Everyone looks forward to Kourambiedes at Christmastime. The traditional holiday sweet just got a makeover, which yields a healthier cookie that doesn’t scrimp on taste.
It isn’t Christmas without Kourambiedes
Kourambiedes (sugar almond cookies) are a very popular Greek cookie and one of my personal favorites. At Christmastime, there is definitely no shortage of them in the Greek community; Greek moms and yiayiades (grandmoms) make dozens at a time for the holidays.
Of course, eating too many of these wonderful cookies (along with eating everything else) around the holiday season, inevitably leads to weight gain for many. Thankfully, there’s a way to make them “better than,” possibly avoid excess weight gain.
NOTE: A cookie is still a cookie and no matter how you prepare it, you should still remain mindful of the amount you’re eating.
By replacing the standard ingredients with more nutritionally dense ones, you’ll at least be preparing them in a way where they will be more easily digested and assimilated into your body.
How to make Kourambiedes “Better Than”
Replace conventional butter with organic butter, preferably from grass-fed cows. While butter has had a bad rap over the years, more and more information is becoming readily available demonstrating that butter has always provided a variety of health benefits! It is no longer the villain that it was once thought to be. Just make sure to use organic butter, preferably from grass-fed cows, since conventional butter contains many more unwanted toxins due to manufacturing processes. DO NOT use any type of butter replacements, like margarine or shortening. Even though these types of products are often referred to as “healthier” they are anything but. These “butter” like substitutes have been found to cause heart disease and a multitude of additional health problems.
Replace conventional eggs with pasture–raised organic eggs. Even though a significant amount of eggs are usually not used when making kourabiedes, if you’re trying to make your cookies “better than” you definitely want to replace and take into account ALL ingredients used. So while this particular recipe only calls for one egg, make sure that the egg comes from pasture-raised, organically-fed chickens. Organic pasture-raised eggs contain more vitamin A and E, beta carotene and poly unsaturated omega 3 fatty acids, than their conventional counterparts.
Use organic vanilla extract or real vanilla bean pods. Buy pure vanilla extract, since many extracts contain genetically modified preservatives in them. Better yet, you can replace the extract with the insides of a vanilla bean pod. The potency of the bean pod is phenomenal and definitely worth the replacement in cost. Most importantly, you’re using an ingredient straight from the source.
Use soaked almonds. While almonds are a great source of minerals, especially potassium, what a lot of people fail to realize is that the phytic acid found in almonds actually blocks the absorption of these minerals in the body! Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that is found in all grains, seeds and nuts. It binds to minerals from our food within our bodies, preventing their absorption and assimilation. To remove phytic acid you should soak your almonds. Place them in a bowl, cover them with water, add a splash of lemon or vinegar to the water and let them sit overnight. This process breaks down and removes the phytic acid allowing for the full assimilation of nutrients. Prior to using them, just rinse and pat dry.
- POWDERED SUGAR
Use organic powdered sugar. Obviously, there’s really no nutritional benefit to powdered sugar. While we should all limit the amount of sugar we eat on a daily basis, making kourambiedes without sugar is like making pizza without cheese. Using organic sugar instead of conventional sugar makes for a lesser disservice. All conventional sugar is genetically modified in the US and genetically modified foods have been shown to cause all sorts of health and gut issues.
- BAKING SODA
Use naturally-sourced baking soda. Ever wonder where this versatile ingredient that can be used for cooking, cleaning pots and pans and even whitening teeth, comes from? Baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate. It comes from soda ash, which can be produced either synthetically or harvested from natural sources. Synthetically-derived baking soda may contain genetically modified ingredients as it originates from fertilizer during manufacturing. A natural sourced baking soda is ideal for this recipe.
Replace conventional flour with organic, sprouted-grain flour. This is the best flour to use so as to truly make these kourabiedes “better than”. What is a sprouted-grain flour? It’s a flour that has had its original grains soaked in water and have been soaked long enough to where the grains actually sprout. Once sprouted, the grains then are dehydrated and finely ground up. Why is this healthier? Sprouting increases vitamins, enzymes and minerals and makes them more bio-available within the body. Complex sugars are broken down, which also make digestion easier. Phytic acid is also removed during the soaking process. For this particular recipe I used a sprouted red wheat flour, but any type of sprouted flour will work. Can’t find sprouted flour? Make sure to at least use organic. Wheat has a high amount of pesticide residue and limiting exposure to pesticides is a must in today’s pesticide-filled world.
Use unrefined or Himalayan sea salt. Again while one might feel that a pinch of salt is minuscule and not worth replacing with a healthier version, the amount of salt we eat daily ads up over time and just replacing a pinch is just one more step in the right direction towards better health. Make sure to use Himalayan or unrefined sea salt for mineral density. Refined salt is nutritionally void and may not even be salt at all!
Once you acquired all of your ingredients, you can then go ahead and make your kourambiedes (see recipe below). If you do end up using sprouted- grain flour, you can even skip the baking step and eat, once all of your ingredients have been mixed. Sprouted flour is technically “live” meaning its edible prior to cooking and easy to digest, unlike regular uncooked flour. Raw kourambiedes have a different consistency and a different texture, but taste great.
As with all things, there is always too much of a good thing! So while you can probably get away with having a few more of these cookies during the holiday season, without it affecting your weight, remember that no matter how “healthy” the ingredients in these cookies are, eating a dozen at a time is probably not a good idea. Even though it can easily be done!
Recipe for “Better Than” Kourambiedes
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature, organic, preferably from grass-fed cows
1 pasture-raised organic egg
2-½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract or one vanilla bean pod sliced and cleaned
1-½ cup soaked almonds, slivered or ground
8 tablespoons organic powdered sugar
½ teaspoon naturally-sourced baking soda
2-1/2 cups organic sprouted-grain flour
* Additional powdered sugar for coating individual cookies once baked.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat the butter in the bottom of a stand mixer on a medium speed for 20 minutes so that butter becomes light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mix until combined.
- Sift powdered sugar and baking soda together in a small bowl. Add to butter and egg. Beat another 10 minutes on a medium high speed.
- Sift 5 cups of flour and salt together in a large bowl. With the speed on low, add flour a little bit at a time until completely incorporated. If the dough is too sticky add ½ cup more flour.
- Stir in ground or slivered almonds.
- To form cookies: roll about 1 tablespoon of dough into balls and flatten slightly with palm.
- Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silt pad. There is no need to place cookies very far apart as they do not spread much. Bake for 15-20 minutes until very pale brown and cooked through. Once cooled, slightly sift additional powdered sugar on top or roll cookies in a bowl with powdered sugar until fully covered.
YIELD: About 4 dozen.