Vasilopita is a New Year’s Day traditional cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe and the Balkans. The cake contains a hidden coin which gives good luck to the receiver. Usually the night of the new year, the moment of the change of the year, the cake is traditionally cut by the oldest member of the family, and the individual who receives the portion of the cake which contains the coin is considered blessed and lucky for a whole New Year.
This age old tradition commenced in the 4th century, when Saint Basil , who was a bishop, wanted to distribute money to the poor people in his Diocese. He wanted to preserve their dignity, so as not to look like charity, he commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. So the families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves, were pleasantly surprised to find the coins.
- 300 g butter, at room temperature
- 250 g icing sugar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 7 g mahleb
- 2 g mastic
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- zest of 2 oranges
- 1 teaspoons vanilla powder or liquid
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 80 g milk
- 400 g all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
Decoration: icing sugar
- Preheat oven to 180* C (350*F) Fan.
- In a mixer, beat the butter and icing sugar, with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Stop beating and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat for another 5 minutes. (It is important that the butter is at room temperature. The softer it is the fluffier your mixture will be.)
- While you are waiting, add the remaining ingredients from the 1st mixture (apart from the orange zest) and beat them in a blender along with a tablespoon of sugar, until they become powdery. When ready, add the orange zest and mix.
- Add this powdery mixture to the mixer and beat on low speed.
- Add all the ingredients from the 2nd mixture, in batches. Release the mixing bowl and add the ingredients from the 3rd mixture. Mix with a large spoon.
- Grease a round 25 cm spring form baking pan and dust with flour. Transfer the batter to the baking pan.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes.
- When ready, remove from oven. Allow the cake to cool completely. Pour the icing sugar over it and serve.
The secrets for this recipe are two. The fresh biological eggs and the butter. Produced by The Greek Award Winning Dairy Company “Flegga“, this goat butter gives a velvety consistency and a truly inimitable flavor. Rich source of several vitamins such A, D, E, (E is a powerful antioxidant) B12, K2 (K2 protects against heart disease and osteoporosis). Most of the saturated fats in butter are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the most common of which is butyric acid. Butyric acid is a unique component of the milk fat of ruminant animals, such as sheep, and goats. Reduces the inflammations in the digestive system and has been used as a treatment for Crohn’s disease.
This is all due to the free grazing of healthy animals under the sun in one of the most pristine areas of Greece. In the heart of the National Park of Pindos.
Mahleb or Mahalepi (Greek : Μαχλεπι) is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a species of cherry, Prunus mahaleb. Mahleb is rich source of fatty acids, phytosterols and antioxidant phenols (good for hypertension and colesterol) also contains vitamins B1, B6, E, a tocopherol, proteins, essential oils
Mastic (Greek: Μαστίχα) is a resin obtained from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) cultivated in the Greek island of Chios. Mastic releases a refreshing flavor similar to pine and cedar. Mastic resin absorbs cholesterol, it has antibacterial properties, acts as an oral antiseptic, aids digestion, tightens the gums, heals wounds and scientists discovered that when it is administrated even in small doses it cures stomach ulcers.
“Christopsomo” in Greek means “Christ’s Bread” and this is why the bread is decorated with a cross. Christopsomo is considered very sacred bread in Greece and is usually prepared the day before Christmas and is served at the Christmas table.
According to the tradition, it has a cross made out of dough in the center and it has whole walnuts, almonds, raisin in it, that represent abundance. It also has other sacred shapes made out of dough which portray animals, members of a family, babies, grapes (a frequent symbol in Christianity and New Testament who represents the abudance), fruits, stacks of wheat (it represents a good harvest), flowers, crosses, a sun (represent life and strenght) leaves (the number of leaves represent the number of family members).
In some parts of Greece, where farming has always been a major occupation, Christopsomo is adorned with dough likenesses of specific farm tools, plows, ears of corn, sheaths of wheat, mules, horses, sheeps, shepherds and more. Everyone decorates it with the symbols that best represent it.
They are almost universally round, the circle a symbol of eternity, or, alternatively, cross-shaped.
**Merry Christmas to everyone**
For the dough:
- 550-600 ml water, at room temperature
- 18 g yeast
- 120 g granulated sugar
- 50 g olive oil, +extra 10g for brushing bowl
- 1 kilo hard flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 10 g salt
- 30 g anise
- 100 g walnuts
- 120 g water, lukewarm
- 20 g olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 250 g all-purpose flour
- 1 walnut, whole
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten for brushing
For the glaze:
- 50 g honey
- 20 g brandy or 20gr water
For the dough
- In a mixer’s bowl add a part of the water (550 g), the yeast and sugar.
