Kourabiedes – Greek Butter Cookies

Kourabiedes - Greek Butter Cookies

During my sophomore year of college, I took a semester-long course that changed my life. It was a writing class, geared to help us improve our expository writing skills while exploring a social issue in depth. We had dozens of topics to choose from – Environment and Ethics, Diversity and Racial Conflict, Immigrant America, etc. We had to choose our topic carefully, since this would be a subject that we’d be writing no less than 20 term papers about.

I chose a course called The Holocaust. Why? I can’t really explain; it was a gut feeling. I needed to learn more about this tragedy of unimaginable proportions. The class had a profound impact on me. I left the course with one resounding message written on my heart – never forget. Even today, there is unimaginable suffering and genocide happening in our world. It is our responsibility as humans to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, to ensure that we do not allow it to happen again.

When we talk about the Holocaust, the last thing that comes to mind is cooking—in fact, it seems strange to associate cookbook recipes with such a tremendous tragedy. And yet, there are several incredible cookbooks and compilations of recipes written by Holocaust survivors. Recipes are a way of keeping family history alive—they’re a tangible reminder of family, home, comfort, and security. Entire families were lost in the concentration camps, leaving survivors to push forward alone in the world, clinging to only memories of their loved ones. One way to keep those memories alive is to recreate their recipes, to share them and in that way remember their spirit.

The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook strives to keep those memories alive. It’s a compilation of heartbreaking survivor stories that put faces and names to the victims of the Holocaust. It also includes several authentic recipes from survivors and their families. I discovered this book last year, and I treasure it.

In full disclosure—because this is, after all, a cooking blog—the Holocaust Survivor Cookbook isn’t the most reliable source for foolproof recipes. Because the book features personal family recipes, some are not written very clearly. Several of the recipes list ingredients that are missing in the instructions, leaving you to guess where and when you should add them. That said, I still recommend that you buy this book–not only for the food, but for the history. It is filled with true, personal stories of survival during one of the darkest periods in human history. In addition, there are some wonderful recipes that are worth the price of the book itself.

This recipe comes from the family of survivor Rena Gani Carasso. Here is an excerpt from her story:

Rena and Daniel, 1989 (Photo courtesy of The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook)

Rena was born in Prevesa Greece in 1915. Prevesa was a small Jewish community a few hours from Athens. Her father Solomon was a prosperous textile merchant and her mother Simcha stayed home and raised their five children.

In 1943 the Germans invaded their town and arrested all of the Jews. The entire Gani family was sent to the Birkenau/Auschwitz concentration camp where the parents were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

Rena and her sister Ellie were sent to the women’s camp, while her three brothers went to the men’s camp. The three young men fought valiantly in an uprising at the men’s camp but were killed… Rena and Ellie survived the women’s camp, and were liberated by the Americans in 1945. They returned to Greece where nothing remained of their once happy family.

…Soon Rena moved to Athens where she met and married tall handsome Daniel Carasso, known to his friends as Nico. Since both Rena and Nico had lost most of their friends and relatives in the Holocaust their wedding was small, but still filled with the hope and promise of the future.

In 1951 Rena, Daniel, and their little daughter Jeanette came to America. Their family is honored on the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island. They later had another daughter Eileen and five beautiful grandchildren.

 

 ”Because Our Parents Survived” – Jeanette Kasten and Eileen Metzger and their families

This recipe for Rena Carasso’s Greek Butter Cookies, known as Kourabiedes, was submitted to the cookbook by her daughters Jeannette Katzen and Eileen Metzger. They are a delicious tribute to Rena and her family.

I have made one small modification to this recipe. The cookie dough did not have enough sweetness for me (and I’m not a big fan of sweet), so I went ahead and increased the powdered sugar in the dough to 1 cup. The original recipe calls for ½ cup of sugar in the dough (separate from the 2 cups of dusting sugar). You can add even more sugar to the dough for sweetness if you want, it will not change the dough’s texture.

To purchase your own copy of the Holocaust Survivor Cookbook, click here. Proceeds benefit the Carmei Ha’ir Soup Kitchen, which serves over 500 meals every day to the poor and hungry of Israel.

