On January 1st, we commemorate Saint Basil. Those with the names of Basil, William, Bill, Vasiliki, Vasilios, and others all celebrate their Name Day today. May God grant you many blessed years to come!!!
One of the most well known Orthodox kitchen traditions occurs today as families around the world bake the sweet bread in their ovens called Vasilopita. Vasilopita means “St. Basil’s bread” and we make it each year to remind us of the story that goes along with it. Before cutting our Vasilopita, I retell this story of St. Basil to my kids.
Saint Basil was the bishop of Caesarea. The emperor at the time ordered everyone in the city to pay such an expensive tax that the people were forced to give all of their money and any jewelry they owned. All the money and jewelry was collected and brought to Saint Basil so he could give it to the emperor. Saint Basil knew this was not fair and pleaded with the emperor to not ask so much from these poor families. Everyone prayed and prayed and miraculously the emperor said they no longer had to pay the ridiculously high tax. Saint Basil was overjoyed but he now had to figure out how he would give all the money and jewelry back to everyone. He decided to ask some bakers to help him by having them make many loaves of sweet bread. All the money and jewelry were dropped into the dough before it was baked. Saint Basil handed out a loaf of bread to each family and miraculously each family received the coins or jewelry they had originally given for the tax.
Today we remember this event by baking a loaf of sweet bread (or cake) and putting a quarter wrapped in foil before baking it. We cut a piece of the bread for God and each member of our family. One person in the family receives the quarter in their slice of bread.
This year dad got the quarter.
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1/2 warm water (turn on the faucet and when the water is too hot for you to keep your hand there, that’s the temp you want)
Mix together in a mixing bowl and cover with a dish cloth for approximately 30 minutes.
- Starter from above
- zest of one orange
- juice of one orange
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cup warm milk (or milk substitute such as almond or soy milk)
- 2 room temp eggs
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- one quarter, washed and wrapped in foil
- almonds or powdered sugar
In a mixer, combine starter, zest, orange juice, olive oil, honey, milk, eggs, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Once combined slowly add the flour. In a round cake pan, sprinkle with flour. Form a ball with the dough and insert the wrapped quarter anywhere in the ball. Press the ball down into the pan and place almonds on top. *Note: almonds have a tendency to aid in the loaf splitting. (Alternately, you can sprinkle with powdered sugar after it is baked.)
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes and golden brown.