January 12, 2013

St. Basil's bread

St. Gregory and St. Basil were great friends and both became bishops in the early Christian church (ordained bishops in 370 and 372 A.D., respectively).

I am baking this bread with a gold dollar coin in it this morning (we follow the old calendar, so Jan. 1 is coming up, it is this Monday).
"The tradition of Saint Basil’s Bread dates to the fourth century, when St. Basil the Great, the father of philanthropy, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his diocese. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he placed gold coins. Thus the poor families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves were pleasantly surprised to find the coins. This custom is kept to this day among Orthodox Christians, who on Saint Basil’s Day, January 1st, place gold coins inside a loaf of sweetened bread in honor of the Saint’s care for the poor. The one who finds the coin in his or her piece is considered commissioned by St. Basil to carry on his work for the poor, and in exchange he will ask the Lord for whatever is needful for the New Year."

The recipe I'm using came from Food for Paradise published by the church of St. John the Russian in Ipswich, MA.

St. Basil's Bread or Vasilopita:
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup softened butter (I just used 1/2 cup, one stick)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 eggs, beaten, plus 1 for egg wash on top
2 packages of yeast (I used 5 tablespoons out of my jar of yeast)
6-7 cups unbleached white flour
sesame seeds

Heat 1/2 cup water to boil and add orange peel and cinnamon.  Remove from heat.  Warm the milk & add sugar, salt, butter.  Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water with 2 tablespoons sugar and let stand about 10 minutes.  Add the warm milk mixture, beaten eggs and mix.  Stir in the orange water and add 3 cups flour, beating until smooth.  Slowly add the remaining flour to make a smooth dough.  Knead until elastic.  Let rise in a covered bowl for about 2 hours.  Punch down and knead quickly, then insert coin wrapped in foil.  Braid dough, or leave it in a nice circle.  Let rise another hour.  Brush with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake in a preheated 350'F oven for 45-55 minutes.  It should be golden brown.  Let cool.  Whoever receives the slice with the coin is said to receive a special blessing from St. Basil.  It is served eldest to youngest!

1 comment:

Anna said...

Sounds lovely! I've never made Vasilopita - I should try sometime : )