Monday, 26 December 2011

Greek Christmas sweets (recipes)

When in Thessaloniki, Agapitos is our favorite sweet shop.
They make some amazing sweets with great taste and imagination,
 faithful to beloved tastes and traditions.

Pictured above, from an Agapitos ad,  a selection of festive sweets. 
Melomakarona, plain and chocolate covered, in the double-tier,
icing-sugar covered kourampiedes
and just behind them, a tsoureki for the new year.

My mother made all her sweets with the "St.George Mills" flour.
I was so pleased to discover their retro ads!

The recipe for melomakarona 
(olive oil and honey sweets~find a similar recipe in english here)

(almond pastries~similar here)

This one, above, is the recipe my mom made for the New Years pie
the Vasilopita
We didin't make tsoureki, as is the custom in this part of Greece 
(remember, in my part of the family we are Southerns!)
we usually bought one or two for Christmas morning and new year's breakfast.
(but you may find a recipe here).

We made this cake-like pie that I love making for our family.

If you read Greek, the recipe is above. 
If not, read on :)

500grs (or 4 tea-cups)  self-raising flour
250 grs. butter or vegetable butter or a mix of the two.
250 grs milk mixed with the juice of one orange
Before cutting and squizing the orange, wash then finally grate its peel
400grs sugar
4 eggs

How to
Beat the butter for 2-3 mins until fluffy. Then alternate adding the sugar, the eggs one by one, the grated orange peel, the milk and the flour. 
Mix well.
Pre-heat oven to 180-200C.
Butter a cake pan well and dust with flour 
(you may use less butter and line with grease proof or baking paper),
and pour in the mixture.
Wash and wrap a coin in foil and hide in the mixture.
{At this point I place almonds, cleaned, boiled and whitened on top, forming the number of the new year}
Bake for aprox. 1 hour.
Let the pie cool, remove from pan and place in a nice serving tray.
Dust with icing sugar.

Why add a coin, you may ask. 
Here is why.
The tradition of vasilopita is associated with the life of Saint Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocea, Asia Minor (now in Turkey) who lived between 330-379 AD. According to the legend St. Basil called on the citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewelery. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. St. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family. So he baked all of the jewelery into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share, the legend goes. In some tellings the sieging chieftain is replaced with an evil emperor levying a tax, or with St. Basil attempting to give charity to the poor without embarrassing them.
Our kids look forward to the vasilopita each year, and so do I :) 

Wishing you a sweet and blessed 2012!

love, Irene

1 comment:

Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

can't wait for the vasilopita! Merry Christmas!

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