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Vasilopita: Greek New Years Bread

Updated on April 18, 2013

Vasilopita: Greek New Years Bread

Vasilopita is a Greek New Years recipe to enhance your traditional celebration. Eat this Greek New Years Bread with your family or friends on January 1. Whoever finds the gold or silver coin hidden inside is blessed and will have good fortune in the coming year.

According to legend, back in the 4th century AD, St. Basil was successful in restoring the meager wealth of his people following a spurious tax by an evil king. St. Basil convinced the king to restore the money and valuables he had collected in oppressive taxes during a famine. The king gave it back in the form of a large trunk filled with the coins and family jewels he had collected from the citizens of Caesarea. Basil then had to determine how he could possibly return everything to the family it belonged to.

After spending time in prayer, St. Basil baked all of the valuables into a large loaf of bread and invited all of his flock to come eat it. Each family came forward and took a pinch of bread. Legend has it that each family received back in their serving of bread, the coins and jewels they had given to the tax collector. Vasilopita, or St. Basil's Bread, is eaten on New Years Day, St. Basil's death day, in recognition of this miracle.

If you want to make Vasilopita, use this recipe and insert a coin wrapped in either silver or gold foil into the loaf before baking. Why not give this recipe a try?

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Some people make vasilopita as a quick bread, baked in a round pan and call it Greek New Years Cake; but, this recipe is for a yeast bread made in the traditional way of the old country. The recipe came from the St. Dionysios Greek Orthodox Church in Overland Park, Kansas, and was originally published in their church cookbook, Food Fit for Gods: A guide to Greek Cuisine in 1963.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 quart milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 whole eggs plus 3 eggs yolks beaten
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind
  • Enough flour to make a soft dough or about 2 1/2 to 3 lbs.
  • 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water
  • small amount of powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. 1. Scald the milk, then set it aside until it becomes lukewarm.
  2. 2. Melt the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water in a large bowl.
  3. 3. When yeast is foamy, add the lukewarm milk and the salt. Then stir in the 3 cups of flour. The batter will be lumpy. Set this aside to rise until it is doubled in size. This should take about 60 to 90 minutes in a warm spot.
  4. 4. Punch dough down and stir with a wood spoon. Then add a pinch of salt, the sugar, eggs, melted butter, and lemon rind. Add flour as needed to make a soft dough.
  5. 5. Turn the dough out on a well-floured board. Coat hands with butter to prevent sticking and knead the dough thoroughly.
  6. 6. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Set this in a warm place and allow it to rise again.
  7. 7. After it has doubled again, lightly knead once more then let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  8. 8. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a long strip about 15 inches long. Braid these strips and form them into a round loaf. Add coin if desired. (You may also divide the dough into 2 loaves which may be baked in 8-inch or 9-inch loaf pans).
  9. 9. Place the loaf into a greased baking pan. Let the dough rise once more in a warm spot until doubled.
  10. 10. Brush the top with a mixture of 1 egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon of water.
  11. 11. Bake the bread at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until it is done. Remove from oven, allow to cool, then sprinkle the top with powdered sugar.
Cast your vote for Vasilopita Recipe

Vasilopita Poll

Have you ever eaten vasilopita?

See results

More Vasilopita Recipes

If you are looking for a different vasilopita recipe, try these links!

Valisopita!

You do not have to speak Greek to understand what is happening in this video. These ladies are having a great time with their New Years traditions of valisopita and champagne! Happy New Year!

Vasilopita Poll II

After watching this video, do you think it would be fun to include a loaf of valisopita in your New Years Celebration?

See results

The Lucky Cake

Read this story about the Lucky Cake to the children before gathering around to cut the family's vasilopita. This is a good story for passing on the traditions of Greek culture and helping children to understand the significance of the coin, as well as helping them to realize their good fortune whether or not they find the lucky coin.

The Lucky Cake
The Lucky Cake

An excellent book for understanding an aspect of Greek culture, plus it contains a recipe for vasilopita!

 

The Food of Greece

If you are looking for more traditional Greek recipes, this is the cookbook for you.

More New Years Day Traditions - From Around the World

For more information about New Years Traditions around the world, check this book.

Encyclopedia Of New Year's Holidays Worldwide
Encyclopedia Of New Year's Holidays Worldwide

This unique encyclopedia has 320 entries discussing the customs and traditions of 130 countries, 27 calendar systems (current and historical), and various other topics such as literary works, movies, television shows, and songs dedicated to the celebration of the new year.

 

Tell us about your New Years Traditions! Does your celebration include Vasilopita?

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    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      5 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Never had Vasilopita bread before.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 

      5 years ago from Maryland

      I've never even heard of Vasilopita and I used to work in a Greek restaurant! Maybe I wasn't paying attention...this looks delicious! :)

    • profile image

      crstnblue 

      6 years ago

      Cannot imagine Greek celebrations (Christmas, New Year and Easter) without vassilopita and courabieres. Sooo tasty!

    • Vallygems1 profile image

      Vallygems1 

      6 years ago

      Greek everything is the best

    • JohnMichael2 profile image

      JohnMichael2 

      6 years ago

      had this several times celebrating among my Greek friends.

    • JohnMichael2 profile image

      JohnMichael2 

      6 years ago

      This is great - and I've enjoyed this several times among my Greek friends

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      I'd love to try this, I'm that kind of guy who would try a new food even if it looked questionable.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      No, I've never eaten vasilopita, but the tradition is lovely. Basically, my midwest roots determined I'd eat black eyed peas and cabbage for the new year. Not too exciting, but I do it every year.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 

      6 years ago

      Living in a county neighboring Greece I know this dish very well- only here in Bulgaria we don't name it Vasillopita but just "pita"... Still it's as good and comforting as the recipe you offer. Glad people discover and love traditions of old Europe (and even older) today on Squidoo!

    • maplesyrup59 profile image

      maplesyrup59 

      6 years ago

      Looks delicious! Someone brought in some Greek desserts to work. They have a lot of desserts using almonds. Will have to try this one!

    • profile image

      AmericanCitizen 

      6 years ago

      Fantastic holiday tradition! I love it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      This bread looks yummy and the recipe looks so fun & easy to make. Great job & thanks for bringing this to us.

    • profile image

      Jack-in-the-Box 

      6 years ago

      Great lens about Vasilopita! This looks like so much fun. Thanks for sharing. I just may have to try this recipe.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm not much of a baker, but if it were available at a bakery nearby, I could try it. So interesting to see the variety of new year's customs.

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