Sunday, January 4, 2015

Guest Blogger Susannah Hardy #Vasilopita #recipe

Today MLK  welcomes Susannah Hardy who writes the brand new "Greek to Me" mysteries!

Susannah Hardy:  Thank you so much for hosting me, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen authors! Can I just take a moment here to calm myself? Because I’m having a big ole fangirl moment here. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be sharing recipes with Krista Davis, Cleo Coyle, Lucy Burdette, Avery Aames, Sheila Connolly, Peg Cochran, and Victoria Abbott, I’d have laughed myself silly.

And yet, here I am, with a culinary mystery to call my own. FETA ATTRACTION is set in a Greek restaurant in the Thousand Islands area of Northern New York State, along the St. Lawrence River. My heroine isn’t Greek (neither am I, so I hope my research is good), but she married a Greek man and manages the family restaurant. The Bonaparte House restaurant closes for the winter, so readers won’t see today’s recipe on the fictional menu, but Georgie’s mother-in-law makes this cake every year.

Vasilopita is a cake or bread, baked with a coin inside, that is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, in honor of St. Basil, for whom the dessert is named. Whoever receives the coin in his or her portion will be blessed in the coming year. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more blessings, so I see no reason not to make this easy, delicious cake any time.

Vasilopita (Greek New Year’s Cake)

1 cup butter, plus a couple of teaspoons for greasing cake pan
2 cups white sugar, plus an additional 1/4 cup
3 cups flour
6 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup warm milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup whole almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly wash a coin (I used a shiny, golden U.S. one-dollar coin, but you can use a quarter), and wrap with aluminum foil.

Cream 1 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in flour (mixture will look crumbly). Mix in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.

Now for a little science experiment: Add baking powder to warm milk, and mix into batter. Add baking soda to lemon juice (this is fun—it will foam up), and mix this into batter as well. Mix in almond extract.

Pour batter into a 10-inch cake pan that has been liberally greased with the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter. I found that this recipe made too much batter for my cake pan, so I filled the 10-inch pan two-thirds full, then greased another, smaller pan and baked the remaining batter in that. Next time I would probably bake this in a 13” x 9” pan.

Poke the foil-wrapped coin down into the batter. Bake for 15 minutes.
While cake is baking, place almonds and remaining sugar into a small food processor and chop (or chop by hand). The almonds should not be a dust or paste, but should be a little chunky, like a streusel topping.  After cake has baked for 15 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle the sugar/almond mixture over the partially baked cake and return to oven. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool 20 minutes, then run a knife around the outside of the cake and it should pop right out.

Place on a pretty serving dish, almond side up, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

To serve, slice up the cake and top with whipped cream. You can never go wrong with whipped cream, right? The oldest person in the room is traditionally served first and then subsequent pieces are given out according to age, oldest to youngest. Whoever finds the coin in her/his cake is blessed.

I think this is a lovely idea, don’t you? To be entered in today's giveaway, please leave a comment with your email and describe one of your family's traditions...

Susannah Hardy thinks she has the best job in the world: making up stories and inventing recipes to go along with them. A native of northern New York, where she attended St. Lawrence University, Susannah now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenage son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.