Monday, December 31, 2012

Vasilopita - St. Basil's Bread to Start the New Year

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I'm sending all of you, wishes for health and happiness in the coming year. I hope that you and your families thrive, and that the New Year brings all measure of good things your way. I've been looking for recipes festive enough to start the New Year with a bang and, at the last minute, I found one cloaked in the tradition and lore of the Greek people and the liturgical calendar of the Greek Orthodox church. In Greece, January 1st marks the feast of St. Basil, as well as New Year's Day. Now, Basil was a fourth century bishop who wanted to return money, unfairly taken by others, to the poor of his Diocese. To accomplish that, he commissioned the baking of a sweetened bread that was to hide the coins and treasure being returned to their rightful owners. Somehow, everyone received exactly what had been taken from them and Basil is credited with the miracle. His gift to the people, is commemorated in Orthodox homes each year on January 1st, by the baking of a bread to which sweets and a coin have been added. For believers, the bread, which is called, Vasilopita, is the symbol of the sweetness and joy of corporeal and everlasting life. When the bread is prepared, a coin is usually kneaded into the dough and when it is cut the person who receives that portion of the bread is considered blessed. There are many recipes for Vasilopita and the bread can take many forms. I've chosen a simple recipe and even simpler form to share with you tonight. The date on top of the bread is a secular addition that has gained favor in recent years. This is a mildly sweet and anise-flavored bread that is traditionally cut at midnight by the head of the family. To honor the memory of St. Basil, he will cut a piece of the bread as a symbolic offering to the poor and needy of the world. The bread is lovely and the story is sweet. Here's how it is made.

Vasilopita - St. Basil's Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of the Orthodox Kitchen

6 cups + 1/2 cup bread flour, divided use
2-1/4 teaspoons package dry yeast
2 cups warm milk, divided use
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, divided use
3/4 cup melted butter
Crushed almonds, for a topping
1 coin (cleaned)


1) In a small mixing bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of warm milk, yeast, and 1/2 cup of flour. Let the mixture rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
2) Place remaining 5-1/2 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and anise seeds. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add yeast mixture, 3 eggs, butter and remaining 1-1/2 cups of milk and mix well. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead for at least five minutes, adding more flour as needed to form a smooth though slightly sticky dough. Tuck a coin into dough before pressing into a well-greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Cover and let the dough rise until double in bulk, about1-1/2 to 2 hours.
3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. Beat reserved egg with 1 teaspoon water. Brush top of dough with some beaten egg and then sprinkle crushed almonds over the top.
4) Bake until crust is a golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom (about 45 -55 minutes). Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and complete cooling on a wire rack. Yield: 1 large loaf or 12 to 16 pieces.

One Year Ago Today: Muhammara

Two Years Ago Today:  Bouillabaise la Marseillaise

Three Years Ago Today: Mexican Beer-Cheese Spread


Jeannie Tay said...

This is the second loaf of Vasilopita that I have seen and am thinking of making some tomorrow since it's a holiday...looks wonderful! Happy New Year Mary:)

Hovkonditorn said...

Happy New Year Mary!

Ginny said...

I have never heard of this bishop, or the bread. Do you think it is all a true story? That would be nice. Anyway, the bread looks lovely with a great texture. Wishing you a wonderful New Year!!

Ana said...

Thank you for featuring this lovely New Year’s bread, and writing about St. Basil. The coin can be wrapped in some foil, just to keep things sanitary. The foil doesn't dissolve, and causes no taste or structural change to the recipe.
Happy New Year to you.
I'll be posting my Vasilopita recipe on New Year's Day, as I traditionally make it on New Year’s Eve. It has 16 egg whites!!!

What's Baking?? said...

Best wishes to you too, Mary. Happy New Year.

Adriana said...

Happy New Year!

bellini said...

What a great story Mary. I hope that 2013 is the best year ever!

Pam said...

This bread sounds delightful and I love the story behind it. Happy New Year Mary!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

This is beautiful. I did not know this story. What a lovely tradition - I love the fact that it is made in a large pan, and may just make this my New Year's tradition as well. Happy New Year!

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

This recipe sounds really interesting!

Claudia said...

This is a bread I do not know - nor the history. Love keeping the tradition alive of giving back - even in a small way. Happy 2013!

Kim Garceau said...

this festive bread sounds like the perfect way to begin the year to me! Love it! Hope 2013 will be perfect for you Mary!

From the Kitchen said...

Mary: Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy and delicious new year.


Big Dude said...

Happy New Year Mary

The Red Apron said...

Happy New Year Mary! May the New Year bring you lots of good blessings

Barbara F. said...

Happy New Year to you and yours, Mary, thank you for all the wonderful food you share. Looking forward to more in 2013! xo

JG said...

This is a nice tradition for a family! The bread sounds delicious with the cinnamon. Happy New Year to you and your family, Mary!

Kathy said...

Mary, This is such a lovely way to welcome in 2013!! Wishing you a Happy, Blessed New Year!!

kitty said...

What a lovely story, Mary. You teach so much through your blog and I appreciate that. The bread sounds wonderful and I love that the tradition carries on. Happy New Year blessings to you and your loved ones.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I saw this post on New Year's Eve morning and decided to bake this bread - it filled the house with a lovely, warm aroma and was a delicious treat at midnight to welcome the New Year. Thanks for the inspiration, Mary!

Martha said...

I hope to make this bread...we are old calendar Orthodox, so Dec. 31st is Sunday and Jan. 1st is Monday!!! ♥
Ginny, maybe you've never heard of St. Basil, because he made a bishop of Caesarea in the year 370 AD, which was a long time ago, but yes, it is true.

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