Vasilopita, New Year's Cake in Greece
Vasilopita is the Greek New Year's cake. Vasilopita is associated with Saint Basil's day on January 1 in Greece.
On New Year's Day families cut the Vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year.
It is traditional to bake a coin into the Vasilopita (St. Basil's cake). The one who receives the coin is considered to be especially blessed for the year. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time. Slices are also cut for various other people or groups, depending on local and family tradition. They may include St. Basil and other saints, the Virgin Mary, the Church and the poor.
Vasilopita is made in honor of a beautiful act of charity by St. Basil to the poor and needy of his flock. In order to insure that the needy would have money for life's necessities, and knowing that the needy were also proud people, St. Basil had the ladies of his church bake sweet bread with coins baked into them. In this way he could give them money without demeaning them at all.
1 cup fresh milk
2 teaspoons yeast
4 eggs, separated
1 cup milk-butter, melted
1 ½ cup sugar
1 envelope mahlepi, crushed
Zest of 1 lemon
1 level teaspoon salt
1 kilo flour
Handful of blanched almonds
Preheat oven to 180c
In a large tub pour half a cup of lukewarm milk and
dissolve the yeast in it. Add ½ cup flour and stir to mix.
Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
While the dough is rising, beat the egg yokes with
the sugar in an electric mixer or food processor and set aside. Beat
the egg whites into a meringue. To the risen dough, add yoke/sugar
mixture, the remainder of the milk, the meringue, butter, mahlepi
and zest. Knead until all is well mixed, adding the remainder of
the flour a little at a time so the dough won't be too tight. Shape
the dough into several balls, place in a bowl, cover it with a towel
and leave in a warm place for about 3 hours until it doubles in size.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes more and place in a large
round oiled pan (or two smaller ones) and leave covered in a warm
place until it doubles in size again.
Before placing in oven, beat the yoke of 1 egg with
a teaspoon of water and brush it on the dough with a pastry brush.
Then, using the blanched almonds, form the "new" date on
the top of the dough. Bake for about 30/40 minutes, or until Vasilopita looks well