At New Year's for good luck, Greeks make Vasilopita, which can be a sweet bread, cake, or even meat pie. Regardless of the recipes, a coin is always inserted and whoever gets it in their piece will have good luck for the next year.
- 1/2 tsp mastiha mastic crystals
- 2 cups/400 g plus a pinch sugar
- 5 large eggs separated
- 1/2 tsp strained fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup/225 g unsalted butter softened
- 3/4 cup/180 ml milk
- 2 tbsp brandy
- Grated zest and strained juice of 1 large orange
- 1 1/2 cups/150 g ground blanched almonds
- 2 oz/55 g couverture chocolate finely chopped, or dark chocolate chips
- 1 lb 2 oz/500 g self-rising flour
- Confectioners’/icing sugar for sprinkling
- Chocolate sprinkles or slivered almonds for sprinkling optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C (gas mark 4). Cut out a round piece of wax/greaseproof paper or parchment paper to line the bottom of a 12-in/30.5-cm round springform or conventional baking pan/tin. Butter the surface of the paper and the walls of the pan. With a pestle, pound the mastic with a pinch of the sugar in a mortar. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a whisk,whisk the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Add 1 1/2 cups/300 g of the sugar and the lemon juice, increase the speed to medium-high, and whisk the whites until they form a stiff meringue. Remove from the mixer and set aside.
- In a clean, large mixing bowl, use the electric mixer with the paddle attachment to whip together the butter and remaining 1/2 cup/100 g of sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, whisking after each addition. Whisk in the milk, brandy, and orange juice. Stir in the orange zest, almonds, pounded mastic, and chocolate.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the meringue and flour into the egg-yolk-and-liquid mixture, a little at a time, alternating between them.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan/tin. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and invert onto a wire rack to cool. If making the cake for New Year’s, wrap a small coin in aluminum foil and insert it into the bottom of the cooled cake.
- Turn the cake right-side up and sift confectioners’ sugar over the surface. If the cake is for New Year’s, write the new number with chocolate sprinkles or almonds.
Go to my online Greek specialty food shop for a range of traditional and artisanal delicacies from all over Greece.