Vasilopita/Tsoureki: Greek Round Bread for New Years
- 9.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 packages (6 3/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 5 large eggs
- Sliced almonds to write out 2015
- 2 tbsp Orange Zest
- Sift the flour into a very large wooden or plastic salad bowl. Make a small well in the center of the flour.
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and slowly pour the yeast mixture into the well in the flour. With a small spoon, mix a little bit of the flour into the yeast and water mixture, but keep the yeast mixture liquid and not too thick.
- Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it in a warm place for 20 minutes.
- Heat the milk in a medium saucepan set over medium heat until it just beings to boil. Remove from heat and add the butter, orange zest, sugar and salt. Allow the butter to melt and stir together to combine the mixture. Set aside to cool slightly.
- After the flour and yeast mixture has sat covered for 20 minutes, beat together 4 of the eggs. Remove the towel from the bowl. Very slowly pour half of the warm milk mixture around the edges of the bowl. stirring the flour into the milk mixture with a wooden spoon. Begin to incorporate the yeast as you stir. Then stir half of the beaten eggs into the flour mixture in the same manner.
- Follow with the remaining milk, then with the remaining beaten eggs. Once everything has just come together, being to knead the dough in the bowl. It will be very sticky at first., but as you work the dough, it will come together and stop sticking to your hands. Knead the dough for 13-15 minutes until it becomes smooth and soft and no longer sticks to your fingers or the sides of the bowl.
- Put the entire bowl into a large plastic bag. Cover the bowl with a large towel or a small blanket. and set it in a warm place away from any air conditioning or drafts. My mom actually used to set it on the sofa in the living room- where, by the way, we were never allowed as children! Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, remove the dough from the bag. Set out a large wooden cutting board to assemble the loaves. Warm up 2 large cookie sheets by running htem under very warm water. Dry them well and line them with unbleached parchment paper.
- Pull a softball-sie piece of dough from the bowl, cut it and put it on the cutting board /.Cut the small piece of dough into 3 even pieces. Using your hands, roll the 3 pieces of dough into 3 even logs, each 1 foot in length. If the dough gets too sticky, coat your hands with a little olive oil. Braid the 3 logs together, all the way to the end and gently pinch the ends together to form loaves. Repeat this process with the remaining dough. transfer the braided dough to the prepared cookie sheets.
- Put each baking sheet into its own plastic bag, cover with a towel or blanket and set aside in a warm place for the dough to rise again for 1 hour.
- Preheat over to 350 degrees
- After the loaves have risen, remove the cookie sheets from the bags. Beat the reaming egg with the 1/4 teaspoon of water to create an egg wash. Using a large pastry brush, brush each loaf evenly with the egg wash, then sprinkle each loaf with the sliced almonds (or write out 2015)
- Put the cookie sheets in the preheated oven. bake until the tops are richly golden and the loaves sound hollow when tapped, about 34-40 mintues. Watch closely for the last couple of minutes.
- Remove from the oven and immediately transfer the loaves to kitchen or paper towel on the counter to cool. When the loaves are cool, you can serve the bread right away or put the loaves into decorative plastic bags to give as gifts.
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