“Once upon a time, there was an island in the middle of a sea, where people had miraculous fruits. They used them for preparing sweet magical stuff…”
This is how I started my story about Glykinai - ancient Greek cookies originating from Crete. Earlier that day, my 7-year old son was wondering what to present at school during their weekly “Show & Tell” project. As they just have started to learn about ancient Greeks, I thought we could bake some cookies at home using one of the ancient Greek recipes I happened to have around. Then kids could taste them during my son’s presentation at school.
So here we were: me - talking and mixing ingredients, my elder son – asking endless questions and trying to help, and my younger son (yeah, he got curious what was all this mess about) – watching and tasting with his finger whatever he could reach.
I took the original recipe from the Athenaeus’ book “Deipnosophistae” (The Banquet of the Learned), although that could be optimisticly called a “recipe.” Glykinai are mentioned twice in the Greek text; both descriptions not longer than two lines. It is explained that those were very famous Cretan cookies, prepared of sweet (wine) and olive oil – so far for the “recipe.” The wine is in brackets because the actual word was missing from the original text and was added by the editor as something assumed.
As this was supposed to be a school project, I decided that instead of wine we could put sapa - a reduced red grape juice that we have already had in the fridge for using it in other ancient cooking adventures.
Later, inspired by what we made with the kids, my husband decided to give these cookies a new try (and to taste them this time at least). As ancient people used a different kind of flours, he assumed that we could bake the cookies with wheat bran and turn them to party crackers. To be the party complete we decided to put some sweet wine along with the grape juice.
The result was even better than the first recipe. Both types of cookies weren’t much sweet, but while those made only with sapa had a subtle, grape-like sourness, the wine crackers had a more mature taste. The wheat bran gave to our sweets crumbliness and added a crunchy note to the eating experience. Another flavor improvement was putting in the dough mixture the egg yolk of the white which we used for glazing. We thought it was very unlikely for the ancient people to have thrown it, in any way. The last innovation in the recipe was shaping the cookies in a different form. Probable or not in Antiquity, the flower shape definitely turned our cookies into a masterpiece.
Val really liked the easiness those sweets were prepared, so one day he came up with a new idea – to put whole raisins in the cookies. He also wanted to add more olive oil to the mixture, so they get close to the powdery-crisp structure of today’s Eastern cookies.
This time, we decided to use only wine. Our choice fell on passum – an ancient Roman raisin wine (For a recipe, see this post). As passum was very sweet white wine with a rich taste and intense aroma, we hoped it would saturate the cookies’ flavor.
And we were right!
For approximately 800 gr / 28 oz cookies
500 gr / 18 oz / 1lb flour
200 ml / 7 fl oz olive oil
200 ml / 7 fl oz passum (sweet white wine; see below *Val’s tips)
100 gr / 3.5 oz raisins
1 egg white for glazing
1. Put the olive oil into the flour
2. Mix them well and add the passum
3. Knead until you achieve smooth dough
4. Cover the dough with a plastic foil and leave it for 40 min
5. Oil the baking tray
6. Spread the dough with a rolling pin as thin as 1-1.5 cm / 0.5 inch
7. Cut the cookies with a pastry cutter
8. Arrange them on the tray and brush with beaten egg white or olive oil
9. Preheat the oven to 180 C° / 350 F°/ 4 gas
10. Bake for 20 min
WATCH THE VIDEO!
Glykinai became our family’s favorite homemade cookies. They made us also quite popular. Ever since we have started to prepare them at home, we offered them regularly to our guests. Some of Val’s colleagues even got us to invite them at our house only to taste those sweets.
What happened with my son’s project? It started as a fairy tale and finished pretty much as one. And in my country tales end like this: “…and for three days they ate, drank and had fun.”
1. If you don’t want to use wine, you could make sapa - reduced grape juice used by the ancient as a sweetener. (For instructions, check out here).
2. If you want to use passum, you need to prepare it beforehand. (See the recipe here). If you don’t have time to make it at home, you could use a sweet white wine bought from the supermarket.