I hope you had a wonderful NYE! Every year since I can remember, my family has celebrated a Greek tradition on New Year’s Day which involves baking a special bread called vasilopita.
In the process of making this bread, my mom hides a small dime in the dough. After the bread is done baking, each member of the family is given their own piece. Whoever finds the dime in their piece of bread receives good luck for the upcoming year!
My mom still has a handwritten recipe from her Yiayia, my great-grandmother!
I don’t have any close friends who are Greek, so last year, I wondered about other families enjoying the vasilopita tradition. I searched for #vasilopita on Twitter and Instagram, finding SO many photos of Greeks around the world baking the bread and looking for the dime! Sometimes social media can be a really cool, unifying thing.
The recipe I’ll share with you below is from an Annapolis church’s cookbook, Odyssey of Greek Cooking. My Yiayia, her first cousins, and the three sisters she grew up with all attended this church.
The recipe makes two loaves and includes mastiha — which comes from the Greek island of Chios, where my great-grandfather is from! My mom’s Yiayia sometimes would put the walnut and almond halves sticking out of the bread, though my mom leaves the nuts out now. Mom uses her bread machine and bakes it in a 9-inch cake pan, but she has memories of eating the bread in a huge round pan that was over 12 inches in diameter.
Wishing you a year of blessings!
- 3 cups milk, warm
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 eggs, well beaten
- ½ lb butter, melted
- 2½ to 3 lbs flour, sifted
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- ½ tsp masticha
- 2 cups walnuts, chopped
- coin, usually dime (for Good Luck)
- ½ cup lukewarm water
- 1 egg, beaten well
- 1 tbsp milk
- 12 walnut halves
- sesame seeds
- Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Heat milk with sugar until warm.
- In large bowl. beat eggs well. Add butter, sugar-milk mixture. Mix in 2 cups of flour, yeast, masticha, and chopped nuts.
- Add enough remaining flour, blending and working into a moderately stiff dough. Turn out into lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk.
- Punch down and place in one large round baking pan or two 9" cake pans. Place washed coin in center. Allow to rise again.
- Brush with egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Decorate with walnut halves.
- Bake at 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Lower heat to 325 degrees for 10 minutes longer. Check with cake tester if done. Remove from pan. Cool on cake rack.