In Greek mythology, bees and honey were so important that they were tended to by Aristaios, the son of the god Apollo. The love of honey has continued in Greek food to this day, so what could be sweeter than the delights of honey found in traditional Greek pastries?
Here are three classics for your enjoyment. Melopita is a honey pie. Not only is the honey baked inside, but for extra sweetness, more can be drizzled on top. We also whipped up some loukoumades. Think of these as warm Greek doughnuts, fried delights tossed in honey. Finally, there is baklava. If you were to think of a single Greek dessert, it would probably be this one. And for good reason—it’s delectable. How could it not be? Twenty sheets of paper-thin pastry, buttered and baked to perfection, are filled with toasted pistachios and walnuts. It certainly sounds like a dessert of the gods.
Makes about 22 pieces
½ pound toasted pistachios, very finely chopped
½ pound toasted walnuts, very finely chopped
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, melted
20 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed and cut in half (½ 16-oz. package)
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
1 cup honey
4 whole cloves
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
¼ cup chopped pistachios
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine nuts, salt, cinnamon, orange zest, and breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Brush a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with melted butter. Layer 10 pieces of phyllo in the pan, brushing each piece with melted butter. Keep remaining phyllo covered with a lightly damp towel to prevent drying. Sprinkle one-third of the nut mixture over the buttered phyllo in the dish. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining 10 pieces phyllo, brushing each with melted butter. Brush top liberally with melted butter. Cut baklava vertically into 1 ½ inch strips. Cut diagonally across into 1 ½ inch strips to make a diamond pattern. Bake in lower part of oven for 45–50 minutes or until golden brown.
Combine sugar, water, honey, and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium heat and cook, simmering, 10–15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in orange juice and let cool slightly. Remove cloves. Pour over warm baklava; sprinkle with ¼ cup pistachios and let sit at room temperature at least four hours or overnight.
Makes 32 balls
1 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
½ lemon, sliced
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 (16.3-ounce) can large buttermilk biscuits
Combine honey, cinnamon stick, and lemon slices in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and set aside. Pour oil to a depth of three inches in a Dutch oven or deep heavy-bottomed saucepot and heat to 350°F.
Cut each biscuit into quarters. Roll each quarter into a ball. Fry dough balls in batches for two to three minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Remove lemon slices and cinnamon stick from honey. Toss fried dough balls in honey. Serve immediately.
2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon brandy
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 ½ cups whole-milk ricotta
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a nine-inch spring-form pan with parchment. Blend sugar, eggs, flour, honey, brandy, lemon zest, and ricotta in a food processor 10 seconds or just until smooth. Pour into pan and bake 45–50 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center is slightly wobbly. Cool at room temperature one hour; chill four hours or overnight. Just before serving, dust top with cinnamon and drizzle with honey, if desired.