Christmas is coming and the towns have already “wore” their festive while the kitchens of the houses are flooded with the aromas of traditional sweets such as Greek Almond Snowballs (kourabiedes). What is the history of kourabiedes though?
Kourabiedes: What are they?
This is a crispy sweet with roasted almond, sprinkled with icing sugar. It belongs to the type of cookie known as “shortbread” in English. It is a technique in which the basic ingredients are: one part of sugar, two parts of butter and three parts of flour. Along with Greek Honey Cookies (Melomakarona), kourabiedes are a Christmas hallmark. However, in several regions of Greece, such as in Aitoloakarnania, kourabiedes have their place on the table throughout the whole year. They are a symbol of happiness and the housewives used to bake them at baptisms and weddings.
Kourabiedes: Their History
Despite their oriental name, kourabiedes have a pure European origin. They originated in Persia where they first appeared in the 7th century, when sugar was introduced to the region. Nowadays, they are ubiquitous in Greece, Turkey and other Balkan countries. The most probable theory of their “arrival” in Greece, as well as many other recipes, is that they were brought to the country by immigrants from Asia Minor, and more specifically from Smyrna.
The word “kourabies” comes from the Turkish word “kurabiye” which is etymologically explained as [Kuru] = dry, [biye] = biscuit. The name “biscuit” was established in the Middle Ages, etymologically derived from the Latin “bis-cuit”, meaning baked twice (in ancient Greek, “δι-πυρον” – di-pyron), as a baking method to prevent the bread from “spoiling”, especially for soldiers and sailors.
Later, almond and icing sugar were added to the recipe of kourabiedes, ending up with the well-known and beloved sweet that we are familiarized with nowadays. Their essential ingredients are fresh butter, almonds, rosewater and plenty of icing sugar.
On islands, kourabiedes are a type of sweet with several variations! Skopelos island has the “Hamalia” which are a traditional welcome sweet, made with almonds. In case you go to a festival in Skopelos island, you will definitely be treated to a Hamali!
Recipe for Kourabiedes: https://skopeloshotels.eu/christmas-in-skopelos-island-christmas-sweets/