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Glystarkes (Cypriot crusty, sesame rusks)

Gyristarkes, from the Greek verb γυρίζω = turn, now commonly known as glystarkes or glistarkes, is a kind of grid-like crusty, sesame rusks.   The bread sticks are dipped into sesame seeds and then they are shaped beginning with a cross (as it had a religious meaning as well) and then other bread sticks are added round the cross and baked.  They were used during old traditions in villages, where the bride’s family would invite guests to the wedding and hand a glistarka as an invitation or as part of the decoration of pumpkin or dried gourds (krasokoloka) which were used as wine containers during wedding ceremonies.  These gourds were hand crafted and elaborately decorated for special occasions.

The traditional glystarkes were made with only bread flour and fresh yeast, white sesame seeds and had a flavour of cinnamon, cloves and anise.  The first time I made them with the traditional ingredients and were shaped the traditional way.  They were quite close to the taste I remembered.

The recipe is a twist of my own to the original one.   In order to make them much healthier, I added whole wheat flour, demerera sugar and salt substitute, for mine, which were fine for me but the rest of the family wanted them more salty, so I added some coarse sea salt in the spice mixture for theirs.

Since then, I have made them many times, either as mini glystarkes or shaped like grissini in order to know which flavour was in each kind.

I’ve also made a lot of  combinations of spices mixed in the sesame seeds and they are so addictive you can’t just eat one of these crunchy bites.

The recipe is included in my cookbook Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!

I am sending these to Yasmeen, of Health Nut, for her event Guilt Free Snacks.

In some of them I also added some halloumi.

Finally, a guilt free smoothie which I prepare for my children who are always lazy to peel and eat fruit.   I add some Bee pollen which is a great source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and more.  Bee pollen has an earthy taste which is not so pleasant by itself, so I camouflage it in the smoothie and add the vanilla essence to hide its taste 🙂

Healthy Smoothie

Ingredients for 3 glasses:

  • 2 glasses of low fat milk
  • 1 medium pear, peeled and cored
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes
  • 1small apple, peeled and cored
  • 1 tsp bee pollen
  • 1 tablespoon Greek Honey
  • 4 – 5 ice cubes
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence


Put all the ingredients in a blender and start on low speed until the ice cubes break and then blend for a few minutes on high speed.


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23 Responses

  1. Love the glystarkes and I must admit, I have never seen them before. they look very similar to the koulouria you buy with sousami. I really love these! And what a healthy smoothie!

  2. What great Glystarkes! They must be very flavorful!

    I don’t like the taste of pollen, so your smoothie would be for me!



  3. we have here almost the same recipe ,but for minipretzel,called in romanian language”covrigei”,and poppy seeds are preferred !as usually ,a very nice post,best regards from romania,

  4. Wow i love the tradition of making things from the gourd, thought i have never seenthem.
    Those rusk looks so so yumm

  5. J’ai l’habitude d’en manger lorsque je suis en Grèce, une vraie gourmandise !

  6. Ivy, these are a piece of art, esp. that round one…..love it!
    Angie’s Recipes

  7. Sounds really intriguing!

  8. Those sound really delicious, I love the different shapes! Are they similar to pretzels?

  9. These look absolutely wonderful, Ivy! I definitely want to try making the Glystarkes

  10. I love these and how you can shape them into so many different things! The smoothie sounds delicious too.

  11. This is a great snack and they sound easy to make, healthy and so versatile. I think I must try and make them without the peppers for the the children but I am sure I’ll love the peppery ones 🙂

  12. Ivy

    Thanks everybody for the lovely comments.

    Natasha, would you believe that I’ve never tried pretzels before.

  13. you are so innovative…healthy rusks and irresistible smoothie!

  14. These look so pretty Ivy – and if they are also healthy, that’s a bonus.

  15. These are so pretty Ivy – and healthy as well is a bonus.

  16. These remind me of those crunchy sesame sticks I used to have as a kid. I really would of liked to tried your combo with poppy seeds though, that really would of been something else 🙂

    I might need a second stick to get the seeds out from my teeth though 🙂

  17. Love the crusty snacks with crunchy seeds toppings .Bee pollen is something I never tried,not sure if its available here,adding in smoothie was a gr8 idea.thanks for sending these to HNC:)

  18. Oh man I would love those sesame snacks!! Yum!

  19. These look fantastic. I’m always ready for crunchy savoury snacks, even better with sesame seeds and low cal.

  20. OOOo wow Ivy, these look very similar to griwech that are made in Algeria … yet better. I love crunchy food … prefect snack for my children … your recipe …. healthy and creative! Bravo Ivy!

  21. Oh my word Ivy these look so good! My hubby is a crunchy snack person he would love these!

  22. Looks like you had a lot of fun with all the shapes! They all look beautiful Ivy!

  23. I have only had “kertsinia” and I love them as a snack or with some cheese. These designs are much more exciting!