Vasilopita - Holidays take shape with specialty breads
Holidays take shape with specialty breads
2 cups milk, scalded
2 cups sugar
3 envelopes active dry yeast
(such as Red Star quick-rise
1/3 cup lukewarm water (110 to
1 teaspoon sugar
6 eggs, beaten, at room
11 cups flour, approximately,
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
(orange portion of rind)
1/2 pound butter, melted and
cooled to lukewarm
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon
30 blanched almonds
Candied cherries, about 3 red
and 3 green
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Several whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 of a fresh orange
2 tablespoons amaretto,
In a large, wide bowl, place scalded milk, sugar and dash of salt. Stir until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool until lukewarm.
Meanwhile, mix yeast with lukewarm water in a medium bowl. Stir until dissolved. Stir in one teaspoon sugar and let stand.
Stir yeast mixture into the lukewarm milk mixture. Stir in beaten eggs (at room temperature). Stir in 5 1/2 cups of the flour and the grated orange zest; mix well. Add melted butter, lukewarm. Mix until butter is absorbed.
Gradually work in as much of the remaining 5 1/2 cups flour as needed to make a soft dough, kneading well in the bowl. The dough should be loose enough to rise but not sticky. If necessary, knead in additional flour, a little at a time, to achieve a soft, resilient consistency.
Place dough in a very large clean bowl that has been lightly greased. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes in warm place.
Punch dough. If sticky, sprinkle lightly with flour and knead to incorporate the flour. Repeat if necessary to achieve the right consistency.
Cover with a clean towel, set in a warm place (such as underneath a stovetop light fixture) and let rise until doubled in size.
Uncover dough, punch down dough. Cover and let rise again, until doubled in size. The second rising time will be shorter.
Divide dough into three equal portions of about two pounds each. Shape and roll each portion into a 40-inch-long log for braiding. If desired, wash a coin (such as gold dollar or a 50-cent piece), wrap in aluminum foil and insert in one of the logs. Connect the dough pieces at one end, pressing together. Braid together.
Line a large round pan with an extra-large piece of aluminum foil. The foil should extend generously on all sides so it can be pulled up and over the loaf while it bakes. Grease the foil inside the pan.
Place braided dough in the foil-lined pan, arranging the braid in a circle around the edge of the pan. (Don't worry about a space in the middle of pan since the dough will rise.)
Let the shaped dough rise again, until double in size. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When the dough has risen, decorate the loaf. Beat one egg with a tablespoon of water. Gently brush egg mixture on top of bread dough. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Arrange blanched almonds to make daisy or star designs over the loaf. Alternately place red and green candied cherries in the centers of the flowers or the stars. Gently cover loaf with foil.
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes. Pull back foil and resume baking to allow the loaf to become golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Test doneness of bread as for a cake: Insert a dry, uncooked strand of spaghetti; it should come out clean and dry. Also: the bottom of the bread should be golden brown to light brown. Remove pan from oven. Allow to cool on a rack while making the glaze.
Glaze: Combine in a saucepan one cup water, one cup sugar, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, orange quarter and healthy splash of amaretto liqueur. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves. Scoop out the cloves, cinnamon stick and orange piece. Pour evenly over the partially cooled bread. Let stand at room temperature to cool. Bread may remain in pan until serving time. The foil in the pan can be used to help lift the loaf from the pan. Serve on a decorative platter, tray or breadboard. The bread is served fresh for special occasions. It is also excellent sliced and toasted for breakfast, brunch or a snack. Bread may be frozen, double-wrapped in aluminum foil. Makes one very large loaf.
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