Heirloom Recipes

A Greek Sesame Cookie That Made New Italian-Americans Feel at Home

November  4, 2015

My parents immigrated from Italy to upstate New York in the 1950s, and some of the first friends they made were a Greek women and her husband. They were instrumental in helping my parents—and their two sons, my older brothers, who were three and six years old—acclimate to their new country and home.

My mom's friend shared many of her Greek dishes—like these Koulourakia (Greek Sesame Twist Cookies)—and my mom shared her Italian ones in this wonderfully social food camaraderie that I wish I was a part of to this day (I was born years later). The original recipe is of Greek origin and, in my initial research, I found that they were usually made for Easter, and served as a light, not-too-sweet snack with tea and coffee, as well as a daily treat or late-night snack. They freeze beautifully and make great holiday or hostess gifts.

Photo by James Ransom

My mom taught me to make these when I was a young girl, and we made them for pretty much every holiday, wedding, birth of a new baby... Italians love a reason to bake treats and share them! This recipe was and still is my mom's favorite, simple in flavor and easy to make. She always tells us how eating these with her new friend made her miss her old home in Italy a little bit less.

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Making these was always a family affair. The adults would twist them into shape and the little ones would brush the tops and sprinkle on the sesame seeds. I recreated the recipe a few years ago when I started my food blog; my goal was to archive all the memories from my family's history and show how food has touched and is still touching us today, as I make these for my daughters, friends, and so on.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • sadenis
  • cucina di mammina
    cucina di mammina
  • Ejan
Italian artist, foodie, food blogger & wine lover


sadenis December 21, 2015
Can I refrigerate the dough overnight if I am crunched for time?
cucina D. December 26, 2015
I have never tried this, my advise would be refrigerate it but then allow it to come to room temperature as the dough may need to be blended again due to the butter
cucina D. December 18, 2015
Ejan, regarding the reference to the organic egg in this recipe, I prefer to honor the original recipe that dictated organic vs. commercially processed eggs as organic farm-fresh eggs that my famiglia had on hand as we lived near local farms and raised our own egg hens when I was a child. They have richer yolks that are a deep yellow-orange color that adds both depth of flavor and golden color to the cookies. You may feel free to use what you wish, the cookies I am sure will turn out wonderful.
Ejan December 18, 2015
Enough of the "organic" nonsense.