Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Catholic Recipe: Vasilopita II


  • 2-2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon aniseeds
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • sesame seeds 


  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water


Yield: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 3 1/2-4 hours

Difficulty:  ★★★☆

Cost:  ★★★☆

For Ages: 15+

Origin: Greece


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Also Called: St. Basil's Day 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 (see link to Vasilopita I); the second, with a delicious taste of its own, is more decorative. —Kathy Cutler


1. Combine 1 cup flour, yeast, lemon peel, and aniseeds. Heat milk, butter, sugar, and salt to hot (120-130 degrees).

2. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients; add egg. Mix thoroughly.

3. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth - about 10 minutes.

4. Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover; let rise in warm place until double—about 1 1/2 hours.

5. Punch down dough. Flatten half of the dough in greased 8-inch round cake pan. Shape other half into 2 ropes each 18 inches long. Fold ropes in half and twist. Join ends and seal to make 7-inch circle. Then place on top of flat circle of dough.

6. Make glaze and brush on loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

7. Let rise in warm place until double—about 30 minutes.

8. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven 30-40 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack.

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