“So Nick, what is a good Greek dessert to make for a large group of people, if you want to reach a little further than baklava?” – Laurel
and Pam
Thank you for your question, Laurel and Pam, which you sent me recently via Facebook Messenger (a private communications forum for cooking questions, legal advice, and spirited political discussions). Since you asked during a busy workday when I had multiple deadlines, I of course was happy to drop everything and engage you in determining what to feed your crowd.

As much as they like to eat, Greeks aren’t super big on dessert. Pastries and cookies are trotted out for special occasions, like weddings, baptisms, funerals, and when you knock on your third cousin’s door in Ariohori, Greece without advance notice. Otherwise Greeks will follow dinner with fruit, coffee, and spirited political discussions.

Baklava is the most famous of all Greek desserts, unabashedly co-opted by jealous neighbors in the Middle East. One distinction of Greek phyllo desserts like baklava is that they are made with butter, which is otherwise rarely used in Greek cuisine. Baklava is undeniably delicious, but Laurel, Pam and I were going into more uncharted territory.

I suggested galaktouboureko, made with a creamy semolina custard in a crispy, golden phyllo crust, bathed in honey and citrus. Pam nixed that one on the basis that “12 sheets of phyllo per 15 servings may prove prohibitive” – a comment which I still don’t understand - and she instead suggested revani, a semolina cake with orange syrup. I told her I never liked revani and offered loukamades.

Loukamades – pronounced “luke-a-MA-thess,” “honey fritters” or just “yum!” Find these at a Greek festival and you’ll be in heaven. Easy to make, if not a little messy: light puffs of honeyed dough, served hot, and drizzled with honey and cinnamon. Fret not if you don’t have a deep fryer; they are just fine in a large pan with 2” of vegetable oil.

I viewed numerous recipes in my Greek cookbooks and on the internet and settled on this one from “Evelyn from Athens,” a prolific contributor to
2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup lukewarm milk
2 packages dry yeast
4 cups flour (or enough until a thick, pancake-like batter consistency is reached)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
vegetable oil (for frying)
1 cup honey (Greek thyme honey is best, and authentic)
1/4 cup water
finely chopped walnuts (optional)
sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Put it along with the remaining dough ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well until a smooth batter is obtained.
Cover and let the batter rise in a warm place until it is approximately three times its previous bulk, (1-2 hours).

2. Heat the oil for frying in a saucepan on the stove until very hot (about 2” deep). Dip a teaspoon into oil to coat and spoon out some dough into the hot oil. Repeat until there are enough fritters to comfortably fill the surface area of the saucepan, without overcrowding.
Dip the spoon in oil, every time the dough starts to stick on it.

3. Fry loukoumades in very hot oil until golden brown, pushing them into the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving dish lined with kitchen paper for them to drain. Keep making more fritters in this way.
4. Make honey syrup: Heat honey and water in a small saucepan and skim off any froth that may form on top. Boil for 5 minutes.

5. Put freshly fried loukamades on a large platter and pour hot honey syrup over them, and lightly dust with cinnamon. (Optional: Sprinkle them with chopped walnuts and/or sesame seeds.) Serve immediately.

Yes, Laurel and Pam, this will make your crowd quite happy. Just make sure you have plenty on hand. Now let me get back to my deadlines!    
Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.