(45 pieces)

Kourambiedes were the traditional wedding treat of Sparta. "Everyone got one at my wedding," Marion Kopsidas recalled. "I don't like to call them cookies because they're not cookies -- they're creations." The secret is to whip the butter until it's white. The excess of confectioners' sugar represents wishes for good fortune. She preferred to sprinkle the confectioners' sugar on wax paper, transfer the cookies to the sugar, then cover them with additional sugar.

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter,

at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

2 egg yolks

1 demitasse cognac (optional)

1 cup (about 6 ounces) blanched,

coarsely chopped almonds, lightly

toasted* (optional)

About 45 whole cloves

About 2 pounds confectioners' sugar

for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until white, about 10 minutes. Beating constantly, slowly add the sugar and egg yolks and mix until combined. Using a spoon, stir in the cognac and almonds, if desired, and mix. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Using about 1/4 of the dough, form it into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Cut the dough on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Press a clove into the center of each piece and shape each piece into a ball. Transfer the ball to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Bake the dough in the preheated oven until lightly golden but not brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and immediately sprinkle the confectioners' sugar over the kourambiedes, being careful to cover the sides and tops of each piece. Set aside to cool for at least 1 hour. Using a small spatula, transfer each kourambiedes into a small paper pastry cup without disturbing the sugar.

* NOTE: To toast nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place them in a 350-degree oven, shaking the pan occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully because nuts will burn quickly.