Vasilopita is a New Year’s Day bread from Greece and much of Eastern Europe. It traditionally contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver, like the Western European king cake. Don’t hide a coin inside during baking as the nickel in the coin is poisonous. Instead, insert a foil-wrapped coin or safe trinket after the bread is baked and cooled.
Vasilopita Bread

Vasilopita (New Year Bread)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Baked Goods
Cuisine: Greek
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 Cup milk; lukewarm
  • 3 eggs; beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 3/4 Cup granulated sugar
  • 4 1/2 Cups plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Masticha* (see Note)
  • 1/2 Cup butter; melted
  • 1 egg; for glazing
  • blanched split almonds
Instructions
  1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 Cup of the milk. Add remainder of milk, eggs, orange rind and sugar.
  2. Sift 3 Cups flour, salt and spice into a warm bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in yeast mixture and stir to blend in flour, gradually adding warm melted butter.
  3. Mix dough with hands until it comes away from sides. Turn on to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding remaining flour as required. Knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Place ball of dough in a clean bowl brushed with melted butter. Turn dough over to coat top with butter and cover bowl with a cloth or plastic wrap. Leave to prove (rise) in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
  5. Punch down and turn on to lightly floured surface. Knead lightly and shape into a round loaf. Place on a large greased baking sheet or in a greased 25 cm (10 inch) deep cake pan.
  6. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Glaze with well-beaten egg and arrange blanched almonds in numbers to denote the New Year, pressing in lightly.
  7. Bake in a moderately hot oven (350 degrees F.) for 45 minutes until golden brown and cooked when tested.
  8. If bread browns too quickly place a piece of greased brown paper on top. Cool on a wire rack.
  9. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Notes
Masticha is difficult to find outside Greece or the Balkans. It is a resin from a specific mastic tree grown in the area of Chios. To make a substitute, mix fennel seeds, star anise and anise seeds in a pan and toast lightly, then grind in a spice grinder.



New Year Bread is traditionally cut at midnight on New Year's Eve.



After baking, a coin is inserted through a slit in the base. The person who finds the coin will have luck in the New Year. Long ago the coin used to be a gold one, then later a silver coin was used. These could be incorporated into the dough before baking. Nowadays because of the nickel content of coins it is undesirable to bake a coin in the cake before cooking. A coin may be wrapped in aluminum foil and inserted after baking, safely.

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