Every Greek woman I know has their own version of this Greek staple, so why should I be any different?? And every one of us thinks our own is the best, and of course we’re all correct. Of course.
Paximathia (pah-xih-MAH-thee-ah), also sometimes spelled paximadia, are kind of the Greek version of Italian biscotti, except these cookies are not as hard or dry as the biscotti I’ve had before. They are more buttery, lightly sweet, perfect for coffee dunking, but not so hard as to need dunking if you don’t want to.
I’ve seen paximathia with all sorts of additions to the recipe. Almonds and pistachios are not uncommon, along with more modern twists like dried cranberries and chocolate chips. These newer add-ons sometimes ruffle the feathers of the purists out there, but you know they like the chocolate!
My preference is for a more plain cookie in terms of texture, but definitely not plain in terms of flavor. I add a decent dose of both anise seeds and fennel seeds, similar but not quite the same. On their own, these spices have a black licorice taste, but in baked goods it mellows a little and is completely divine!
My last secret ingredient is extra virgin olive oil. You read that right. Olive oil. Green gold. Many recipes for paximathia that I have seen call for some plain type of oil, but why bother? Extra virgin olive oil adds more depth to the flavor of these cookies and they will become your new addiction.
- 1/2 c. salted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 c. granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp. anise seed
- 1 tsp. fennel seed
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 5 c. all purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using a mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl at high speed until light and fluffy. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and continue to beat until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a scraper, add the sugar and seeds, and beat again till well combined. While still beating on high speed, add in the three eggs one at a time and beat until the texture looks like whipped frosting.
Measure the flour by fluffing it up with a whisk and lightly scooping it into the measuring cup. Put the flour into another bowl and add the baking powder. Whisk the flour and baking powder together until well combined, then gradually add the flour to the butter mixture either by hand, or using a mixer on low speed.
Divide the dough into 2-3 equal parts. You are going to shape it with your hands into flat, narrow loaves on an ungreased cookie sheet. The loaves need to be about 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide, and about 1 inch high. The length can be as long as your pan will allow. (Edit: be smarter than me and use parchment paper to line your cookie sheets, it will make it so much easier to move the cookies around for the second baking part!)
Using a flat edge like a spatula, score the dough with diagonal strips about 3/4 inch wide. Push straight down into the dough, don’t drag through it. Mix the last egg and the milk in a small bowl, then use a pastry brush to spread some of the mixture across each sliced loaf. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top.
Bake the dough for 20 minutes. Do the next steps quickly while the dough is still hot, but be gentle as the loaves will be brittle. Remove the dough from the oven, then using a narrow bladed knife, cut along your score marks with an up and down motion, and then bring the knife down as you get to the edge. Run the knife through a second time to cut completely through to the bottom.
Allow the cut loaves to cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully loosen the cut pieces and separate them from each other a little. (This is where I regretted not having parchment paper because the egg wash sometimes glues the edges of the cookies to the pan and it’s harder to move them without breaking them. Obviously I made it work, but it just would have been easier.) Put them back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until they have been toasted to a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan. Paximathia will keep for a long time (assuming you allow them to last that long) if stored in an air tight container. They can also be frozen for later eating.