This is my favorite thing about New Year’s.
This is Vasilopita, a Greek bread that is everything you wanted in a bread.
It’s slightly sweet, fragrant, crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside.
Basically carb perfection.
What makes this bread special is that a coin is hidden within the loaf, with the finder getting good luck and fortune in the coming year. The tradition stems from the tale of St. Basil, who used to bake money into loaves of bread to give to the poor. The recipients of these precious loaves not only got nourishment from the bread itself, but also received money for other expenses. It is a special tradition that we love carrying forward in our house.
While yeast breads seem intimidating to make, this recipe is amazingly easy. My parents actually created this recipe many, many years ago by adapting their favorite 60-minute Roll recipe. This means that the dough is super easy to pull together, eliminates a lot of the high calorie ingredients of original, and yields a light Vasilopita that you and your crew will love!
It starts with the liquid mixture.
In a small saucepan, combine skim milk, water, butter, and orange zest. Allow the mixture to heat over low until the milk is warmed to 120-130 degrees (the butter may not be melted completely).
Then grab your stand mixer. In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour (we use a combo of both bread and all-purpose, but just all-purpose works too), sugar, salt, dry yeast, and some ground mahlepi (a spice found at Greek or Middle Eastern food stores). Mix the dry mixture just to combine everything, and then slowly add in the wet ingredients. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes until a smooth dough forms – if it looks a little wet, add in some more flour until the dough forms. Turn the dough out into a greased bowl and allow to rise for about an hour.
PS – this is what mahlepi looks like whole! It adds so much flavor to the finished bread.
After an hour, turn the dough out onto a board and cut it into three even sections. Roll the sections into a fat rope and braid together – you can either keep in a long braid (with the ends tucked under) or wrap into a circle (tucking the ends in). We prefer the circle method, but the stand-alone braid is beautiful too!
Place the braid on either a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (stand-alone braid) or in a greased/parchment paper-lined springform pan (circle braid). Allow the bread to rise again for about another 30-45 minutes until doubled in bulk. Before baking, brush the Vasilopita with an egg wash (to help make it golden and pretty!).
Bake the Vasilopita for 25-30 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven.
A delicious way to usher in the New Year!
Within you and yours a healthy 2018! I love ya!
- 1 cup skim milk
- ½ cup water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Zest from one orange
- 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 packages of dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon ground mahlepi
- 1 egg yol beaten with 2 teaspoons of water (egg wash)
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, water, butter, and orange zest. Heat until mixture reaches 120-130 degrees (butter may not melt).
- Place 3½ cups flour, the sugar, salt, yeast, and mahlepi into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed to combine the dry ingredients. When they are combined, slowly add in the milk mixture.
- Continue to mix and add in additional flour until a soft (not sticky) dough forms. Turn out the dough into a greased bowl and allow it to rise for an hour in a warm place.
- Divide the dough into three pieces. Form each piece into a fat rope and braid them together - leave the dough as a braid with the ends tucked under or form into a circle. Place the bread into a greased and parchment-paper lines baking sheet (long braid) or springform pan (circle braid). Hide a clean, foil-wrapped quarter into the bread - please wash quarter with soap + water and dry before wrapping in foil. Allow the vasilopita to rise for another 30-45 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Brush the top of the braid with egg wash. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan before removing and digging in!