Easter remains the most important celebration for my Greek family. I love the traditions of colourful dyed eggs, tsoureki and the Easter biscuits - Koulourakia. Holy Thursday has always marked the start of Easter preparations in our house, the day the eggs are dyed red and the Koulourakia are made. For those in our family who are not friends with gluten, it seemed a shamed for them to miss out on part of the Easter traditions. So, this year, I have tried my hand at making some gluten free Koulourakia, flavoured with plenty of lemon, vanilla and the most incredible Greek superfood - Matsiha.
Mastiha are like little dusty pieces of crystal - which come from mastic-tree resin and are only found on the Greek island of Chios (I long to visit Chios one day - hopefully soon!). Mastiha has been harvested on Chios for at least 2,500 years since Greek Antiquity. Mastiha is reported to have plenty of health benefits from digestive issues to skin regeneration. In Ancient times it was used as the very first chewing gum!
The Mastiha tears I have are produced by Mastiha Shop, Greece’s leading Mastic producer. They are available here in Australia from Homer St.
Gluten free koulourakia with lemon, vanilla and mastiha (Kουλουράκια με λεμόνι, βανίλια και μαστίχα - χωρίς γλουτένη)
125g butter (at room temperature and chopped into cubes)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp of vanilla sugar
3/4 teaspoon of powdered baking ammonia
1/4 room temperature Greek sheep milk yoghurt
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground mastiha tears
zest of 2 lemons
500g plain all-purpose Gluten free flour
For the glaze: 2 egg yolks and 1 tbsp water beaten
1. Using an electric mixer, add the coconut sugar and butter and mix for about 10-15 minutes, until the butter is creamy and fluffy.
2. In the meantime, in a seperate bowl add the ammonia to the room temperature yoghurt and blend well until dissolved. Set aside.
3. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, keep mixing and allow each egg to be absorbed, before adding another. Pour in the the vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, the lemon zest, mastiha and yoghurt (with the ammonia) and mix to combine.
4. Add the flour, a little bit at a time, whilst mixing, until the ingredients are combined and the dough is soft.
5. Cover the dough with some plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge to rest for about 30 minutes.
6. On a clean work surface, take a small piece of dough and form long cords and then shape the koulourakia. Traditionally an "x" is made first to symbolise "Xhristos" or Christ and the final shape made is an "A" to symoblise "anesti" meaning risen.
7. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and place the koulourakia, leaving some space between them.
8. For the glaze, beat the egg yolk and 1 tbsp water. Brush the top of the koulourakia and bake on the middle shelf in preheated oven at 200C until golden - about 15 minutes. Let the kolourakia cool down on a baking rack and then store in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.