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Catholic Recipe: Vasilopita I

    INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 1/2-3 cups flour
  • 1 whole almond, if desired
  • unsalted butter, softened
  • sesame seeds Glaze
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Details

  • Yield: 1 loaf
  • Prep Time: 3 1/2 hours
  • Difficulty: • • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 15+
  • Origin: Greece

Also Called: St. Basil's Bread

Greeks call their New Year's Day "St. Basil's Day" after the great father of the early Church and serve a bread in the saint's honor. As the clock finishes striking midnight New Year's Eve, families divide their St. Basil's bread - vasilopita. The first piece is reserved for the saint, the second piece is set aside for the poor, and the third piece goes to the eldest person in the family. All wait eagerly to see who gets the piece with a lucky gold or silver coin in it.

St. Basil's bread is enjoyable apart from the beautiful Greek ceremony that accompanies it. Your guests can have fun seeing who gets the lucky almond (my suggested substitute for the traditional coin). The first recipe is the spicier; the second, with a delicious taste of its own, is more decorative (see recipe).

DIRECTIONS

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Combine warm milk, sugar, salt, butter, eggs, lemon peel, and spices in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

4. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth - about 10 minutes.

5. Place the dough in lightly greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in warm place until double - about 1 1/2 hours.

6 Punch down dough. You can knead a whole almond into the dough at this point if you wish. (A coin might crack a tooth!) Set aside 10 minutes to rest.

7. Brush 1 1/2-quart souffle dish or 10-inch cake pan with soft butter. Sprinkle sesame seeds in dish or pan.

8. Make dough into a ball and place in bowl; press down so dough covers the bottom.

9. Cover; let rise in warm place until double-about 1 hour. Make glaze and brush on loaf. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds.

10. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack.

Recipe Source: Festive Bread Book, The by Kathy Cutler, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1982
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