Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Olive oil biscuits - Ladokouloura (Λαδοκούλουρα)

Another recipe for school lunchboxes: if Greek teachers keep their promise to strike on a regular basis, then my kids will eat them at home - while they're playing Poptropica or Skyrama.

In an effort to keep expenses at a minimum, I now make more flour-based products than I did before, namely pastry and biscuits. Greek semi-sweet biscuits (eg Papadopoulou p'tit beurre) aren't really very cheap: a 225g packet containing 32 biscuits costs 0.85 cents (they are often sold in packets of 3+1 free). They are very fragile, so if they get knocked about from the store shelf to the home pantry, they won't all come home safely. They also get eaten very quickly: one packet lasts no more than a day. My growing kids need about 5-6 biscuits with their glass of morning/evening tea or milk, για να τους πιάσει, as the Greeks say, meaning 'to feel full'. They also disintegrate very quickly when they are dunked in liquid, especially warm/hot milk.

Not so olive oil biscuits. They stay firm when dunked, giving you enough time to pull the biscuit out of your coffee and pop it into your mouth. Olive oil biscuits are very economical to make in Crete with our abundance of olive oil and orange juice.Not only do these biscuits use highly localised ingredients which we grow ourselves, but making these quintessentially Greek cookies in my home also requires all the family members' personal contribution: my husband ensures our coffers are full of olive oil to last us throughout the year (we go through 150 kilos a year among five people), my kids often pick the oranges when they go with their dad to our orchards, I prepare the ladokouloura dough, and my kids shape the cookies. This is one of the most family-oriented recipes from my kitchen.

The recipe I use for making ladokouloura comes from a Greek site. I've provided a translation below.

For a large batch of cookies - around 60-70 pieces - you need:
2 cups of olive oil (from our own supplies*)
2 cups of sugar (0.30 cents)
1 teaspoon cinamon (0.05 cents)
1 teaspoon baking powder (0.01 cents)
1 teaspoon baking soda (0.01 cents)
1 cup fresh orange juice (not from a tetrapak or can) (from our own supplies)
half a wineglass of cognac (0.50 cents)
1000-1200g of flour (it all depends on the measuring cup and the humidity of the atmosphere) (1.20 euro)
seasme seed for coating (optional) (0.10 cents)
*Fuel costs (petrol, electricity) not calculated; these biscuits are still much cheaper to make than anything I can buy.

ladokoloura ladokoloura ladokoloura ladokoloura ladokoloura 

Mix the oil and sugar until the mixture has emulsified and the sugar looks as though it has dissolved. Then add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the flour and mix well until the mixture looks golden and the oil and liquids are not separated. Now start adding the flour: I often add 500g in the beginning to smooth out the lumps as I mix the dough, then I add the remaining flour, until the desired consistency of the dough is reached, which should be soft and pliable (see above photo on the right). It will be very oily - don't worry about that at this stage.

ladokoloura ladok7 My son likes to apply symmetry in whatever he does; whenever he shapes ladokouloura, he often creates motifs.

Shape the cookies in any form that suits you. We often make twists or braids, or simply roll out the dough into think sausage-like lengths which can be shapes into donuts or left as is. When the kids get lazy, they turn them into plain round flat cookies. After the cookies have been shaped, place one side in a bowl of sesame seed and then lay the non-sesame-coated side onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake the cookies on a for 25 minutes in a moderate oven.


Apart from being lenten (ie they are suitable for eating during religious fasts), one large braid (the classic Greek cookie shape) provides a satisfying breakfast. The only problem is that ladokouloura are very tasty, and it's easy not to stop at just one. This is why my husband hides them to assure himself of finding one in the morning with his milky honey-sweetened coffee (that's another recipe in itself): they get eaten quickly too, just like those Papadopoulou biscuits.

Cost per large fat cookie: approximately 4 euro-cents (if you were to buy the olive oil)

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