Food & Wine

Posts tagged “Christmas recipes

Vasilopita (New Year’s Coin Cake)

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.

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Ingredients

  • 300 g butter, at room temperature
  • 250 g icing sugar

1st mixture:

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 7 g mahleb
  • 2 g mastic
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • zest of 2 oranges

 

2nd mixture:

  • 1 teaspoons vanilla powder or liquid
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 80 g milk

 

3rd mixture:

  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Decoration:  icing sugar

 

Method:

  • 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.

Tips:

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.

Flavors:

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 (GreekΜαστίχα) 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.

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Christopsomo /Christ’s Bread

 

“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**

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INGREDIENTS:

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

To decorate

  • 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

METHOD:

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.

To decorate:

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.

  1. 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)
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F Fan and bake for 50 minutes, until the Christopsomo is nicely coloured and cooked through.
  3. 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

 

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My big fat Greek baklava

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.

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How to cut it in diamond shape (4 steps)

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Ingredients

Ingredients or the syrup:

2 cup water

2 cup white sugar

1 orange peel

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup honey

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160° C.   In a bowl, melt the butter .
  2. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 33×23 pan.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. .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.
  6. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon syrup it . Serve at room temperature. 

My big fat Greek baklava

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. 

1-bakl
1-dolci14-001

1-dolci18

How to cut it in diamond shape (4 steps)

1-dolci12-001

Repeat the same procedure for all quarters

1-dolci13

Ingredients

Ingredients or the syrup:

2 cup water

2 cup white sugar

1 orange peel

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup honey

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160° C.   In a bowl, melt the butter .
  2. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 33×23 pan.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. .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.
  6. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon syrup it . Serve at room temperature. 

Roast leg of lamb with mint sauce / Ψητο αρνισιο μπουτακι γαλακτος με γλυκοξινη σαλτσα δυοσμου

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Ingredients for the sauce :                                  

  • 1 bunch mint (chopped)                               2 kg quality leg of lamb,  salt
  • 200 ml white wine vinegar
  • 200 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tbs brown sugar

Method:  In a large bowl mix together all ingredients for the sauce ( chopped mint, vinegar, olive oil . brown sugar) Stir to combine.

Score the leg with a knife. With a pastry brush, rub part of the mint mixture all over the leg. Sprinkle all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1 hour to marinate.

Preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F . Roast for 1 hour – 1 h &15 min for a mediun rare.

Serve with the mint sauce and a fresh Merlot wine.

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The traditional ornamental bread of Cyprus (Festive bread)

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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

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I tried to reproduce one of these ancient and full of tradition shapes. I have no idea if it is a wedding, communion 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!1-pasta851-pasta86

  1. 500  bread flour
  2. 250ml  warm water
  3.  1/2 tablespoon dried yeast
  4.  2 teaspoons  sugar
  5.  1/2 teaspoon salt
  6. 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
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