Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vasilopita

I have decided to recycle a post, it's not ideal but I wanted to share this with you all. Every year my father and I make Vasilopita, a traditional Greek New Year's Bread. It's about that time and we are going to be baking all weekend, so if you have nothing better to do bake along with us!









Let me reiterate the fact that I am by no means a cook, it's all I can do to not set the oven on fire (for the second time) But this recipe is special, it's my Yiayia's (Grandmother's)recipe for Vasilopita. Vasilopita is a Greek Tradition, it is a special bread that we make for New Years. It's a sweet bread, super tasty, and we bake a coin into each one for luck. Vasilopita is the bread of St. Basil the Great who's saints day is celebrated on New Years Day. When you cut the bread on New Years Day, whoever gets the piece with the coin in it is supposed to be "King" or "Queen" for the year (meaning they will have a good/lucky/exceptional year) The most senior member of the household is supposed to cut the bread. The first slice is dedicated to my homeboyJesus, the second is for the Virgin Mary, the third is for St. Basil, then a slice for the church, for the house, and then for the members of the family. This is something that I make every year with my father. We spend all day in the kitchen and make a huge mess. My late uncle passed this recipe on to us after he documented my Yiayia making it in 1986--when she was about 78 years old. It isn't super exact or precise, you kind of have to feel it out. If you have made bread from scratch before the whole process won't feel so foreign. It's a long process so settle in for a few minutes of reading.

This recipe makes 4-5 loaves of bread, you will need....

-7lbs flour (high gluten works really well)
-5 sticks of butter, melted and cooled
-11 large eggs
-3 cups of sugar
-4 packages of dry yeast
-4-5 cups of milk
-1 cup brandy (Metaxa)
-1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
-.5 tsp ground cloves
-.25 tsp salt

In a bowl, dissolve the yeast with a little water and a pinch of sugar. Add 3 cups of warm milk (not hot or it will kill the yeast; not cold or it won't activate) Stirring with a whisk, add enough of the flour, a little at a time, to reach the consistency of "gruel" or oatmeal. This is called..."the Sponge"...I know. Cover the sponge and let it rise in a warm place until puffy and bubbly. It takes between 15-20 minutes.

In a large bowl (I do this in 2 bowls because it's just too much for one) Add 3 lbs of flour, the sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and make a well in the center for the wet ingredients. Add 10 of the eggs (eliminate 2 of the whites if you can), melted butter, Metaxa, and the rest of the milk. Then add the sponge. With your hands, begin kneading the mixture into a dough. If it is too wet add more flour, if it is too dry add more milk. Knead until it is smooth, not sticky. Pull out some of the dough--the size of your fist--and set it aside.

At this point pull out your cake pans and butter them up. Shape the dough in to round loaves (in a 9" cake pan it makes about 4 loaves--leave about 2" all the way around the loaf in the pan, it shouldn't fit snug because it still has to rise again) Take a quarter, wrap it in aluminum foil and insert one coin into each loaf. Grab the dough that you set aside and you will need to shape it into the numbers of the new year...I don't really know how to explain it, so just look at the pictures.

Once the loaves have risen--they should almost double in size and fill the cake pan, it is time to bake. I do my oven at 325 for 50 minutes. Take the one remaining egg and beat it with a little bit of milk. When the bread has baked for about 40 minutes, pull it out and brush on the egg wash. Then again when it has about 8-5 minutes left of the oven. This will give the top a pretty, shinny, golden brown color. When you remove it from the oven, run a butter knife around the edge and when cool-ish flip them over and get them out and then let them cool on a rack.

If you decide to try this understand it's like and all day process, but it's really fun. It's a tradition for my Dad and I, we make them every year and I give them away to friends and family. This also happens to make the most AH-MAZING French toast, just an FYI. Enjoy!

6 comments:

Annette said...

I am making this~ I am going to divide the recipe~ to make 2 loafs ~these look beautiful, wish me luck, happy new year what a fun way to ring in the year...Happy and healthy to you my dear.

Terry said...

Yummy and scrumptious and family. Best wishes.

my favorite and my best said...

do you know what would make those even better? shoving cream in the center.
and then shoving the whole thing in my mouth.

word.

Yummy Scrumptious said...

to your mother.

i am totally making you one.

Tina Steele Lindsey said...

Pure joy and happiness comes to me for this wonderful tradition your family enjoys! It looks so wonderful, and the smell of baking bread! I always said the best dessert is bread and butter, but alas gluten nearly killed me and I cannot have it any longer!

Lifestyle of the pregnant and fabulous said...

this looks so good! love how you put the year with the dough - makes a great pic :) happy new year!