They are a butter-based pastry, traditionally hand-shaped, with egg glaze on top. They have a sweet delicate flavor with a hint of vanilla. Koulourakia are well known for their sprinkle of sesame seeds and distinctive ring shape. In fact, the word is the diminutive form for a ring-shaped loaf or lifebelt. These pastries were also often shaped like small snakes by the Minoans, as they worshiped the snake for its healing powers.
Now the pastries can be shaped into braided circles, hairpin twists, figure eights, twisted wreaths, horseshoes or Greek letters, although they are still often shaped into a snake style. They are commonly eaten with morning coffee or afternoon tea. Like all pastries, they are normally kept in dry conditions in a jar with a lockable lid.
Often, a clove is added atop the center of the pastry for added flavor.