Βασιλοπιτα (various transliterations include vasilopeta, vasilopita, or vasilopitta) is a sweet Greek bread, traditionally baked for New Year's day. Literally meaning "Basil's bread", it is named after St. Basil, whose feast day is celebrated on January 1. The bread is sweet and somewhat heavy; it's great with butter or dunked into coffee or tea.
When the bread is made, a coin is baked into it. When it is served (on New Year's Day), the person whose piece of bread contains the coin will have good luck in the year to come.
Put flour in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milk, yeast & water, almost all the butter, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest; mix thoroughly. Add the liquid mixture into the flour, mixing by hand until well blended. Using additional flour as needed, knead the dough until it's smooth and firm. Place dough in bowl (you might want to grease the bowl first), brush the remaining butter on the top of the dough, cover loosely, set in a warm place and let it rise, for about two hours.
OK, you're back. Grab the dough, knead it some more on a floured surface. Now, here's the important part. Get some sort of coin (ideally a drachma, but any will do. Paper money doesn't work as well, for some reason). I'd wrap the coin in aluminum foil, so you don't have to worry about icky germs. Take the coin and stick it into the dough. Shape the dough into a rounded loaf, cover it, and then allow it to rise for another hour.
All right, the dough's done rising (finally!). Now, brush the top of it with the egg yolk. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Then, arrange the almonds so that they spell out the number of the new year. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.
With the good luck charm lurking somewhere in the depths of the bread, serving it out can become a source of dispute. In my family, we've instituted the following house rules, which seem to work well (of course, YMMV):
- The oldest person cuts the bread
- The slices are distributed to people by age, oldest to youngest
- Before slicing, the slicer declares whose piece it will be. If the coin is encountered during the cutting, it belongs to that person.
- A person may request a larger piece, however, they are required to eat the entire thing.
and Χρονια Πολλα