Lihnarakia: A Sweat Kalitsounia Recipe from Crete

 Lihnarakia is how we call the sweat kalitsounia. This recipe comes straight from Crete. Lihnarakia (λυχναράκια in Greece) means little lights and they are called this way because their shape resembles a light spot. This kalitsounia is sweet, unlike the salted kalitsounia which are filled with spinach. 

Traditionally, Cretans prepare lihnarakia only for Easter; however, they are so delicious you can make them any time of the year for any occasion special or not. Lihnarakia is made with mizithra cheese, sweetened with sugar or honey. Unlike their counterparts kalitsounia are made with phyllo pastry and fried, these ones have a soft dough and are baked, more look and taste more like a cookie. 

Mizithra has to be very well-drained and needs to crumble easily before starting making these sweat kalitsounia. If you cannot find mizithra, you can substitute it with ricotta cheese. Moreover, make sure that the butter is at room temperature.

This traditional Cretan sweat kalitsounia recipe takes 30 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook. It gives around 30 lihnarakia.

Lihnarakia: A Sweat Kalitsounia Recipe from Crete

Lihnarakia - Ingredients

For the dough

  • 75 g of butter, at room temperature
  • 125 g of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 75 ml of milk
  • 10 g of baking powder
  • 375 g of all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, whipped
  • Sesame, for garnish

 For the filling

  • 500 g sweet mizithra cheese 
  • 3 tbs. sugar or honey
  • 1 egg, whipped
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract

Lihnarakia - How to Make

  1. In a bowl add the cheese with sugar, then the whipped egg and vanilla extract. 
  2. Mix well until soft and creamy. Set aside.
  3. Mix the butter with sugar until it dissolves and becomes creamy. Add the egg and milk and continue to whisk.
  4.  In a separate bowl mix the flour with the baking powder.
  5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and knead gently with your hands until it becomes a dough. Knead the dough rapidly until it no longer sticks to your fingers.
  6. Take a portion of the dough and, using a rolling pin, flatten to a thickness of about 2 mm. Use a rice bowl or a large cup with a diameter of 8-9 cm and cut circles into the flattened dough.
  7. Holding the circle in your hand, add in the center one tablespoon of cheese filling and form it like a pyramid.
  8. Using the tip of a spreading knife, turn the margins of the dough upwards toward the center, to cover the base of the cheese pyramid.
  9. You will have 7-8 points where the dough sticks to sides, forming a star-shaped base. 
  10. Continue until the dough and filling are finished.
  11. Preheat the oven at 180°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. 
  12. Line the lihnarakia leaving enough space between them as they tend to inflate while baking.
  13. Brush the sweat kalitsounia with whisked egg and sprinkle with sesame before putting them in the oven. 
  14. Bake for 30 minutes, until they become lightly golden and the dough is well baked.
Let the lihnarakia cool completely before storing them in an air-tight container. Enjoy!