Gluten-Free Koulourakia with Olive Oil, Greek Easter Cookies
Greek Easter Cookies, also known as KOULOURAKIA, are crispy and crumbly on the outside and softer on the inside. They are flavoured with subtle hints of vanilla and orange and are often enjoyed for breakfast with coffee, afternoon tea, or as a snack. They are traditionally made around Easter (but are perfect for any occasion), and though they are traditionally made with eggs and milk, my version is all in one bowl, gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy free which means they are vegan and perfect for Lent.
Everything about koulourakia can be changeable (yet somehow the flavour remains quite consistent, regardless of the recipe). Traditionally their shape resembles a braid but they are also shaped into an 'S', or even a circle. Some koulourakia are flavoured with orange and vanilla, while others are with anise and ouzo. Milk, butter, and eggs are traditionally added, but often they are made with olive oil during Lent. And of course, some are topped with sesame seeds, while others are plain with an egg wash on top. Whatever version of koulourakia you eat, these cookies are borderline addictive!
I have fond memories of making hundreds of them as a young girl with my mum every Easter. The house would fill with the smell of warm flavours, trays of koulourakia would be lined up waiting for the previous batch to be baked and then mum would fill containers with the baked cookies in anticipation to hand out to every family that would visit during the lead-up to Easter.
For the first time, I am so happy to share my gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free version of my mum's olive oil koulourakia. These are not the traditional recipe she makes as that recipe includes butter, milk and eggs, but this is her Lenten recipe. I'm positive you will love them as much as we do and find yourself baking them all year round.
How To Make It
Gluten-Free Flours, Weighing and "Feeling" the Dough - IMPORTANT TO READ
Unfortunately, one gluten-free flour can vary quite a bit from another gluten-free flour based on its ingredients. For this reason, I recommend using a digital scale to measure the ingredients and then paying attention to how the dough feels once all ingredients have been combined.
The dough should be soft, pliable and not sticky or too dry. A sticky dough will not allow you to roll the dough between the palms of your hands and a dry dough will be crumbly, creating a dry cookie. Add one tablespoon of flour at a time if the dough is too sticky and more flour is needed.
If the dough is too dry, then add only half a teaspoon of olive oil at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Do not overwork the dough as this will create a tougher cookie as well.
In this recipe, I have purposely used White Wings Gluten Free Self Raising Flour as it is a flour that is available in all states and in all supermarkets in Australia. It is not my first choice, but I used this purposefully, as I know everyone has access to it.
Other Easter Recipes Ideas
Koulourakia with Olive Oil
Greek Easter Biscuits (Gluten Free and Dairy Free)
Equipment: digital scale
270g self-raising flour (White Wings gluten-free), preferably sifted
60g almond flour
100g caster sugar (superfine white sugar)
100ml freshly squeezed orange juice, with pulp
40ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (lightly toasted or unhulled)
To make this gluten and dairy-free version of traditional koulourakia, you must measure and weigh all ingredients as precisely as possible.
Prepare the Dough:
1. Preheat oven to 160°C fan forced / 180°C conventional oven / 350°F. Line 2 cookie or baking trays with baking paper.
2. Add to a large mixing bowl the wet ingredients, including the orange juice, extra virgin olive oil, and vanilla, and combine with a whisk.
3. Next add the caster sugar, almond flour, and self-raising flour.
4. Using a rubber spatula, rub the scraper around the edge of the bowl and to the bottom, pulling the wet ingredients over and into the dry mixture.
5. Once combined, using a clean hand, gently knead for a minute making sure the ingredients are well combined and the mixture is soft and pliable but not sticky. If the mixture is too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time and combine well. Do not create a dry dough as the koulourakia will be dry as well, once baked.
Shaping and Baking the Koulourakia:
1. I recommend portioning the dough into 30-35g balls (a heaped tablespoon / the size of a large walnut) ensuring each koulouraki is the same size for consistency. Roll each between the hands into a ball and place them onto the baking tray.
2. Take one ball at a time and roll each into a 13-14cm long and 1.5cm wide rope. Next fold the rope in half, creating a ‘U’ shape. Cross one rope over the other and twist from the top the two halves together creating the twisted braid shape. Place onto the baking tray and repeat with remaining. Place 3cm apart from each other.
3. To coat in sesame seeds, sprinkle a few onto the working surface and roll the dough rope over the sesame seeds. They will stick to the dough. Continue to create the twisted shape from here onwards.
4. Bake for 13 minutes, then swap the tray on the top rack tray with the bottom rack, to evenly cook and bake for a further 13 minutes. Once the koulourakia are baked, turn the oven off, do not open the oven door, and allow it to sit in the hot oven for a further 7 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and enjoy! Serve hot or at room temperature.
Note: Gluten-free Koulourakia must be stored in an AIRTIGHT container and can be stored for up to 2 weeks. Depending on the company of self-raising flour used, they may harden or soften a little over time.
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Recipe and Photography Margaret Pahos for @CreateCookShare