New Years Greek Bread (Vasilopita)
I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!
The traditional cutting of the Vasilopita is to celebrate the coming of the New Year in the Greek tradition. On New Year's Day families cut the Vassilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. A coin is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the bottom before serving. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, in order of age. Pieces are also sliced for the Church, and your house.
This year I received the piece with the coin!
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp. sugar
5 T. flour
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 lb. butter 1 T. Crisco
1/3 cup orange juice
3 eggs (beaten)
2 to 2 1/2 lbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. masticha ( found in Mediteranean Markets)
1 egg sesame seeds
In a small bowl dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm (105 to 115 degrees) water . Add 2 tsp. sugar and 5 to 6 T. flour to make a thick mixture. Stir until smooth. Cover and put aside in a warm place for about 10 minutes. It will foam and rise.
Heat milk to warm. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add butter and Crisco and stir until they melt. Take off heat, let it cool a bit. Add orange juice and beaten eggs.
Put about 1 1/2 lbs of the flour in a large bowl. Add salt and masticha. Make a well in the center and pour the above liquid into hole. Mix either by hand or in electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture and mix. Put dough hook onto your mixer if you have one or else by hand continue mixing and kneading, adding the remaining flour. Add enough flour to make a moderately, but not too stiff dough.
Grease or oil a clean bowl. Put dough in bowl, cover with waxed paper and a clean towel. Put it in a draft free warm place and let it rise until it doubles in size - about 2 to 3 hours.
Punch down and knead a few minutes. Cover dough and let rest for 10 minutes. Form into one large round loaf and put into an 11 or 12-inch round greased pan or separate into two loaves and put into two 9 or 10-inch round greased pans. Make sure you spread the dough so that it touches the edge of the pan. Cover and let it rise again until almost doubled - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Beat one egg and brush the top. (You may, with some reserved dough, write the year on top.) Sprinkle top with sesame seeds.
Place in lower part of oven and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes depending on size.