- Mix with a hand whisk until the yeast dissolves completely and it becomes activated.
- Add the olive oil, flour and cinnamon. Beat with the hook attachment on medium speed for about 5-8 minutes, until all of the ingredients are completely combined start coming together to form a dough.
- If the dough is too thick, you can add the remaining water if needed.
- In a separate bowl, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the dough.
- Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside for 1 hour, until it doubles in size.
Prepare the dough for the decoration of Christopsomo, so add the water, olive oil, flour and salt in the mixer’s bowl or you can simply use a bowl and your hands. Mix until the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes to rest.
For the Christopsomo
Deflate the dough lightly with your fingers and shape into a round loaf.
Add the salt, anise and walnuts. Beat for 1 minute, just to combine. They are not added from the start so that they don’t get crushed inside the dough.
Butter a round baking pan (28-30 cm) and line with parchment paper. Transfer the dough into the baking pan and spread lightly. Brush the top lightly with some beaten egg white and water.
- Remove the plastic wrap from the decorating dough and cut it into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into a long rope. Then form 2 braids. Place the 2 braids over the Christopsomo and shape a cross. Place the whole walnut in the center. Cover the dough with a towel and wait for the dough to rise for 1 hour. (see also the preparation photos below)
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F Fan and bake for 50 minutes, until the Christopsomo is nicely coloured and cooked through.
- When the bread is almost ready, prepare the glaze by combining the honey and cognac thoroughly. When ready, remove from oven and immediately brush the glaze over the Christmas Bread.
See step by step the photo gallery below
Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry popular in Middle Eastern countries made of layers of phyllo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey.
Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of filo dough, separated with melted butter are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts—typically walnuts,pistachios or almonds is placed on top, then more layers of phyllo. Most recipes have multiple layers of phyllo and nuts, though some have only top and bottom pastry.
Greek version of baklava is made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ’s life.
How to cut it in diamond shape (4 steps)
Repeat the same procedure for all quarters
- 1 package phyllo dough
- 300 gr chopped nuts
- 200gr chopped almonds
- 300 gr butter (My choice is always the Greek award winning dairy products of “Flegga” Company. This specific butter gives not only a delicious fragrance but another dimension of taste to all dishes, sweets and savoury)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon clove powder
- 1/2 teaspoon nut
Ingredients or the syrup:
2 cup water
2 cup white sugar
1 orange peel
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup honey
- Preheat oven to 160° C. In a bowl, melt the butter .
- Butter the bottoms and sides of a 33×23 pan.
- Process the nuts until in small, even sized pieces. Combine with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves powder. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough.Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat more times until you have 10 sheets layered.Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut/almond mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go.Continue to repeat the nut/almond mixture and two buttered sheets of phyllo until the nut mixture is all used up. The top layer should be about 10 sheets deep. With a cuisine scissors cut out all edges of phyllo.
- Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. Bake baklava for about 1 hour until the top is golden brown and crisp and the lower phyllo layers beneath the nut/almond mixture are thoroughly baked through. To test this, use a knife to lift up a corner of one of the pastry rectangles from the center of the pan so you can peek at the bottom layers . If the top starts to get too brown before the pastry is cooked through, lay a piece of foil over the top.
- .While baking, make the syrup.Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add orange peel, cinnamon sticks and honey. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon syrup it . Serve at room temperature.
Cyprus bread is more than food, is a religious expression.
Different types of bread are traditionally made for different occasions, weddings , easter , Christmas, communions, baptism.
Dr. Dorita Voskaridou is a researcher, author and founder of the Decorated Breads of Cyprus museum in Limassol.
Dorita’s book “To Ploumisto Psomi tis Kyprou” (The Decorated Bread of Cyprus) is a collection of historical and personal testimonies. Decorative breads for every occasion, based on various village designs have been re-worked by this talented lady.
“All the symbols came from the ancient times when people used to believe in 12 gods. There are symbols from ancient Greek pots. From excavations we then find the same symbols in bread.
There were Byzantine shapes and influences. Women in villages see icons of churches which inspire them to go home and make the bread. Every village has different kinds of symbols and every woman has a different, very personal style, for example one village may have the same symbol but each woman makes something different. Every woman has her own aesthetic.
Bread is the king of the house in Cyprus proverbs. It is very important still and is the main nutritional ingredient in our culture. In Cyprus’ popular traditions, bread on the table symbolised Jesus Christ himself. So nobody gets up from the table until the bread has been removed. The bread has to move first away from table,” says Dorita Voskaridou
I tried to reproduce one of these ancient and full of tradition shapes. I have no idea if it is a wedding, communion, Christmas or easter bread. I choose it for the presence of the cross and the X of Xrist. (Χριστος in Greek language). So i think perfect for Xristmas.
