These beautiful, cinamon and clove spiced cookies are the Greek version of biscotti. Where the Irish drink tea to sooth the soul, paximathia and a small cup of strong, sweet Greek coffee have the same ability to calm and melt away stress.
Paximathakia are often made in Greek homes and kept in the biscuit tin for when friends and family call in. As they contain no butter or eggs, paximathakia are also often served during the Lenten season. Traditionally, they are also sometimes served as a part of the Makaria (Mercy Meal) , following the passing of a loved one, as a sign of fasting and mourning that the departed has left this life. On this occasion Greek coffee is sometimes replaced with small glasses of Metaxa brandy.
This paximathakia recipe is based on the one given to me by my mother in law, made in the traditional Zakyinthian way with olive oil, the juice and zest from homegown oranges, and Zakythian currants. I have added my own twist by adding some apricots and roasted hazelnuts, in place of the more traditional almonds.
180gr olive oil
100gr orange juice & zest
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
¼ cup Zakynthian currants
¼ cup dried aprictos, finely chopped
¼ cup cognac, brandy or metaxa
½ tsp bicarbonate soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
500gr all purpose flour (or half white, half wholemeal)
Step 1. In a small bowl, combine the currants and apricots, pour over the cognac or brandy and leave to soak until the currants are plump.
Step 2. Preheat oven to 180C. In a large bowl add the olive oil, orange juice, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, nuts, currants, apricots and cognac/brandy and mix them with a whisk wire until they are combined.
Step 3. in a separate bowl, combine all of the dry indgredients including flour, salt, baking powder, soda and spices, mix to combine.
Step 4. Graduallty add the dry mixure to the wet mixture until incorporated and an elastic dough forms.
Step 5. Gather your dough and knead it into a ball. Turn onto your work surface and divide into 3 pieces. Form into three loaves. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on some parchment and then place a loaf of dough in it.
Step 6. Place the sheet of baking paper on your baking tray and lay your three loaves of dough on top. Sprinkle the loaves with sesame seeds and press in gentley so they stick to the dough (but try not to squash the loaves).
Step 7. Using a floured knife, cut almost all the way through each loaf in approximately 1/2 inch slices.
Step 8. Place your tray on the middle rack and bake at 180C for 30 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes.
Step 9. With a sharp knife, re-slice along the cuts you have already made, to separate each cookie, then place the the cookies back on the baking sheet, flat on one side and bake at 170C for another 20 minutes or until golden.
Because these paximathakia are made without eggs and butter, they can be stored for several months in airtight plastic containers. Allow to cool completely before storing.