Sweet Bread Vasilopita of St. Basil Bread

posted by Lisa UK 12-30-99 5:40 AM

The Emperor's Vasilopita Recipe from the Island of Marmara (Preikoneisos)

The traditional Vasilopita of St. Basil's bread owes its origin to the island of Marmara. The legend goes, that the Emperor Justinian was so pleased with the marble from the island that he used to build St. Sophia, that he built a marble palace there and gave the island to his daughter as her "preika" or dowry. For years the island was called "the island of the dowry" or "Preikoneisos." Also, to honor the special relationship of the island to the Emperor, their recipe for Vasilopita was taken back to Constantinople and continued in the royal court. Two forms were customarily made, one the traditional and the other of filo dough, made in alternating layers of cinnamon, sugar, and butter.

The traditional recipe is as follows:
For 3 pounds of Vasilopita

12 cups of sifted bread flour
4 sticks of unsweetened butter
6 eggs
3 cups of whole milk
3 packages of quick rise dry yeast
3 cups of sugar, divided
1-1/2 tsps. finely crushed mastika ( I can never find this - use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 tsps. of salt
3 tsps. of cinnamon
orange peel or brandy flavoring (touch)

Place the yeast and 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup warm water in a bowl.

Place the mastika/vanilla, cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and flavorings in a bowl and mix.

Whip the 6 eggs together until they are golden yellow (15 minutes)

Melt the butter and add the milk, constantly turning at low heat.

Add the mastika mixture to the eggs and mix well. Add the yeast mixture to the eggs and mix well. Gradually, stir in the milk/butter mixture. Gradually, mix in the sugar. Add 2 cups of flour and continue stirring well. Gradually, add four 1 cup at a time until dough is not sticky.

Knead the dough with the additional flour for about 15-20 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven at 325.

Put dough in a ball and cover in butter. Sprinkle flour in a cross on the dough and have each cook (or child) make a cross on the dough's center. Place dough in a covered, greased pan and allow to rise about 2-1/2 hours.

After dough has doubled in size, punch in the middle, divide into greased pans and allow to rise about 45 minutes. (Place coin in at this stage.)

Cover pita in an egg white gloss and sprinkle sesame seeds on the top. Decorate cross in center with almonds and/or cinnamon prints.

Bake at 325 for about 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cover with foil if getting too brown and test with fork to see if it sticks.

After cooling, turn the pita 3 times in a clockwise turn and make the sign of the cross 3 times on the surface. Cut the pita and the first piece going to St. Basil and the Saints, next the home, business and family in seniority order!

Go to Mimi's Archive Page

Return to Mimi's Recipe Request Line