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.
- 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
- Dissolve yeast in 1/4 Cup of the milk. Add remainder of milk, eggs, orange rind and sugar.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake in a moderately hot oven (350 degrees F.) for 45 minutes until golden brown and cooked when tested.
- If bread browns too quickly place a piece of greased brown paper on top. Cool on a wire rack.
- Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
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.