Moustokouloura (μουστοκούλουρα) are vegan Greek cookies that taste and smell absolutely wonderful! They are incredibly easy to prepare and can be made well in advance if needed. This recipe is made with Petimezi (grape molasses) which gives the cookies their characteristic flavor along with the spices.
What Is Petimezi?
Petimezi is a natural sweetener that is also known as grape molasses or grape syrup. It is the concentrated form of grape must (juice). Unlike fresh grape must, petimezi can be found all year round which makes it a convenient option for making moustokouloura.
Petimezi is thick and syrupy. It tastes sweet with a flavor similar to caramel and a hint of bitterness. It can be used to sweeten cookies, cakes, yogurt etc. But also to flavor savory foods.
You should be able to find some in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern stores. Alternatively, try searching for it online as “grape molasses”, preferably 100% natural (with no added sugar).
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Incredibly easy: All you need are two bowls, one for the dry ingredients and one for the wet ingredients. Then simply add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients to form a dough and shape into cookies!
- Long shelf life: These cookies can be made ahead of time. They will last for a long time if stored properly in an airtight container. They are perfect for school snacks, beach trips etc.
- Customizable: You can make them as spicy or as mild as you like. You can make them darker by adding cocoa powder. Add some chewiness with raisins. Have some fun with the shapes etc.
Now let’s take a look at what ingredients you will need.
- Petimezi: The petimezi will add a wonderful, complex flavor, characteristic to these cookies. If you can’t find it, you can substitute with molasses in equal amounts. The flavor and texture won’t be the same however.
- Oil: I’m using just vegetable oil, for simplicity. But you can replace part of the oil (up to half) with olive oil if you’d like. We’ll also need a bit of oil (instead of flour) while shaping the cookies. The oil will help us handle the sticky dough. Adding more flour will make the dough easier to work with but will dry out the cookies.
- Orange juice: For moisture, flavor and sweetness.
- Sugar: White granulated sugar, to sweeten the cookies along with the Petimezi. The sugar will also add a nice crunch to the cookies. And give the baked cookies a nice golden color.
- Flour: We’ll simply use all-purpose flour for this recipe. The flour will give structure to the cookies. If you add too little flour, the dough will be too soft and impossible to work with. If you add too much flour on the other hand, the cookies will be dry.
- Spices: The main spice in moustokouloura is cinnamon. But I also like to add a little bit of cloves and ginger. These cookies have a wonderful spicy kick. If that’s not your thing, you can reduce the amounts given in the recipe or omit the ginger.
- Chemical leaveners: Baking powder and baking soda, for a little bit of rise.
You can use this recipe as a base and play around with it. Here are some ideas:
- Add raisins to the dough.
- Replace a small part of the flour with cocoa powder. The cookies will be darker and slightly less sweet.
- Play around with the spices used. Increase or decrease the amounts according to your preferences.
- Sprinkle some sugar on top of the cookies before baking for more sweetness and a crunchy exterior.
- Add sesame seeds.
- Play around with the shape and size. The bigger the cookie, the softer the inside will be. The thinner the cookie, the crunchier it will be.
These cookies are very easy to make but I thought I’d share some issues I encountered while testing recipes.
- The cookies taste doughy: They are probably underbaked. Try baking the cookies for a few more minutes. Another possible reason could be that you didn’t add enough spices to flavor the cookies.
- The cookies are dry/hard: You probably baked them for too long. The longer you bake them, the harder they will become. Conversely, the less you bake them, the softer they will be.
- The cookies are hard to shape: Lightly oil your fingers and roll out the cookies on a silicone mat or parchment paper. If you are still having trouble, add just a little bit of flour to the dough.
Okay, time to make some cookies!
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F, conventional setting). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You might need two if they are not big enough. Set aside while you prepare the dough.
Prepare the dough
- Dry ingredients: Place 250 g of flour (8.8 oz.) in a large bowl. Save the 20 g (0.7 oz.) for later, if the dough is too sticky. Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices (cinnamon, ginger and cloves). Whisk to combine then set aside.
- Wet ingredients: In another large bowl, whisk together the sugar, petimezi and oil.
- Pour in the orange juice and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add a third of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk to combine.
- Add the remaining flour in two more additions and mix with a spatula (or spoon) just until combined.
The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky. If it is very sticky and soft, add a little bit of the remaining flour (20 g/0.7 oz.) and combine just until smooth. Repeat if needed.
Stop mixing as soon as the flour is no longer visible. Don’t overmix the dough or the oil will start to separate.
Shape the moustokouloura
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, about 45 g (1.6 oz.) each. Tip: Use a dough scraper or spatula to cut and move the sticky dough.
Tip: Pour a little bit of oil into a small bowl and set aside. If you find the dough too sticky to work with, dip your fingers in the oil and try again. I wouldn’t recommend pouring the oil onto the work surface as you probably won’t need it and it can get very messy. Don’t use flour which would dry out the cookies.
- Shape the cookies: Step 1: Roll one piece into a ball using your palms. Step 2: Place on a flat surface and roll out into a rope. I like to roll out the dough on a silicone mat or parchment paper. Step 3: Connect the two edges of the rope to form a circle and gently press them together (pictured left, below).
More shaping ideas: 1) Once you roll out the dough into a rope, fold it in two and twist it (pictured above, middle). If it is too thin, you can then connect the edges to form a twisted circle (pictured below, top left). 2) Carefully roll the rope from the edge into a spiral (pictured above, right). 3) Shape the rope into a heart. It’s best to do this straight onto the parchment paper so you won’t have to transfer it later.
- Place onto the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. The cookies will puff up so make sure to leave some space between them. Optional: Cover the cookies with sesame seeds, if desired. They might not stick if you sprinkle them. It’s best to press them down with your fingers.
Bake the moustokouloura
- Bake in the middle of the oven (one batch at a time) for 16-20 minutes or until lightly golden.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool down.
And that’s it! These cookies are wonderful with a cup of tea or just as they are!