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Hybrid holidays unite  cultures for creative meals

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Vasilopita

For the dough:

1/2 cup milk4 tablespoons (

1/2 stick) butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening1 envelope (2

1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup warm water

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon anise seed

1/2 cup orange juice

3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the glaze:

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon milk

1 tb orange zest

Sesame seeds to decorate

To make the dough, heat the milk in a small sauce pan to boiling. Remove from heat and add the butter and shortening. Stir until melted. Let cool. While the milk mixture is cooling, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the water. Set aside until foamy.

Stir together the flour, the remaining 1 cup sugar, the salt and anise seeds in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, gradually mixing it with the flour. Add the milk mixture, orange juice and eggs. Mix the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth. It should be slightly sticky and all the flour should be worked in. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.

Pull the dough away from the sides into a ball. Flip the bowl over onto a floured board and knead until smooth and not sticky, 5 to 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Wrap 3 coins separately in aluminum foil and bury one in each piece of dough. Shape into loaves. Lightly grease three 8- or 9-inch loaf pans and place the dough in the pans. Cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the loaves double in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg yolk with milk and orange zest and drizzle on the top of loaves. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until well browned and the loaves sound hollow when rapped. Turn out of the pans onto a wire rack to cool completely before cutting.

Recipe adapted from Treasured Greek Recipes, the Philoptochos Society, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, Albany, NY

Updated: February 3, 2014 1:35PM



In the wake of the Thanksgivvukah and all of its success, the hybrid holiday seems to be on the rise — at least for the new year. Combining holiday traditions not only makes cooking for the celebrations a lot less stressful, but it also makes it a lot more fun.

Don’t look at it as being lazy. Look at it as taking a shortcut. And when the next abutting holidays sneak up on the calendar — say, New Year’s Day and Orthodox Christmas — celebrate with at least one blended recipe.

Luckily, these two holidays that occur within a week of each other do share some common ground. Many Greek and Serbian Orthodox Christmas foods cross over to New Year’s Day.

St. Basil pie, or vasilopita, is a popular Greek and eastern European New Year’s treat that evokes the spirit of both good luck in the new year and the Epiphany season.

With a history similar to the king cake, vasilopita also contains a hidden trinket said to bring good luck to its finder. However, vasilopita has a flavor unique to its culture. Sesame, anise and citrus flavor this yeasty cake that is almost more like a bread than a traditional sweet cake.

Different regions of eastern Europe have different recipes. This one is a common recipe to Greek culture. A bread-like dough is sweet with anise and orange and decorated with sesame seeds.

Like a traditional bread recipe, the dough must be allowed to rise before baking. However, the end result will be a delicious, flaky roll that pulls apart easily.

Many vasilopita bakers decorate the top by either dusting the new year’s numerals with powdered sugar or piping it on with icing. The option is merely ornamental, though, because added sweetness already comes from an orange glaze that enrobes the cake before sesame seeds are sprinkled.



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