Greek cuisine is full of recipes that have meaning and this Vasilopita Tsoureki (Greek New Years bread) is a perfect example. Vasilopita bread is a sweet treat that is served on New Year, but it’s quite challenging to make. No worries! I’ve got you covered! Get your little helpers and follow my step by step recipe to create the perfect aromatic Vasilopita tsoureki to welcome the New Year!
What is Greek New Years bread (Vasilopita Tsoureki)?
If you’re looking for a delicious and unique way to ring in the New Year, you may want to try making Vasilopita Tsoureki, a traditional Greek sweet bread.
There are two main variations of Vasilopita – the Vasilopita cake version, and the tsoureki dough version, which is this recipe here, kind of the same as an easter Tsoureki but rather shaped in a tin! Tsoureki is typically made with a brioche-like dough.
After baking the Vasilopita bread, a lucky coin is inserted through the base, and it’s said that whoever finds the coin in their slice will have good luck in the new year. Greek New Years bread is usually decorated with glaze or icing sugar and it is customary that the year number is decorated on top of the cake.
Classic Greek New Year recipe: The dish is served in Greek homes on New Year.
Lots of ways to personalise it: You can change the nut flavours and decoration to suit your taste.
Vasilopita Tsoureki Key Ingredients
For the Greek New Years bread: You need the basic instant yeast, water, sugar, milk and butter for the bread. Add to that some mastic teardrops and ground mahleb. I use a strong bread flour with salt and eggs and add orange zest and a vanilla pod for extra flavor.
For the glaze: This is made with water, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and flaked almonds.
Vasilopita bread Key Preparation Tips
There are three main steps to making your own New Year vasilopita bread :
- Combine the bread ingredients
- Work the dough
- Cook the bread
- Add the New Year coin and decorate
Combine the bread ingredients
Add the sugar, milk and butter to a small saucepan set over medium low heat. Stir it often until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Then take it off the heat and let it cool down some.
Meanwhile, combine the yeast and tepid water in a large mixing bowl. Whisk it until frothy.
Start by pounding the mastic with a mortar and pestle. Add the mahleb to prevent it from sticking and continue to grind until it’s finely crushed.
In a mixing dish of your stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, orange zest, and spice mixture.
Place the flour, salt, sugar, butter and milk in a large mixing bowl. Stir gently but consistently for about 30 seconds to combine the ingredients. Next, whisk in the yeast mixture and vanilla seeds (if using).
Thoroughly mix the two mixtures together using a fork until it forms a rough dough.
Work the dough
To knead the dough, attach the dough hook and mix for 15 minutes until the texture is smooth, tight and stretchy. Then, use a scraper or spatula to form it into a ball shape. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 2 hours so it can double in size.
Meanwhile, line an 18-20cm cake tin (7 inch) with a round of baking parchment and butter it well before placing it in the oven to preheat.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and expel any air bubbles if necessary. Using a knife or a dough scraper, cut the dough into three equal-sized pieces.
Roll the dough into ropes that are half stretched and half rolled. They should be about 2 1/2 cm (1 inch) in thickness. Pinch the top of the rope to bring all the strands together, then braid them.
Be sure to not leave any air pockets between the strand, but also don’t stretch the dough too much as you braid it. Once you’ve finished braiding, shape it into a coil and tuck the ends underneath so it’s tidy looking.
After braiding, transfer the dough to a prepared tin and let it rise for another two hours.
Cook the Vasilopita bread and finish with the glaze
Preheat oven to 150C (300F) 30 minutes before the end of the proofing time. Bake the vasilopita tsoureki until it is a little risen, golden in colour, and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool completely before removing from the baking tin.
While the vasilopita bread is cooling, toast the almonds in a small frying pan over a medium stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.
For the decoration, mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and water to create the glaze. If you desire, push a coin into the base of the bread before spooning it over the cake so it falls in between slices. Add almonds for garnish.
Finally, it is customary that the year number is decorated on top of the New Year bread. Get some nice New Year decorations and place them on the Vasilopita bread.
What are mastic teardrops and ground mahleb?
