GALVESTON — When thinking about Greek culture, “Never on Sunday” is one of the first phrases that comes to mind, at least for those of us old enough to remember that classic movie.

That restriction no longer applies to the annual Greek Festival at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church.

This year, the fun activities will be held on Nov. 9-10 on the church grounds.

One reason to expand to two days of festivities is that the church has big changes to celebrate.

Five years after Hurricane Ike devastated the church facilities, the kitchen has been fully renovated thanks to one of Houston’s premier restaurant dynasties, the Pappas family, operators of Pappas Brothers, Pappasito’s, Yia Yia Mary’s and other popular restaurant concepts throughout Texas.

“The new kitchen is beautiful,” said church member Mary Jo Naschke. “It rivals a Pappas restaurant kitchen.”

The kitchen will get a workout during the Greek Festival, which will offer traditional Greek favorites such as beef or lamb souvlakia and gyros.

A full dinner of pastitsio, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), salad, olives and meat balls will be available for $15.

Some of the parish’s best bakers have already given the new restaurant-quality kitchen a thorough trial run.

After five years of preparing thousands of Greek pastries in other kitchens, the laborious process of turning out huge quantities of sweets such as baklava, kourambeides (butter shortbread cookies,) finikia (fragrant spice cookies) and other delicacies, the bakers were finally able to hold their baking marathons at the church again.

“Now that we have a kitchen here again, we’ll be making a new honey puff pastry, loukoumades, on site,” Naschke said. “They’re sort of like Greek beignets. Everyone’s grandmother made them, and the tradition continues.”

The church’s bakers make such vast quantities of pastries because many people take the opportunity to stock up on the rarely available treats.

“Some of the pastries can be frozen and then defrosted for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Naschke said.

To facilitate this, many of the pastries will be available in boxed assortments as well as sold individually for immediate consumption. Other items for the holidays, including Greek wine and beer, Christmas ornaments and icons, dolls and jewelry also will be sold during the two-day event.

There’s much more to do at the Greek Festival, now in its 30th year, besides eating and stocking away food to eat later.

Entertainment by Alex Kalos will help everyone get their Greek on, and Greek dancers will perform hourly beginning at noon on both days. Children’s activities also are planned throughout the weekend.

Tours of the church, led by parish priest Father Stelios Sitaras, will be available both days, and festivalgoers are invited to attend the one-hour Divine Liturgy service at 10 a.m. Nov. 10.


Koulourakia

1 pound unsalted butter

1 1⁄2 cups sugar

6 eggs, reserve 2 for brushing cookies

6 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 ounces ouzo

Sesame seeds, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and ouzo and mix well. While the mixer is running, add eggs one by one and mix until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder and soda. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture little by little.

The dough will be soft and malleable but it should not be sticky. You should be able to pinch off a ball of the dough and roll it in to a cord or thin tube.

If the dough is too sticky, add a little bit more flour. Allow the dough to rest a bit before rolling into shapes.

To shape the cookies, pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a walnut. Roll out a cord or thin tube of dough about the length of a dinner knife. Fold in half then twist two times. You can also make a coiled circle or an “S” shape.

Beat the remaining two eggs in a bowl and add a splash of water to the egg. Brush the cookies lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

Bake the cookies on parchment paper or on a lightly greased cookie sheet for about 20 minutes or until they are nicely golden brown.

(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Mary Jo Naschke)


Loukoumades

Pastry

1 pound all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 cup warm water for dissolving yeast

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Vegetable oil for frying

Syrup

1 cinnamon stick

2 cups water

2 cups honey

1 cup sugar

Pastry

Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water, mix the flour and salt in a bowl and slowly add the yeast mixture, mixing well.

Slowly add more warm water until you have a medium paste. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let sit for 1 hour. The batter should double in size and form bubbles.

Heat the oil and add teaspoonfuls of the batter to the oil, cooking until they turn golden brown.

Remove the loukoumades from the oil and drain on a paper towel.

Plate the loukoumades, pour syrup over them, sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Syrup

Boil the honey, sugar, water and cinnamon stick for 20 minutes. Set aside.

(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Mary Jo Naschke)


Paximadia

1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

3⁄4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

2 cups sugar

3⁄4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons brandy or cognac

7 large eggs, divided

About 3 pounds of flour

6 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line several large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric or stand-up mixer, beat the butter, oil, vegetable shortening and sugar for 10 to 15 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Add 6 eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next egg.

Strain the orange juice, discard the pulp and add the juice and brandy to the mixture until well blended. Pour the batter into an extra-large mixing bowl.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk about 2 cups of flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and cloves. Mix this into the butter mixture with your hands.

Start adding the flour slowly to the batter with your hands. Add the almonds.

You have to go by how the batter feels to determine if you have added enough flour. It should be stiff enough to hold the shape of a cookie roll, but not too hard or else the cookies will come out dry and break.

Divide the dough into seven equal pieces. Roll one piece into a 2-inch wide log and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces, putting two logs on each baking sheet, giving them enough space to spread.

Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the top of all the logs. This will give them a glossy finish.

Bake the logs for about 25 minutes or until the logs turn a light golden color. Remove from the oven and let cool for 3 minutes.

Carefully transfer a log to a cutting board and cut with a sharp knife into 3⁄4-inch slices on the diagonal. Put the slices back on the baking sheet on their sides. Repeat with remaining logs until all are sliced.

Return the cookies to the oven for 15 minutes or until they get a nice light golden brown hue, flipping each cookie onto its other side halfway in between.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the baking sheets before storing in an airtight container.

(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Mary Jo Naschke)

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