Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year all!!! 

As you all know, I promised more posts this new year.  So here I am, in bed (I love you babes!!!), posting about one of my favorite Greek Orthodox traditions on the church. 

Vasilopita.  Vasilopita, literally translated to Basil pie or King pie (the word vasileus means king) is a delicious sweet bread that is served on New Years Day.  The bread is baked with a coin in it and the person who gets the slice with the coin is granted good luck and prosperity all year long.  This year, I was asked at my church to be a special recipient of a slice.  I didn't get it...  so sad cuz I never do, but hey, I don't need a coin to be prosperous right?  Although, I'm sure the luck of the church would be mighty helpful over the next few months... 

Anyways...

The tradition of the Vasilopita is associated with St. Basil, whose namesday we celebrated yesterday.  (Happy Namesday Mom and Uncle Basil!!!)

St. Basil called upon the citizens of a city called Kaesarea in Cappadokia, where he was Bishop, to raise a the taxes for the citizens of the city who were affected by a great famine.  Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewelry.  When the money was raised, the eparch of the province, who had demanded the taxes, despite the horrible famine, changed his mind and gave the jewelry back to St. Basil.  St. Basil then had to return the items, but since he did not know what went to each person, he baked all the jewelry into loaves of bread, and distributed the loaves to the city.  By some miracle, each family received their exact share back. 

So each year, we bake vasilopita, placing a coin in the dough before baking.  When I was younger, it was a gold coin, although nowadays, you're more likely to find a silver dollar, or if baked in large quantities, quarters. 
This year, my Thea Mary got the coin.  To be fair, I give pieces in order of age.  You don't know where the coin is, so you don't worry much about cheating.  :)
I bought my vasilopita from church this year, but I do have a tried and true recipe to share.  It is a delicious sweet bread that can most definitely be used for bread puddings, french toast, or just to have. 
Btw, this bread is a bread, not a cake.  There are vasilopita recipes that are a cake w/ no frosting, but this is definitely not one of those.  It is for sure a bread. 

Vasilopita

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups milk
1 Pkg active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
10 tbsp unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
halved and skinned almonds (or slivered) for topping

Directions:

Mix flour, salt and yeast. Set aside.

Heat the milk and water in the microwave for about a minute and half. 
Beat eggs well and add sugar until incorporated.  Cream egg/sugar mixture with the butter with an electric mixer.  Add the warmed milk and water, mix well. 
Gradually add flour mix. Mix thoroughly, but do not over mix.  This is meant to be a very soft bread. 
The dough should be soft and elastic.  If it is too sticky, add a little more, 1/4 cup at a time. 
Cover the mixing bowl with a thick towel.  Let rise until double, about an hour.  Don't place the bowl somewhere cool. 
Once it has doubled in size, punch it down and knead the dough. Add the coin to the dough***
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 10 inch springform pan with cooking spray.  Place the dough in the pan.
Cover the pan with a thick towel and let rise in a warm place until dough has nearly doubled.
Brush the top with the beaten egg. Press the halved almonds on the top of the bread, randomly or in a pretty design. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-60 mins. until top is a nice golden brown color.  Check it after 15 mins and if the top is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and bake for longer.  Keep a close eye on it after 45 mins.  Some ovens are different, so you need to see how your oven works.  Our old oven is a lot different than our new one and I messed this up the first time in the new oven, so pay attention to how quickly your oven bakes.  Cool in pan for 10 mins, then remove to cooling rack to finish cooling.

***So some people may have a concern about placing a coin in the dough.  I will thoroughly clean the coin, and I mean thoroughly, with dish soap.  I usually let it sit in warm water, with dish soap in it before actually scrubbing it down.  Then I wrap the coin in a little bit of foil. I bake the foil wrapped coin in the bread.  It is definitely safe this way; this is how I, and most Greeks have been doing it for years.  :)
Happy New Year everyone!  I hope that every one's year is blessed with good times, lots of joy and love and lots of prosperity!!!  Even if you didn't get the coin!  :)

6 comments:

Ivy said...

Happy New Year Niki and all the best to you and your family. Na chairesai ti mama sou :)
I've never made a tsoureki type vassilopita before because they love the cake vassilopita, which disappears in no time. I won the coin this year!

Christy K Martin said...

Sounds like a lovely tradition. Thanks for sharing.

NikiTheo said...

Ivy, that's great! I'm so glad, that just means even greater things are coming! :)

I've actually never had the cake version myself... This receipe, I think I failed to mention was one that I got from the church many, many years ago. I love how soft it is, especially in comparasion to andithiron.

And thank you Christy, it is certainly one of my favorite traditions. Happy New Year!

maria said...

Happy New Year! All the best for a happy and healthy one!

2011 tapping world summit said...

This pastry looks yummy and very simple to bake!

SusieQTpies said...

Hiya!! Thanks for stopping in during the Friday Blog hop!!! I am following you and always love seeing your blog! I love your food choices! If you ever want to be guest chef on my blog you can! That would involve you sharing a recipe and at least one photo of it! I would link back to your blog, too. Let me know! http://cafescrapper-scrapsoflife.blogspot.com/