Monday , April 12 2021

The Vasilopita…… A tradition that has slowly crept into Zakynthian homes

Not so much a Zakynthian tradition, but one that has snuck into the traditions over the years is the Vasilopita.
You will see them for sale in the bread shops freshly baked tomorrow. Based on the same tradition the Zakynthians have for the Kouloura, however the Kouloura has its roots based on religious traditions whereas the Vasilopita its history goes like this:-

History.

Vasilopita (Greek: Βασιλόπιτα, Vasilópita, lit. ‘(St.) Basil-pie’ or ‘king pie’ is a New Year’s Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe and the Balkans which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver, like the Western European king cake.
It is associated with Saint Basil’s day, January 1, in most of Greece, but in some regions, the traditions surrounding a cake with a hidden coin are attached to Epiphany or to Christmas. It is made of a variety of doughs, depending on regional and family tradition, including tsoureki.
Hasluck (1927) connects both the western and the eastern celebrations to the ancient Greek Kronia, the festival of King Cronus, which involved selecting a “king” by lot and then the Roman Saturnalia. The traditions surrounding vasilopita are very similar to western European celebrations of the Twelfth Night and Epiphany: the Provençal Gâteau des Rois and the Northern French galette des rois, the Catalonian tortell, and the Louisiana king cake.
Nonetheless, in popular tradition, vasilopita is associated with a legend of Saint Basil.

Stories.

According to one story, St. Basil called on the citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewellery. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. St. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family. So he baked all of the jewellery into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share, the legend goes. In some tellings the sieging chieftain is replaced with an evil emperor levying a tax, or simply with St. Basil attempting to give charity to the poor without embarrassing them.

Recipe.

So, now you know a little more about the origins of the vasilopita here is a simple recipe for you to make.  There are many versions, some choose to make different types of toppings to finish their Vasilopita. This one is the more traditional

What you need.

1 cup of unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

3 extra-large eggs

Grated rind of 2 large oranges

Grated rind of 2 large lemons

1/2 teaspoon Greek makhlepi (Μαχλέπι)

2 teaspoons powdered Greek mastic (Μαστίχα)

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 egg yolk blended with 1 tablespoon milk

sesame seeds

blanched almonds

a clean coin wrapped in foil

Preparation

First, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Thickly butter a 10-inch round spring form pan.

In a large bowl beat and cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar until the mixture is light. Add in the eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the orange and lemon rinds, add the makhlepi and the mastic.

In a separate bowl, sift together three cups of the flour, the baking powder and salt.

With the help of a mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the dry mixture alternately with the milk. The batter will be very thick. Using a wooden spoon, gradually blend in the remaining flour, beating well until completely smooth.

Spread the batter into the pan, press the coin into the dough until it is completely covered, smooth the top. Brush the top evenly with the egg and milk mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Gently press the blanched almonds into the top to make a Cross and spell out the date of the new year.

Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown (if it browns too quickly, cover the top with aluminum foil). Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing from spring form and thoroughly cool before slicing.

I wish hope the New Year brings Health and Prosperity. Χρόνια Πολλά και ευτυχισμένο το καινούριο χρόνο, με υγεία και ευτυχια!

About Louise Inzk

Louise is Australian born and has been a Greek citizen since 1991. She has deep cultural ties with the island, often writing about Zakynthian Traditions and Culture. She is also an active member of the Volunteer Group of Zakynthos, Giostra Di Zante and is a member of the women's choir "Rodambelos". Her love of the island and all it offers saw her joining the Zakynthos (Zante) Informer admin team in 2014.

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