Greek butter cookies, known as Kourambiethes, are the old standby of Greek cookies. They’re buttery, nutty little shortbread cookies made from an almond shortbread dough that is chilled, baked, cooled and then covered in powdered sugar. They’re often flavored with a Greek brandy by the name of Metaxa, (my dad’s favorite), but some Greeks flavor them with ouzo instead; it’s a preference of flavor. They’re crumbly in their immediate texture, but once inside your mouth they dissolve into the most soft and creamy medley of butter and sugar that is very near to heaven.
The only thing that can ruin this blissful experience is the act of breathing while eating, which might pick up a dose of loose powdered sugar on a cookie bit and spackle it across the inside of your lungs, rendering you with a small coughing fit. This, however, is a mistake you only make once, so once you get it out of the way (it’s kind of inevitable unless you know not to inhale through your mouth while you have a mouthful of them), you’re in for a blissful cookie-filled holiday season with plenty of buttery almond shortbread morsels to enjoy + savor. The taste of Greek butter cookies (aka kourambiethes) is worth any number of coughs , though—that’s why Greeks have been making them and eating them for hundreds of years.
One note about this recipe, though—traditionally the dough is made into little 2 to 3-inch mounds, kind of like small snowballs. I wanted to cut some shapes of out it, though, so I rolled mine out and went to town with my moon and stars cookie cutters. I think this take on Greek butter cookies (aka kourambiethes — yep, I’m going to get you to remember the real Greek name) is a little bit more festive-looking than a powdered sugar ball, and just as tasty! And if you’re on the hunt for more good holiday cookie recipes, I’ve got some great linzer cookies, chai shortbread cookies, flourless chocolate citrus cookies, malted hazelnut and nutella chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal hazelnut chocolate chip cookies for you. I hope you guys enjoy them and are staying nice and warm during this blustery winter! (Jeremy’s been making a roaring fire in the fireplace for me each morning before he heads off to work and it has been AMAZING. Our house is so old and drafty that I’ve stationed our oil heater right next to my desk to stay warm while I work. I’ve found that drinking lots of tea helps keep you toasty from the inside out—highly recommend it to all the other fellow drafty house dwellers!)
Greek Butter Cookies Kourambiethes
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 1 Egg
- 1/3 cup ground almonds
- 2 teaspoons brandy
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cups flour
Cream the butter and 1/3 cup of the powdered sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the egg, ground almonds, brandy, almond extract and ground cloves and mix until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour and mix *just* until a thick dough forms. Form a large ball, leave the ball of dough in the bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a clean and lightly floured working surface. Roll the dough out until it is 1/4-inch thick, then use your desired cookie cutters to cut the shapes out of the dough, and transfer them onto the baking sheet, leaving at least 1-inch of space between the cookies.
Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, towards the end of the cooking time the surface of the cookie might develop a couple small cracks.
Allow the kourambiethes to cool to room temperature. Empty 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar into a shallow dish, and dredge each cookie in it so that there's powdered sugar on the top and bottom, placing it on a piece of parchment paper or wax paper afterwards.
Once all the cookies are dredged, dust them with the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar (this will make sure they look nice and pretty). Serve at room temperature. These will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They also freeze very well.