Okay, maybe tradition isn’t that important. My mother, over the years, has made a few alterations to the recipe. The year she dumped cocoa powder into the mixing bowl, for instance, while heralded among my immediate family as genius, earned scorn and general disdain from my great-aunts. They believed that if it didn’t taste like sawdust and you couldn’t crack a tooth on it, it wasn't really koulourakia. (Their sister, my grandmother, didn’t have a problem with the chocolate koulourakia. She was also known as something of a gourmand in our family, and knew progress when she tasted it.)
This year, it was Mom, Dad, my Aunt Joanne, my sister Kim, my two nephews, and I all gathered around the kitchen table to roll out the dough. Mom always has high hopes that everyone will help mix up the dough, and every year, it’s her and her sister Joanne in the kitchen stirring and measuring while the rest of us pig out on peanut butter eggs and peeps in front of the television. Eventually, Mom will announce that the dough is ready to be shaped into cookies, and we’ll scramble to the table to create our masterpieces. See, I’ve mentioned that Mom is Greek. My father, however, is Italian. We Italians, of course, are great artists.
Koulourakia is traditionally shaped with a loop at the top, the two ends twisting together to form a plump stem (see picture below). But after you roll out three or four of those, however, it gets kind of boring. That’s when we let our creative juices flow.
My nephews started creating remarkable works of art like a basketball, a burrito, poo (wait – that might have been me), and what appeared to be a likeness of President Obama. Me, I like to dabble in animal portraits. I fashioned a bunny rabbit, a rattlesnake (let’s face it – snakes are the easiest thing to roll out of dough, but I’ll admit, the rattles were tricky) and a giant chocolate tick. I made the tick for my Dad since they tend to crawl from miles around just for a chance to chomp in to him. See? I’m always thinking of others.
The dough went fast, and soon we had tray upon tray of warm cookies. The second part of this tradition was upon us. We all proceeded to stuff our faces until we were sick. Our Good Friday celebration was complete.
The boys suckered - whoops! - convinced Auntie Joanne to play broom ball with them, while my sister and I passed out on the couch, fully ensconced in sugar overload. Dad settled in to the recliner to pop ticks off his leg, and Mom was left to clean up the mess – egg shells in the sink, sesame seeds under the table, and a glob of chocolate cookie dough that had somehow magically gotten stuck to the ceiling. (It was Kim.) (Keep in mind, when I was a kid, I used to write “Kim was here” on the walls thinking that my mother would actually believe it. I spent a lot of time in ‘time out’.) My knee is still weak, so Mom made Kim stand on a chair and scrape the dough off the ceiling (snicker!)
Eventually, Kim loaded the kids in the car, and Auntie Joanne selected some cookies to bring to my Great-Aunt Demi for Greek Easter. Won’t she be surprised to see the koulourakia President Obama that the boys made for her? You bet she will.
Some people like to spend Good Friday doing last minute egg shopping, while others spend it in religious reverence. In our family, we eat.
Happy Easter, everyone!