Holiday Traditions: Christopsomo and Vasilopita

December 25, 2020

As the holidays continue, traditional foods are a staple of the season. Vasilopita is well-known, honoring Saint Basil the Great on his feast day January 1, and bringing good luck to the person who finds the coin. Christopsomo, symbolizing a household’s prosperity, is usually made in Greece on Christmas Eve, but in many areas it is also made on New Year’s Day and the feast of the Epiphany/Theophany, according to Culinary Backstreets. Many variations exist throughout Greece, but the Christopsomo is often a large, round loaf topped with a dough cross, sesame seeds, and a walnut in its shell in the center.

Christopsomo (Christ’s Bread)

3 cups bread flour

3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) dry active yeast

1 tablespoon anise seeds

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoon sugar

2 cups warm water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 walnut in its shell

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the bread flour, the all-purpose flour, the yeast, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, anise seeds, and sugar. Add the water and stir together using the dough hook attachment. Knead for about 5 minutes, then add the salt and continue kneading for 10 minutes. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise in a warm place for an hour. Punch down the dough and cut a piece of dough, weighing about a 1/2 pound, and set aside. Shape the remaining dough into a round loaf and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape the reserved piece of dough into two ropes of equal length, they should be long enough to wrap around the loaf to form a cross and attach at the bottom of the loaf. Sprinkle with water to attach the cross, then sprinkle the loaf with water and top with sesame seeds. Set the loaf aside to rise for 45 minutes. Place the walnut in the center and allow to rise again for another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Sprinkle the loaf with water for a crispy crust. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F and continue baking for 25-30 minutes. Place the baked bread on a wire rack to cool.

Vasilopita Cake

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

6 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 tablespoons cognac

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 cup Greek yogurt

6 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon Greek sea salt

Confectioners sugar for the topping


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cognac with the baking soda dissolved in it. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and yogurt, and beat until well combined. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture one third at a time and mix until the dough forms. Be careful not to overwork the dough or it will become tough. Transfer the dough into a prepared, greased and floured, 10-inch round baking pan and place the coin, having first washed, dried it, and then covered it with aluminum foil, in the vasilopita. Bake the vasilopita in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan. Cool completely then sprinkle with confectioners sugar, and serve. If preferred, the coin can be placed in the vasilopita after it is removed from the pan to cool. Cut a slit in the bottom of the cake and place the coin inside.


Thessaloniki is well-known for its delicious local cuisine.

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