These treats need to come with a hefty warning. Don’t breathe in, don’t breathe out, don’t laugh, snort, cough, sneeze, or do anything else similar while eating them. Oh yeah, and don’t wear black.
Once you get past all of that, you are in for a huge treat. Kourambiethes (pronounced kou-rahm-bee-EH-thes and also spelled kourabiethes, kourambiedes, and kourabiedes) are melt in your mouth, buttery, almondy, powdered sugary bites of pure heaven. When done right, they should be light as air, yet hold their shape until they are in your mouth. The almond flavor should be noticeable, but not the only thing you taste. The powdered sugar should be sticking to the cookie but with enough piled on top that you have loose drifts of sugary bliss.
Kourambiethes are traditionally prepared for big events like weddings, baptisms, and Christmas. The best way to serve them is in paper pastry cups to help trap the powdered sugar. It is not unusual to see people empty the loose sugar into their mouths as politely as possible. Everyone understands.
There are a couple of things that I do differently with my kourambiethes than what is traditional. I know this will come as a shock to those who know me that I don’t always follow the rules (sarcasm alert). I use salted butter rather than plain because the salt adds more to the flavor. The almonds are usually blanched to remove the skins, then toasted, but I skip both steps altogether and don’t taste any difference, so why bother. You are free to carry out those steps if you wish.
- 1 lb. salted butter at room temperature
- 2 Tbsp. sifted powdered sugar + another 1 1/2 pounds
- 2 egg yolks (see my tutorial for separating eggs here)
- 2 Tbsp. Amaretto liqueur or cognac
- 3 ounces finely chopped almonds (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 3/4 c. all purpose flour, plus more as needed (this is an updated addition)
- whole cloves (optional)
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Put the butter into a bowl and beat the ever loving crud out of it. Really, beat it for at least 15 minutes until it looks like whipped frosting. Add the 2 Tbsp. of powdered sugar, the egg yolks, and liqueur and continue beating for another 10-15 minutes. Add the almonds and stir to combine.
Measure the flour by fluffing it up with a whisk or fork before scooping it into your measuring cup. Add the flour to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Kneading is not something usually associated with making cookies, but due to the low amount of flour compared to butter, you need to knead to slightly stiffen the dough. Otherwise you will have very crumbly cookies. Ask me how I know. Knead the dough in the bowl by hand for about 5 minutes with a spoon or spatula, or on low speed with a mixer. (The following has been added for more clarity.) Add just enough flour until you can shape the dough into a ball without it being sticky. You should not need more than 1/2 cup or so more. Allow the dough to rest for five minutes, this helps it to firm up.
Put balls of dough about the size of an unshelled walnut on a cookie sheet. Space them about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart in all directions. It is common to stick a whole clove into each cookie, leaving the round, bud end sticking out a little. It adds a wonderful hint of spice to the cookies. You remove the clove just before eating the cookie.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 13-15 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown. They should be pale still. While they are baking, prepare another pan with a heavy sprinkling of sifted powdered sugar.
Once the cookies are done in the oven, remove them and allow them to cool for just a couple of minutes to firm up a bit. While still warm, carefully remove them from the cookie sheet and set them into the powdered sugar on the other pan. Quickly cover them with more sifted powdered sugar until they are coated on all sides. Allow the cookies to sit in the sugar until cool. Sift more sugar over them, and then carefully lift each one with a flat spatula to scrape up the powdered sugar underneath. Place into pastry cups, or onto another platter for serving.
You will have a lot of powdered sugar left over on your trays. Scoop it all up and place it into a mesh strainer. Sift it over a bowl to get out any cookie crumbs and almond chunks. You will also have globs of sugar that has butter seeped into it. Don’t try to push that through the strainer, just the dry sugar. (Those blobs are really tasty, by the way.) The sifted powdered sugar is perfectly good to use in another recipe, or to sift over the next batch of cookies!