extra texture and flavour.
- For a dairy free version you could replace the butter with a good vegan butter or plant based butter.
- You can either use brandy or cognac to add to the signature flavour of these tasty Greek cookies
- The icing sugar is one of the signature features of the cookie recipe. Feel free to reduce the amount used. I grew up having these with ample amounts of it but I know others prefer just a very light dusting on there’s. You decide how you like them.
The key to making the very BEST kourabiedes no matter what recipe you make is ensuring that you beat the butter and sugar until its very light and fluffy - like I mean a good 8-10 minutes until it almost resembles whip cream. This will help ensure that your cookies are αφρατα / afrata or light and fluffy and crumbly and melt in your mouth good. You also don’t want to over work or over mix the dough. I like to incorporate the last bit of flour in the recipe either mixing it in with my hands or folding it in with the spatula. The rest is super easy and pretty no fail.
They smell so fragrant while baking, your nose will tell you when they are just about done baking too - you don’t want to over bake them though so I would recommend checking in on them during the last 5 minutes of baking as everyone’s oven is different. You want to see the tops of them crackle a bit - they will puff up and develop little crags when they are close to being done and will be golden. After that some recipes call for brushing them lightly or spraying them lightly with orange blossom but that is optional. As soon as they are cool enough to to handle they go in for their first powdered sugar dip then they get dusted with more and placed on a rack to cool completely. I love to dust them a little more before serving just for good measure. Enjoy wisely - meaning never sneeze cough or laugh while they are in or near your mouth. I love mine with a nice hot cup of not too sweet Turkish coffee - but feel free to have them with anything you enjoy your cookies with.
- 1 cup blanched slivered almonds, toasted and chopped
- 250 g (2 sticks + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
- 125 g (approx. 1 cup) icing sugar, sifted, plus 3-4 cups extra for dusting
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla (or you could also use almond extract)
- 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 300 g (approx. 2 cups) all purpose flour, sifted
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
- Place softened butter, sifted sugar, vanilla and salt in a free-standing mixer (you can also use a hand mixer too) and beat on low until incorporated then increase to Med/high and mix until very fluffy and creamy - it should almost look as fluffy as whipped cream. This can take up to 10-12 minutes.
- Beat in the egg yolk
- In a small cup mix the brandy with the baking soda and add to the butter sugar mixture along with the pinch of nutmeg if using along with 1-2 tbsp of the flour which will help the butter better absorb the brandy mixture.
- Turn mixer to low and alternate adding and mixing in the flour ½ cup at a time with the chopped almonds. Stop mixing when you have only ½ cup of flour left. Then mix in reaming ½ cup by hand or fold in with a spatula just until Incorporated. The dough will be a little sticky and that is normal.
- Roll approx 1 tablespoon of the mixture into balls, then mould each one into a traditional crescent shape or leave them in balls – you could also flatten dough onto clean surface and cut them with a star cutter or any shape cutter you like. Place them on the lined baking tray 1 inch apart and bake for approx 20 minutes, or until lightly golden and surface of them is starting to get crackly. You will be able to smell them when they are done.
- Remove and allow to cool 5 min in pan
- Add the 2/3 of the remaining icing sugar to a deep tray or pan. Place cookies in the icing sugar tray and gently roll them in the sugar then sift remaining sugar over them. Then transfer them to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Cooled cookies keep up to 14 days in a sealed container.
- For extra flavour as soon as the cookies come out of the oven you can very lightly brush or lightly spray them with orange blossom water. Continue with the step 7 after that.
- Once the cookies are cooled down and coated in confectioner’s sugar for the second time, they should be stored in an air-tight container. These are good for about 10-14 days, but will last even longer in the freezer.
- If you are planning on freezing these cookies after they are baked, then you should freeze them after you’ve coated the cookies in confectioner’s sugar the FIRST time, and in a single layer on a sheet pan. Then once frozen, you can transfer the cookies into freezer bags and store them for up to 2 months in the freezer. To thaw them, leave the cookies out at room temp., and once thawed out, dust them generously in the second layer of confectioner’s sugar before serving.
- Alternatively, you can portion the cookie dough into balls, and leave as is or shape into crescents and freeze the raw cookie dough balls or crescents instead. Again, freeze them in a single layer on a sheet pan first, then transfer frozen cookie dough balls into freezer bags. And when you’re ready to bake, you can place the cookie dough balls/crescents on prepared pans and bake them straight from frozen. They may need an extra couple of minutes of baking time - monitor them closely while baking.
- If freezing the whole portions of dough, make sure to wrap it really well and it freezes very well – up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then allow to come to room temperature and continue with step 6.