Vasilopita with dark chocolate and toasted pine nuts
Recipe from About.com: Greek Food
- 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) of dry yeast
- 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk
- 8 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups of sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 level teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 cup of butter, melted
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 3/4 teaspoon of fennel seed, ground (I used anise seed)
- grated peel of 1 lemon
- baking parchment paper
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon of water
- blanched almonds (optional)
- coin or medallion wrapped tightly in foil (2, if making 2 loaves)
Preparation:In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and mix until fully combined. Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let sit in a warm place for 1 hour.
Beat egg whites and salt to the stiff peak stage.
Beat together egg yolks and sugar and add to the yeast mixture and beat well. Beat in melted butter, remaining 1/2 cup of milk, ground fennel seed, and grated lemon peel. Stir in egg whites to distribute thoroughly. Add flour slowly, mixing or kneading with hands until each addition is completely mixed in. The dough should be very dense, but don't use all the flour if not needed.
Form the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, cover with a clean towel, and set in a warm place to rise for about 3 hours, until doubled in size.
Poke the dough with fingers to deflate (do not "punch down") and knead for 5 minutes. Knead in extra chocolate, nuts or dried fruit if desired. Insert the coin or medallion into the dough. Form into one or two round loaves and place in one large or two smaller round baking pans lined with buttered baking parchment paper. Cover with clean towels, set in a warm place, and allow to rise for 2 hours more, until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
With a fork, beat together the egg yolk and water, and brush the top of the loaf (or loaves) with this egg wash. If desired, use the almonds to write out the numerals of the new year (2009, 2010, etc.) on top.
Bake at 350°F (190°C) for 30 to 40 minutes, until dark golden.