Kourabiedes - Greek Butter Cookies

Rena Carasso's Kourabiedes - Greek Butter Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 lb. chopped almonds
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3-5 cups flour
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 - 25 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: Makes 40-50 cookies
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the butter slowly for 15 minutes. I used an electric mixer for this on a medium low speed setting.
  • Slowly add the two egg yolks, 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and a little of the flour.
  • Continue to beat, slowly adding the chopped almonds and more flour, until a soft dough forms. Scrape the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure all ingredients are well mixed.
  • You want the dough to be pliable and easy to form without being too greasy/buttery.
  • Roll the dough into crescent or round shapes. I used a little less than 2 tbsp of dough per cookie.
  • Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 15-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven till lightly golden. Remove cookies from the oven.
  • Allow to cool...
  • ...then dust with the remaining 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar.
  • According to Rena’s recipe, they need to be generously coated in the sugar, not just a little sprinkle. So don’t be shy with it—powder away!
  • The original recipe indicates that each cookie should be placed in its own “baking cup" prior to serving. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I did follow the other instruction, which is to serve it with lots of ice cold milk. Yum!
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Category: Baked Goods and Brunch Fare, Dairy, Desserts, In the Kitchen, Kitchen Memories, Recipes, Shavuot, Slide Show, Tomato Free, Vegetarian, Yom Kippur Break Fast

Comments (77)Post a Comment

  1. Joanne Owens says:

    These are melt-in-your-mouth crazy good.

  2. Alice K. says:

    Beautiful posting. Thank you for your sensitivity in honoring and remembering.

  3. Pingback: Six Million Jews | Holocaust Remembrance begins May 1. Read a survivor’s story and learn her recipe for Greek Butter Cookies: http://theshiksa.com/?p=5368

  4. Sue K says:

    What a wonderful tribute to innocent lives. Thank goodness the book was compiled. How fortunate for us these recipes were not lost forever.

  5. Dana Minton says:

    I am always humbled when I read these stories, the recipe was a lovely addition as well.

  6. Amalia says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this story. I remember my Greek relatives putting the individual cookies in little paper cups (like cupcake papers) when they were served. Maybe that’s what is meant by individual baking cups.

  7. Anne Marie says:

    Thank you for sharing this story-I have had a wonderful version of this cookie at a local Greek Deli-I think what Rena’s instructions meant as a baking cup-were individual pastel type cupcake liners?? At least that’s how I see them, and buy them at the Greek Deli. Anyways, point is “Never Forget” as we have to look back and remember the past to escape these atrocities in the future. God Bless….

    • Tori Avey says:

      Amalia and Anne Marie, thanks for clarifying what it means to serve the cookies in “cups!” That would be the perfect way to serve them, as it would contain any extra powdered sugar that falls off. :)

  8. Jennifer says:

    I had no idea this cookbook existed. What a wonderful tribute to those we’ve lost. These cookies look delicious.

  9. Coco Galvez says:

    What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it with us, I love this cookies thank you also for the recipe, I will make them this weekend for my kids and I will tell the story to them. <3

    • Summer Nicole says:

      I think that its awesome that you told the story to your kids it just educates them about what life used to be like

  10. Helen says:

    Being of Greek heritage, this was of particular interest to me. Although not Jewish, my Mom has told me many times of the hardships in Greece during the war. The cultures are very close and have ties on many levels, food being one of them. Your recipe sounds very much like mine, and I can’t wait to try it. Thank you for your heartfelt story and for posting it. God bless you and your family. May you always have sweetness in your lives.

  11. Rockblock says:

    This kind of cookies we usually cover while they are warm. The sugar icing tends to stick better on them, as opposed to leaving them to cool down and then sprinkle with icing.

    • Tori Avey says:

      Great note Rockblock, that makes sense. I will try that next time!