Follow the instructions step by step. You will need 33 dough cords and a good amount of sesame seeds. Isn’t difficult as appears. Crunchy texture , delicate flavor. Enjoy a Merry Xristmas!
- 500 bread flour
- 250ml warm water
- 1/2 tablespoon dried yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- In a large bowl combine flour, olive oil, yeast and sugar. Add the water & salt. Mix well
- Knead the dough until is smooth and elastic. ( If the dough seems a little stiff add 1-2 tbsp water)
- Place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Leave to rise for 1 hour
- Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knock back the dough by gently kneading just few min. You only want to knock out any large air bubbles
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Now mould the dough into a 33 thin cords as in the pictures. Follow carefully the step by step instructions. Seal ends by pressing down firmly with your fingertips. Brushing with water, then sprinkling with sesame seeds
- Heat oven to 180°C / 350°
- Bake for 25-30 mins until golden
Method: 1 Cut pomegranates. Gently pull seeds away from the white centers.
2. Place all seeds in a glass container
3. Pour the alcohol over the seeds. Close the lid. Let it age for two weeks in a cool dark place.
4. After 2 weeks, heat the water with the sugar . Disolve very well
5. Strain through fine wire mesh and discard all the seeds.
6. Pour the cold syrup into the liqueur and mix with a spoon
7. Tranfer in a clean glass bottle.
It is ready to be served alone or added to cocktails such 1 to 1 with vodka or 1 to 1 with sparkling wine and cinnamon syrup. With tequila and cranberry juice. You can added it in a glass of warm red and spiced sangria (mulled wine) to accompany roasted chestnuts. The possibilities for use are endless. Enjoy!
Melomakarona are traditional Greek Christmas cookies. Typical ingredients of these biscuits are flour or semolina, sugar, orange fresh juice, cognac (or similar beverage), cinnamon and olive oil. Immediately after baking, they are immersed for a few seconds in cold syrup made of honey, sugar, dissolved in water. Finally, they are decorated with ground, as well as bigger pieces of walnut.
The word “melomakarona” is a combination of the two Greek words: “mèli” which means honey and “makàrona” which comes from the ancient word “makaria” and means “blessed”
For the 1st mixture:
1/2 tsp clove
1 kg flour
1 tsp baking soda
- 50 g icing sugar
For the syrup:
- 500 g water
- 800 g granulated sugar
- 150 g honey
- 3 stick(s) cinnamon
- 3 cloves
- 1 orange, cut in half
- Boil the ingredients for the syrup 2-3 hours before you start making the melomakarona so that there is enough time for the syrup to cool.
1. Boil all of the ingredients for the syrup, apart from honey, until sugar melts. Remove from heat. Add the honey and mix till combined.
- let syrup cool for 2 – 3 hours. It must be cold by the time the cookies come out from the oven.
- You can prepare the syrup from the day before.
2.Preheat the oven to 190° C (370*F)
To make the cookies, you need to prepare 2 separate mixtures.
3.Mix all the ingredients for mixture 1 thoroughly using a good whisk.
4.Add the ingredients of mixture 2 and mix softly for a little while, just until the flour is fully incorporated in the rest of the mix. Be careful not to overwork the cookie dough because the oil may start to seep out and then they won’t turn out crispy.
5.Mold cookie dough into oval shapes, 3-4 cm in length, 30 g each. Try to keep them as similar as possible.
6.Bake at 190°C for about 20-25 minutes until they are crispy.
7.As soon as you remove them from the oven, soak the hot cookies in the cold syrup for 20-30 seconds.
8.Allow them to drain on a wire rack.
9.Drizzle with honey and chopped walnuts.
Ingredients: 1 chicken 1,5 kg , 3-4 lemons sliced into 2 cm rounds , 2 bulbs garlic halved horizontally, black Greek olives, 2 tbs olive oil , salt.
- Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).
- Arrange the garlic and lemon on an oven tray . Top with the chicken, breast-side up.
- Brush the chicken with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Roast for 50 – 60 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
- Towards the end of cooking add the black olives
Butterflying a chicken allows it to roast more quickly and evenly *
Placing the chicken on a ‘bed’ of lemon and garlic infuses it with amazing flavour as it roasts.
*How to butterfly a chicken. Step by step guide here:
How To Butterfly A Chicken | Step by Step Guide