We’re off browning ourselves on Greece’s white-washed beaches . . . in our heads, that is. Short of postcards and Mamma Mia, this marvelous collection of Greek desserts is as close as we’re getting to the Mediterranean for a while.
Last week, we stumbled upon some polaroids of our Big Fat Greek Holiday.
This had been before the advent of Snapchat and Instagram and carefully composed digital catalogs — huddled there in the damp depths of the attic, holding our photo album, we got the sense that we’d chanced on something singular, intimate, and meant to last forever.
Pictures swam together with memories like a slide-show.
Here were Santorini’s rust-colored cliffs where we’d sat sipping pale dessert wine into the wee hours of the morning; here were the stunning Byzantine frescoes in the monastery of Thari; here were the mulberry-scented hills of the island of Tinos and still beyond that lay the iridescent waters of Kos and the beach where we’d spent hours waiting for a freshly caught fish to cook on a grill.
The attic melted and slipped away.
Already, some of summer’s warmth had returned to us.
The hope for every recipe in this list is that it’ll do just what our morning in the attic did: take us away.
Transport us to a shady spot under a gnarled fig tree, put the sun back in the sky.
Return us to a place that’s existed too long in just our heads — and make it more than memory.
There’s no doubt that each of these Greek desserts would be better enjoyed in a bleached island taverna, but with any luck, we’ll be able to conjure one up in our kitchen.
From a beautiful orange phyllo cake, to syrupy halva and a Milopita (#14!) just like your Yaya would make: it’s time to eat like you’re on holiday.
Gloriously golden, syrup-sticky cakes full to the brim with effervescent good cheer.
We’ve grown to recognize these by aroma alone — when the house fills with their lovely sweet-sharp perfume, we know it’s time to trundle down for tea.
Serve with a drizzle of chocolate spooned over the top.
The best way to eat butter is still spread thickly on griddle-warm toast; but these rich biscuits are a close second.
Sitting pretty on a plate with a little crème fraiche — if this is the singular indulgence you permit yourself all year, it’ll have been worth it.
And why haven’t we basted the world in butter yet?
Silky custard, flaky phyllo pastry and sharp lemon — if that alone weren’t enough reason to make this glorious pie, the recipes basically doubles as an excuse for us to gorge ourselves stupid on butter.
A local Greek church holds a food festival every year and I bust my gut (and my wallet) filling up on these handmade absolutely irresistible pastries.
One ought never to let their romantic ideals about health-food get in the way of a cheesecake.
But there’s delight to be found in this fun, uncomplicated recipe — delight and loads of yogurt.
One request: don’t use the low fat Greek yogurt.
The cake is lacking in heft as is and you don’t want to end up with a mousse on your hands.
This béchamel-and-ricotta pie (pastry?) is all about playing around and not being onerously prescriptive about what you’re lobbing in there.
It’s a free-spirited sort of bake with an appreciable amount of wiggle room.
In these marvelous little treats, tooth-achingly sweet honey is cut by the meaty richness of walnuts.
We love the tender, milky flesh of wet walnuts, but their kiln-dried, crispier counterparts will do just as well here.
Somedays, all you’re after is a good old fashioned spoon-clinger of a pudding.
Don’t waste time mucking about with anything else — what you want is Rizogalo.
This delicately spiced, comforting pud’ is just squidgy enough to evoke nostalgia but so far removed from the dull, stodgy rice-puddings of your infancy that second helpings won’t be a hard sell.
Flaky Tiropita rolls in hand and wine at the ready, we lounge about as though we’re guests at an ancient Greek banquet.
You’ll be happy to note that you don’t need a toga or crown of laurels to make the most of this fun, uncomplicated recipe.
We’re nuts for these soft, crumbly almond treats.
Well within the grasp of even the greenest baker, this no-fuss recipe is all of 5 ingredients: almond flour, sugar, orange zest, salt, egg whites and almonds — perfect for breakfast, 5 o’clock coffee or dessert. . .
11. Sugar Doughnuts
Deep fried, dusted with just enough sugar to ensure some of it ends up on what you’re wearing and winsomely sweet in the delicate manner of all Greek desserts — there’s no joy quite like sinking your teeth into one of these bready, deep-fried donuts.
Save perhaps sinking your teeth into several bready, deep-fried donuts.
If you’re still laboring under the delusion that a Christmas dessert ought to be laden with nuts and raisins and then crammed into a Bundt pan, perhaps it’s time you broaden your horizons.
Make a break from tradition and let these olive-oil-and-honey-macaroons be this year’s festive special — everyone will thank you.
Be generous with the syrup here – you may think it a bit much, but the semolina soaks it all up and the cake will set just fine as it cools.
Partners beautifully with a dollop of cool yogurt or crème fraiche.
There’s some recipes so deeply infused with childhood nostalgia that they take on a mystique all of their own — they’re memories out of time, an edible history.
This apple cake is one such sweet; it’s the apple as first love, it’s the apple as enduring romance.
One bite and we’re children again, with icing on our mouths and cake in our sticky hands (and everywhere else).
Did you know that the Greek’s per-capita consumption of nuts is the highest in the world?
Oh, you figured as much? How perceptive.
Would you like to hazard another guess as to which nut is perhaps most popular?
We’ll give you a hint: it’s in this recipe.
Almonds? Final answer, then?
You’re right, of course.
You win a plateful of Amygthalota — which, granted, you’ve got to make yourself but they’re really quite easy, honest . . .
These are great lunchbox and picnic fare, keep very well and unlike the deceptively wholesome looking snack bars at the grocery store aren’t jam packed with sugar, either.
The addition of honey masks that truth very well — your children won’t be able to tell.
This is just what Rice Krispies look like now, promise.
It’s sesame brittle but Greek and presumably better than the tooth-rottingly sweet stuff studded with peanuts you used to be able to buy at fairs.
This is equally as hard to get out of one’s teeth though, which is something.
There’s loads to love about Bougatsa, the first and foremost being that it is primarily an excess of custard nestled between phyllo pastry.
The second is that it beats waffles out of a box by a very long shot.
The bottom line
Given that another Greek holiday isn’t imminent, we’ve elected to get creative with a spread of authentic Mediterranean classics as bright and beautiful as the glorious stretch of azure sea and scorching sand from whence they hail.
With any luck, our next dispatch will reach from a beach somewhere in the Aegean — till then, kali orexi and good eating!
- Portokalopita - Greek Orange Phyllo Cake
- Kourabiedes: Greek Butter Cookies
- Galaktoboureko: Greek Custard Pie
- Honey Greek Yogurt Cheesecake
- Tiropita: Savory Greek Cheese Pie
- Loukoumades: Greek Honey And Walnut Balls
- Rizogalo: Greek Rice Pudding
- Tiropita Rolls
- Greek Halva
- Greek Almond Cookies
- Sugar Doughnuts
- Melomakarona: Greek Honey Christmas Cookies
- Syrup Soaked Semolina Cake
- Milopita: Greek Apple Upside Down Cake
- Amygthalota: Almond Sweets
- Pasteli: Honey Sesame Wafers
- Greek Spoon Sweets
- Kormos: Easy, No Bake Chocolate Log
- Bougatsa: Breakfast Pastry
- Choose one or more options from our list of Greek desserts here!
- Create your new favorite!
- Pat yourself on the back for making food at home!
- Share and comment! Did you make any tweaks so it’s all your own?