Typically the the baker hides a coin in the Vasilopita, and the person who gets it is deemed blessed for the year. Of course in the old days there was a reason why the coin was hidden in this festive bread and why indeed this bread is baked!! Vasilopita is made in honor of a wonderful act of charity by St. Basil to the poor of his flock. St. Basil wanted to ensure that the needy would have enough money for necessities. But he was also aware that they were proud people and would not accept money. St. Basil asked his church members prepare some sweet bread with coins baked into them. In this way he was able to give them money without demeaning them.
Despite its distinctive simplicity, this bread is very rich. But it is also beautifully fragrant and tasty. As I searched for recipes for BBD #15, an event started by Zorra , which I myself am hosting this month and for my very first entry for YeastSpotting hosted by Susan, I kept finding recipes that asked for anything from 6-12 eggs and a kilo of all-purpose flour!! I could not even begin to tackle reducing these quantities but I did want to bake this bread - simply because it was not too sweet and because I adore anise!!
So after much searching I came about a recipe that I felt could be tweaked to our requirements here while keeping with the original taste and texture of the bread. The original recipe is at the bottom of this post. What follows here is my version of this traditional New Year's Bread!!
2-2 1/4 cups flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp candied lemon peel
1 tsp anise seeds
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
2 egg whites
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp orange juice
- Sift together 1 cup of the flour, yeast, lemon peel, and anise seeds.
- In a separate saucepan, heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt until all the butter is melted.
- Add the heated milk mixture to dry ingredients, and the add egg whites to this mix. Blend well.
- Stir in the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead this dough on a lightly floured surface for around 7 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl. Coat the top of the dough with some butter.
- Cover the bowl and let it rise in warm place until it has doubled. This may take a couple of hours.
- When it is risen, punch it down. Divide it into half. Flatten one half of the dough in greased loaf pan. Shape other half into 3 ropes. Braid them. Seal the ends and then place on top of the dough in the pan.
- Glaze the top of the loaf with the orange juice. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds.
- Let the loaf rise in warm place until double, around 45 minutes.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove the loaf, cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
Recipe Source: Festive Bread Book, The by Kathy Cutler, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1982.
All content, text and photographs in this blog, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright of © Annarasa 2007 - 2011. All Rights Reserved. Kindly do not reproduce without permission.