    • Zante says:

      I agree with Rockblock. My recipe from my yiayia from Tripoli is different. It contains no eggs. Just 1 pound butter (melted or very soft), a little white sugar (2 T), 1 t vanilla, 5 cups flour. They are much more delicate and better than any of the kourabiedes I have found in Greek bakeries. For the powdered sugar (also called icing sugar), I sift a layer of sugar onto a cool cookie sheet and then lay a warm cookie on each one. The bottom layer of sugar melts to the cookie. Then I sift more powdered sugar over the warm cookies and then when they are cool I transfer them to a tray and sift them once more with powdered sugar. I DO NOT recommend rolling them in sugar. Mine are very delicate, and they would crumble if rolled. Yiayia Pitsa made the best kourabiedes I have ever eaten, and I am glad to have her recipe.

    • Zante says:

      I forgot to say add 2 T orange juice.

  12. arlyn rapport (Hungarian family gas chamber also) says:

    how can we buy the cookbook is it published and cost and to be sent to please

  13. Angel Kania says:

    Do these taste like a Old fashion Lady Finger?

  14. Jeannette CARASSO Katzen says:

    Omg!!! Who are you???!!! I loved it!!! Please respond privately and tell me who you are!!! Thanx

  15. Connie Strassberg says:

    Dear Tori – Thank you so much for including a link to the site that sells the cookbook in your blog. Both my mother and father (both long deceased) were survivors of Auschwitz. They would have loved this cookbook – so I just purchased one in their memory.

    I love your recipes (and so does my very unkosher family) and hope that you will be publishing your own cookbook soon. I’d love to be one of the first to buy it.

    Hugs,
    Connie

    • Tori Avey says:

      Connie, how remarkable that your parents are survivors! Do you have any family recipes you’d like to share? Let me know! You can email me through my “Contact page. xo

  16. jeannette carasso katzen says:

    Hi Tori…I was skimming through the pictures and noticed you used a sifter to dust on the powdered sugar…SO funny! My mom just rolled those cookies in a bowl of powdered sugar, must have been a half inch thick on top! No wonder we were given strict instructions NOT to breathe in when we took a bite. AND yes, the cups my mom to which my mom referred were baking cups with powdered sugar sprinkled on the bottom before she placed the kourabiedes in them. Yummy!

    • Tori Avey says:

      Well rolling them would certainly be easier wouldn’t it?? I always use the sifter when I’m dusting to avoid those powdery chunks of sugar, but next time I’m going to make it easier on myself and roll them the way your mom did. As for not inhaling when you eat them, that is very wise advice! ;)

  17. Barbara Young says:

    Thank you for this very moving tribute, Tori. I have suggested that the cookbook be sold by my synagogue as a fundraiser. If that doesn’t happen, I will be purchasing one anyway.

  18. Mark Stubli says:

    I searched Barns and Noble and Books-a-Million and cannot find the Holocaust Survivor Cookbook, where would I buy a copy????

  19. Tanya S says:

    Thank you for posting this recipes . I really love your blog and your story about food . If any of your readers live in Bay Area temple Adat Israel will have this book signing by autor on monday Feb 6 at 7 pm , I belive you can pre order through the temple

  20. Josie says:

    What a beautiful way to make sure the memory of Holocaust survivors live on! I made these and they absolutely melt in your mouth!! So special. Will continue to make these again and again :)

  21. Jeannette Carasso Katzen says:

    Thank you to all for all the kind words after you have tried the cookies and loved them. What an honor to my beloved mother Rena Gani Carasso that her Greek recipe for Kourabiedes is such a hit. May ALL your families continue to enjoy this special food of my heritage for years to come. Enjoy!!♥

    • Jill gregory says:

      Hi jeannette,

      I am hoping you still read this and me and my daughter would be honored to receive your help. My daughter has chosen your mother Rena Gani Carasso to do her large report on for her project on remembering the Holocaust those that passed and survived. If there is any information or stories you could share with us so we can do this report on your mother justice could you please send the information to us. Any stories she had shared with you all. I know those are horrible memories but it will help these children understand exactly what your mom and many others went threw. I kow this is an odd request but i have been up for hours trying to find out as much about her and her life but am falling short. I just happened to land on this page and thought id give it a shot. Thank you so much.
      Jill and Taylor gregory chicago IL
      Gregory0313@sbcglobal.net

  22. Mary Lou Swiscoski says:

    TO TORI – Thank you for posting the story of Rena Gani. I picked up her identification card at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum on 3-3-2012 and wanted to learn more about her.
    TO JEANETTE – As an assignment I wrote a letter to your mother for the professor to grade. If your mother is still living, may I send it to her? If not, I would like to send it to you and Eileen. It is not part of the assignment, but I wanted her to know I will be sharing her story with others. I also made a pledge and will now receive the Genocide Prevention Newsletter.