Mastic (masticha) teardrops and ground mahlab or mahleb (mahlepi) are two traditional ingredients used in Mediterranean cooking. Mastic is a resin that is harvested from the bark of the mastic tree, and it has a slightly piney flavor. Ground mahleb is made from the kernels of St. Lucie cherries, and it has a sweet, nutty taste.
These two ingredients are often used together in recipes for sweets and baked goods, as they complement each other perfectly. In addition to their flavor, mastic teardrops and ground mahleb also have unique textures that make them interesting additions to any dish.
Making ahead of time and storing
Everyone knows that the best Vasilopita Tsoureki is always made fresh. But luckily, there are a few easy ways to keep it fresh for longer. For example, you can store it in an airtight container for a few days.
Or if you want it to keep for longer, portion out your vasilopita in slices and freeze them. Defrost it when you’re ready to eat. Simply defrost the bread overnight, and then enjoy it fresh anytime you want!
Finally, to discover more Greek Christmas traditions and customs to celebrate with your loved ones have a look at my article on Greek Christmas traditions and customs.Print
Vasilopita bread is a sweet treat that is served on New Year, but it’s quite challenging to make. No worries! I’ve got you covered! Get your little helpers and follow my step by step recipe to create the perfect aromatic Vasilopita tsoureki to welcome the New Year!
For the Vasilopita Tsoureki bread
- 110g sugar (3 3/4 oz)
- 75ml milk (5 tbsp)
- 60g butter (2 oz), plus extra for the pan
- 12g instant yeast (1/2 oz)
- 65ml tepid water (1/4 cup)
- 1–2 mastic teardrops
- 1 1/2 tsp ground mahleb
- 435g strong bread flour (15 1/4 oz), plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 tsp salt
- zest of 1/2 large orange
- 2 large eggs
- seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod (optional)
For the glaze
- 20g flaked almonds (3/4 oz)
- 50g powdered sugar (1 3/4 oz), sieved to remove any lumps
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 tsp water
Prepare the dough for Vasilopita Tsoureki
To prepare this Vasilopita tsoureki bread recipe start by making the dough first.
Combine the sugar, milk and butter in a small saucepan and set over a medium low heat. Allow to heat through, whisking often until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yeast and the tepid water and set aside until frothy.
Using a mortar and pestle, start to crush the mastic. To stop it sticking and to help break it down, add the mahleb and continue to grind to a powder.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, orange zest and the spice mix, and set aside.
Lightly whisk the eggs in the bottom of a large mixing jug. Still whisking, gradually add the sugar, butter and milk mixture, which so not to cook the eggs should now be cool enough for you to comfortably hold your finger in. Next, whisk in the yeast mixture and the vanilla seeds, if using.
Stir the liquid mixture into the flour mixture using a fork, bringing the whole thing together into a rough dough.
With the dough hook attachment, knead the dough for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth, tight and stretchy. Using a dough scraper or a spatula scrape the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving it until it has at least doubled in size – this should take about 2 hours.
Form the Vasilopita Tsoureki
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knock back any air bubbles. Using a knife or a dough scraper, cut the dough into three equal sized pieces.
Taking each piece of dough between your palms, half stretch, half roll the dough into roughly 2 1/2 cm (1 inch) ropes. Pinch these together at the top and shape into a braid; not loose enough that there are any air pockets between the strands, but not too tight that the dough is stretched any further. Shape the plaited rope into a coil, tucking the ends underneath the coil to tidy it up.
- Generously butter a 18-20cm cake tin (7 inch) before lining it with a round of baking parchment.
Transfer the shaped dough to the prepared tin and cover again to rise again for another 2 hours.
Bake the Greek New years bread
Towards the end of the proofing time, pre-heat the oven to 150C (300F). Bake the dough for 30 minutes until risen a little, golden, and if you carefully slide the bread from the tin and tap it on the bottom, it sounds hollow. Leave to cool completely.
Decorate the Vasilopita bread
While the bread is cooling, toast the almonds in a small frying pan set over a medium heat, and set aside.
To decorate, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and water to make the glaze. Push a coin, wrapped in aluminum foil into the base of the bread so it can be found in one of the slices, then spoon the glaze over the cake, pushing it around with the back of your spoon to make sure it falls into all the coils. Scatter with the toasted almonds, and serve.
Keywords: vasilopita tsoureki, greek new years bread, vasilopita bread recipe