Enjoy a slice of Vasilopita, a Greek New Year’s bread recipe, as the clock strikes 12 and we welcome the new year.
Vasilopita is a delicious and simple Greek bread traditionally enjoyed by those of the Christian faith to celebrate St. Basil's Day, or New Year's Day. The tradition is quite similar to traditions observed across other Eastern European countries. At midnight on New Year's Eve the bread is sliced and served starting with the eldest member of the family. Though this is a simplification of the tradition, it's quite lovely and the bread is soft, lightly flavoured with orange, and quite enjoyable.
The bread symbolizes the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness. Though my version does not contain the coin that is supposed to be baked in, that shouldn't stop you from adding one. The one who is served a slice containing the coin is considered blessed for the New Year.
My version of vasilopita has a wee bit of allspice for the holidays. I think it goes well with the light orange flavour imparted by the orange zest. And though this recipe calls for the loaves to be cooled to room temperature, I like to cut in while it's still warm enough to melt s bit of butter.
(Makes 20 servings / 2 loaves)
2 cups 2% milk, warm but not hot, divided
2 packages (4, 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar + 3/4 cups granulated sugar
7 cups all purpose flour + more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 large eggs + 1 egg for egg wash
2 tablespoon avocado oil + plus more for greasing
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon water
In a small mixing bowl, add 1 cup of warm milk, the yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Mix to dissolve the sugar and yeast then set aside to proof and grow (about 15 minutes).
While the yeast is growing, add the remaining sugar, flour, salt, and allspice into a large bowl then mix to combine. Make a well in the centre then set side.
In a medium mixing bowl, add 4 of the eggs and lightly whisk. Add the remaining milk, oil, and orange zest and continue whisking to combine.
When the yeast has bubbled up to twice its original volume, pour it into the well in the centre of the dry ingredients along with the egg/oil/milk mixture. Mix pulling in more and more of the surrounding flour as you stir until a smooth dough results.
Lightly flour a flat worksurface and turn out the dough. Kneed the dough for toughly 10 minutes. If the dough remains too sticky, kneed in a little additional flour at a time until it loses any excessive stickiness. Form into a ball.
Lightly oil a large clean bowl and place the ball of dough inside. Give it a turn to transfer a little of the oil onto the surface of the dough. Cover with a tea towel or clingwrap and set bowl in a warm place to allow the dough rise to double its size (up to 2 hours).
Lightly grease two loaf pans. Set aside.
Punch down the dough then cut it in half. Kneed both halves for several minutes before placing them in the loaf pans. Cover the pans with tea towels or clingwrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume (about an hour).
Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C.
Uncover the loaves and with a sharp knife or bread lame, slice the top of each loaf. These cuts can be decorative if you wish.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the remaining egg along with the water. Brush the egg wash over the top of each loaf before baking for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 350°F / 180°C and proceed to bake until the tops of the loaves bake to a deep golden brown (about 30 to 40 minutes). Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning the loaves out of the pans onto a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature before serving.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
total calories = 225 | total fat = 3.53g | saturated fat = 0.95g | cholesterol = 41mg | sodium = 143.46mg | net carbohydrates = 38.43g | dietary fibre = 1.71g | sugars = 8.6g | protein = 8.08g