Vasilopita (Greek New Year's Bread) #BreadBakers

Well, it's a week and change past New Year's but since our BreadBaker's theme for January is Mediterranean bread, I still wanted to bake this bread.  Greece is a Mediterranean country with very unique and recognizable flavors indeed.  This enriched loaf is a New Year's or St. Basil's day tradition and can be found both as a cake and a yeast bread.  It is a sweet and moist loaf, lightly scented with orange, and traditionally served right after midnight.  Also included is a tradition is the hiding of a coin in the bottom of the loaf, and whoever gets the slice with the coin is granted good luck throughout the year.  Reminds me of the King cake tradition.  Since I have mastiha on hand from making Tsoureki, I probably defied tradition a little by adding a few tears to my Vasilopita.  The two breads are actually quite similar except that the tsoureki also has mahleb and mastic.  Since I missed the traditional New Year's slicing, perhaps leaning a little toward the Easter flavor profile was appropriate after all.

Vasilopita (Greek New Year's Bread)
makes one 9" round loaf

2¼ tsp active dry yeast
1 cup milk warmed, divided
6 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
3½ to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus more for pan
scant ¾ tsp sea salt
2 egg, beaten
zest of one medium orange

sesame seeds or sliced almonds
extra egg + 1 tsp water for egg wash

For the dough

Activate the yeast in ½ cup of warmed milk with one tsp sugar.  Let bloom and rise for 10 minutes until foamy.  This is an important step for a sweet dough, to confirm the activity of the yeast.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer stir together 3½ cups of flour, the salt, and the 6 tbsp sugar in a large mixing bowl. When the yeast has become foamy and puffy, add to the flour mixture along with the olive oil, 2 beaten eggs, the rest of the milk, and the orange zest.

Knead on low until the dough comes together, then increase speed and continue to knead until the dough forms a smooth and somewhat tacky ball, about 10 minutes.  Add up to ½ cup more flour if needed if the dough is quite sticky.

Cover the dough and allow to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Deflate the dough and knead for a few minutes.  Form into a ball, flatten slightly, and place in a well-oiled 9-inch circular pan.   Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size for about one hour in a warm place.

Using a very sharp knife, lame, or clean razor blade, carve decorative patterns into the top of each loaf; lines, leaves and crosses are all common.

Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  (Sliced almonds are also sometimes used here.)

Bake in a preheated oven at 375ºF for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350ºF and bake for another 30 minutes or until the top of the loaf turns a deep chestnut brown.

Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  Cool completely on a wire rack after removing the loaf.  At this point, you can insert a clean coin into the bottom of the loaf using a toothpick or skinny knife to push it in.

Spin the loaf so no one knows where the coin is hiding.  Cut into wedges and serve.  (Be mindful of young children if following the coin tradition.)

Be sure to check out the rest of our Mediterranean breads:

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.




  1. I have never heard of this bread but it looks delicious. I don't think I can wait until next New Year to try it so perhaps I will add some Mediterranean flavors to my Chinese New Year.

  2. Such a pretty loaf, Kelly, and I learned something today about Greek culture, which is always fun! ❤️

  3. Your crumb looks amazing. It looks like a beautiful slice of cake! I remember the mastic and mahleb from our BBB Flaounes!

    1. Lol, this is a much more accessible flavor profile compared to flaounes! Both this and tsoureki are very much like a Greek challah. Yum!

  4. Delicious and beautiful love, it is in list, may be next year I will make this for Newyear.

  5. Amazing bread and a perfect one for the theme around the New year. I can't wait for another New Year, but our traditional new year approaches soon and this bread is on the list to bake.

  6. Beautifully baked bread, has such a lovely crust!

  7. The first look at the texture of the bread looks so good.


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