  23. Jeannette says:

    Dear Mary Lou, thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, our Mother passed away in 2002, but my sister and I would love to read it. You can contact me via Facebook, and i will share my email with you. Thank you again.

  24. jeannette carasso katzen says:

    I come often to this site and always find terrific recipes to try..I have NEVER stopped going to this very special page every time i visit where i read and reread the entire story you put together about my parents ( along with the Kourabiedes recipe)…It is such an honor for my entire family to have my mother’s recipe on this site for everyone to enjoy for eternity. THANK YOU TOREY … so much

    With much love, Jeannette

  25. Deborah says:

    These cookies are fantastic! I’ve been making an almost identical recipe for years and it’s always a hit. One thing I do a bit differently is to add a tsp of cinnamon per cup of icing sugar. This should be well mixed and then the warm cookies rolled in it. The cinnamon adds a nice “cozy” flavour to an already “cozy” biscuit. :)

  26. Barbara says:

    Hi Shiksa!
    Just came across you recipe when googling how to make kourabiedes, as my family live back in Cyprus and it seemed easier than a long phone call asking for their recipe :-) thank you!just thought I’d add, when I used to help grandma make these as a child she used to get me to brush rose water on them when warm as it soaks it up and gives a wonderful aroma. You may want to try!!

  27. Arlene Towne says:

    yummmm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. My mother bought the nook for me
    I treasure it!

  29. Thank you for the History, and thank you for the recipe.

  30. I will order that cookbook! what a treasure!!!!!!

  31. Awesome, love these cookies! Didn´t know there´s a book you described…and good to know. Thanks for sharing with us!

  32. Wow!!! this is the same recipe as my late Bubby, Rachael Leah bas Sarah Rivka, english name Ruth Morris, I wonder if she new or was related to Rena? They are amazing when cooked just right….

  33. OY VEY. coooookies. butter cookies. want but cant have. dumb medical diets

  34. Terri McCall says:

    Ohhhh yeah, JV´s mom made a very large batch of those cookies for me, 40 yrs ago and these caused me to gained 5 lbs in a week…soooo daaaammmnnn good that I never had this same kind ever since…

  35. Thank you for sharing this recipe, story and cookbook!

  36. Larry Salinger says:

    Thank you for sharing this book and the story. I will be sure to buy it for me to enjoy, and to pass on to my son. My late parents were the sole survivors of their immediate families, and build a good life in America. Once they arrived they never left, not even to drive the 45 minutes to Tijuana Mexico for lunch. My mom was interviewed for the Shoah Foundation’s project, but my dad refused. Her testimony survives, and even though she is gone it has had a positive impact on people who have viewed my copies. If you know a survivor who has not given their testimony yet, please contact the Shoah Foundation archives at The University of Southern California. If you have not yet been to Yad Vashem, please make it a priority. I visited there, walked the paths and exhibits,, and had a life altering experience. Zachor!!!

  37. Thank you for sharing. I plan to purchase the book for my 17 year old daughter. She is currently on a Holocaust Study Tour in Europe with 20 other students and 4 teachers. They are in Prague as we speak. Yesterday, she had the incredible opportunity to visit Teresienstadt concentration camp accompanied by a 92 year old man who is a survivor. What a life changing experience for her. They are also traveling to Berlin, Olomouc, and Krakow.

  38. They have blog about their trip on which they post daily about their experiences. http://www.hst10@blogspot.com

  39. Leah Saban says:

    These are delicious – I also have a gluten free version

  40. What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing the recipe and cookbook–I am definitely going to pick up a copy.

  41. Sigh. My grandma used to make these…yum!

  42. Love these cookies. My Mother made them.

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