This sweet-dough bread - also known as Vasilopeta or St. Basil's Bread - is a New Year's tradition in many Greek households. The recipe below makes two 12-inch loaves, plenty to share!

2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1/4 cup sugar

In a bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add sugar; let stand until yeast is foamy.

1 cup milk
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan, heat milk; add butter, sugar and salt. This mixture should not exceed 110 degrees F.

6 large eggs at room temperature
Choose one of the following flavorings:
2 teaspoons crushed anise seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground masticha
2-3 teaspoons ground mahlepi
peel of 1 lemon, grated
peel of 1 orange, grated
1 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
9-10 cups flour

In large bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs until thick and lemon-colored, about 15 minutes. Add warm milk mixture; continue to beat. Add yeast and one of the flavorings. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl constantly; add 2 cups flour. Mix well; add 1 1/2 cups more flour and beat at high speed 5 minutes. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto floured surface and add only enough flour to make a stiff dough and to prevent sticking. Knead 15-20 minutes or until smooth and satiny. Place dough in a greased bowl; turn dough over to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Punch dough down; knead briefly to release air.

Divide dough into two equal portions. From each portion, pinch off two balls of dough about 3 inches in diameter; set aside. Shape the large portions into smooth balls, inserting a silver coin wrapped in aluminum foil into each. Place on a greased baking sheet or round pan and flatten into a 10-inch round. (Instead of baking a coin in the bread, you can slip one under each Vassilopitta before serving.) Use small balls of dough to form the numbers of the new year in the center of the bread.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 30-40 minutes. Brush with a mixture of one egg beaten with one tablespoon water; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until loaf is richly browned and sounds hollow when tapped.

Recipe taken from Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen, St. Demitrios Cookbook Committee, Seattle, WA, 1991, pp. 44, 46.

© 1997 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
URL: This web site is donated and maintained by TheoLogic Systems, which provides software and information tools for Orthodox Christians and parishes world wide.