Preparation / Directions:
Author's note: These cakes are traditionally served at Christmas. This recipe comes from my neighbor, Andonia. I have a distinct memory of her beating the oil and sugar into the flour until it dissolved using her middle finger and forefinger as a beater - though a spoon will do.
Start by making the syrup. Put the honey, sugar, cinnamon, clove, and lemon zest in a saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, then chill.
To blanch the almonds, plunge them into boiling water for 1-2 minutes, until you see signs of their skins loosening. Then drain and slip or pop them from their skins onto a baking sheet. Toast them in an oven preheated to 350F for about 10 minutes - just until they begin to color. Cool, then chop them very, very finely - if you do this in a food processor, make sure that the pulses are short, or the nuts could turn oily. Mix the ground almonds with the sugar and cinnamon and reserve.
Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together. Put the olive oil and sugar in a large bowl and beat together - with your fingers like Andonia - or with a wooden spoon. Beat in the Cognac, the orange zest, spices, and juice from 2 oranges (about 1/2 cup).
Then beat in the flour, a few spoonfuls at a time, until you have a malleable dough, adding more flour if it is too soft, and more orange juice if it is too stiff. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes until very smooth.
Pinch off pieces of dough of about 2 tablespoons and form into flattened oval or lozenge shapes. Place them on an oiled or non-stick baking sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 400-425F for about 20 minutes, until brown.
When they are cool enough to handle, dip them in the bowl of syrup for about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a tray to cool. Sprinkle with the chopped almond mixture.
Source: Recipes from a Greek Island, by Susie Jacobs