Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Greek Vasilopita bread

Happy New year to all! 

When I was growing up, our Russian neighbor Manishka (who was married to a very Greek man) used to deliver a Greek vasilopita bread to our family on New Year's day. It was round, plain, unadorned, and it was neither sweet nor savory. It was somewhere in the middle. It was slightsly citrusy, with a dash of anise-like spice, and definitely buttery. Ring-shaped cakes and breads symbolize wholeness and the completion of a full year'’s cycle. I searched the internet and most vasilopita breads that I found were all gussied up with any combination of sliced almonds, powdered sugar, dried fruits, or even the new year etched into the cake. Manya's bread was just very plain. But to us kids, it was both tasty and entertaining. According to Greek tradition, Manya would hide a coin in the batter before baking it. On New Year's day my father would etch an X on the bottom of the bread with a knife (to represent the cross) and slice the bread into as many pieces as there were family members around the table. Whoever was fortunate enough to get that coin in their piece of bread was blessed with good luck and prosperity throughout the year!

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