Monthly Archives: December 2015

May the Coin Be With You.

December 29, 2015

vasilopita

A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side.” –Yoda to Luke

“Oh boy,” I know you are thinking, “Where is she going with this one?”

“I got the coin, I got the coin!”  This phrase is uttered countless of times as over 10 million Greeks in a galaxy far, far away dig into the piece of Vasilopita (St. Basil’s Cake) that had been allocated to them in search of that ever-elulsive coin.  What coin is this might you ask?  Let me tell you, it’s harder to locate than Luke Skywalker in the Force Awakens.

No maps either.

Every year, Greeks bake a sweet cake, scented with orange and cinnamon and drop a coin into it while it bakes.  It’s carefully cut into pieces and passed out to everyone at New Year’s dinner.  The young jedi knight, I mean, the person who finds the coin in their piece of cake will find that the force will be strong with them in the coming year.

Well, the sound of that we like, do we not?  Sorry, got all Yoda on you.  So you are not so sure you believe in the power of the coin?  Let me explain further.

  • 1967 my father won the coin and he came to America.
  • 1969 my mother won the coin and got engaged.
  • 1999 I won the coin and bought my first car with gains made in stock market (true story, dotcom boom)
  • 2012 I won the coin again and got married.
  • 2013 my friend T. won the coin and got a new job.  That she loves!  How about that?
  • 2014 my friend D. wrote a song and now a famous Latin American soccer player wants to produce it.  I am so putting that on my blog when it’s out there!

Do you doubt the power of the coin now?

So how does the dark side play into this you may be asking?

If you are privileged enough to win the coin’s favor, you must never lose or spend said coin.  Or not so nice things will occur.  I’m not saying Darth Vader will be after you, but something close.  Take for instance my cousin George.  Sorry man, I have to call you out.  My cousin George had been winning the coin 7 years straight.  He was Jedi Master of the Vasilopita coin.  But then, the dark side.  He was foolish enough to carry his precious coins everywhere he went.  And one day he got stuck a the train station, in the days before cell phones.  What?  Yes!  You know where this is story is going.  He used his coins to call his mom for a ride.  Well, let’s just say that his life has taken an interesting turn.  He might as well live on the planet Jakku.  And he also has never won the coin again.  You must not take the coin’s powers lightly.

Anyway, before I get to the reason you are here.  The recipe.  (I have had many requests to publish this early).  I will leave you with this small bit of nostalgia from my childhood.

There is winning, and then there’s really winning…

I remember New Year’s Eve 1985, my parents and I went to my great-aunt Vicki’s house to ring in the New Year by playing poker and eating, two classic Greek pastimes.  It was also her name’s day and my mom’s, Vasiliki.  So this first day of the year is extra special to me.

My koubaro made pizza with a Bisquick crust (funny that I can remember that detail).  So there we were.  Pizza.  Beer.  Poker.  I was little, but they needed bodies and there was no discriminating against taking money from a kid, so there I was, learning to play poker along with my aunt and mom.  All I remember is Vicki kept winning.  Over and over again.  She had no idea how to play, but she was “all-in”, every time.  It was quite a run.

And when she won, she would laugh, the best, loudest, most shocked laugh I ever heard.  I wasn’t even bothered by the fact that I was losing because she kept laughing this glorious laugh every time she won a hand.

“Aaah!  Hahahaha!”

It was wildly entertaining considering she was beating my dad, my koubaro and great uncle, the card sharks, the three wise guys, the self-proclaimed poker aficionados.  They were stupefied.  I was enamoured with her, now that’s winning!  The force was strong with her.

Now let’s make cake young Jedis.

-Mistress Kallie ūüôā


Vasilopita – St. Basil’s Cake

4 cups flour*

2 cups sugar

6 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup melted butter

1 1/2 cups milk

5 egg yolks

4 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon orange rind

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons powdered sugar 

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Measure and sift all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. In a stand mixer beat the eggs, milk, vanilla and butter well and then slowly add dry ingredients. Finally add the orange rind. Pour the mixture in a well buttered and floured prepared pan.  Easy peasy.

Hide a clean foiled wrapped coin in the batter before baking.  Bake in oven at 350 for 45-50 minutes checking to see if toothpick comes out clean.

Turn out into a serving plate and top with a dusting of cinammon and powdered sugar.

* If making gluten free, I like to use Jeanne’s Gluten Free Flour Mix from the Art of Gluten Free Baking.  For her mix, 140 grams = 1 cup of gluten free flour

#linklove_wednesday

December 23, 2015

Here are a few of my favorite links today, December 23, 2015:
1. ¬†The story behind NORAD’s Santa Tracker ūüôā

2. ¬†Experiences not things…think about that for 2016. ¬†Not convinced? Read this.

3.  All roads lead to Rome, my favorite city.

4.  Dreaming about these beaches in Italy today.

5.  I love Sophia Loren, check out her home!

6.  Do we need anymore reasons why Adele is awesome?

7. What do you wish you had learned in college? Me? More Italian.

8.  Okay, yum!

9. ¬†Maybe I will make mussels for New Years…what do you think?

Merry Christmas!

Buon Natale!

őöőĪőĽőĪ őßŌĀőĻŌÉŌĄőŅŌćő≥őĶőĹőĹőĪ!

Feliz Navidad! (I can sing that all day)

– Kallie

Approximate Baking Theory and a Recipe for Greek Christmas Cookies

December 20, 2015

Ah, Christmas time. ¬†The memories. ¬†When I was little, I would make kourambiethes¬†with my mom. ¬†They are¬†a powdery, snowy-looking¬†Greek Christmas cookie, and it was¬†my job¬†to assist her in adding¬†the appropriate amount of flour into the batter at her cue. ¬†It was my responsibility and no one else’s. ¬†I was,¬†the¬†flour girl. ¬†Pause for effect.

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Without fail, the Saturday before Christmas, early morning,¬†I was sitting at the kitchen table watching her whip¬†butter and sugar together until it was fluffy. ¬†She of course giving me a sweet taste before she added vanilla and brandy¬†for flavor. ¬†After that it was my turn, I would add heaping spoonfuls¬†full¬†of flour into the batter as she mixed by hand until she found that the dough was perfect for shaping into moons, stars and crescents. ¬†She would tell me to add a lot, then a little. ¬†And then just a little bit more…that’s it, just right.

Just right? ¬†How did she know it was just right? ¬†We never measured anything!!! ¬†So, let’s talk about that for a minute shall we?¬† The topic of “measurements” in Greek cooking. ¬†And I use the term “measurement” loosely. ¬†I call it “Approximate Baking Theory”.

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“Oh there’s a coffee cup and spoon, just use that to measure.” -Mom

She would grab some¬†random coffee mug¬†from her cupboard and use it to “measure” ingredients. ¬†She would take a coffee spoon and “measure” spices, or the baking power and baking soda. And then she would tell me to just take big spoonfuls of flour and just add it to the bowl until she said so¬†and just like that, (pause for effect) magic. ¬†The dough would form and pull away from the bowl and it would just roll up perfectly in her hands. ¬†But how? ¬†How?

If you looked at my mom’s¬†recipe notebook, her¬†recipes are basically handwritten lists of ingredients. ¬†I don’t believe for one minute her coffee mugs and coffee spoons ever really “measured” anything. ¬†They were simply vessels used to transport ingredients into the mixing bowl. ¬†“Oh, I need a little cinnamon, I’ll use this small spoon.” ¬†or “Oh, I need some sugar, I’ll use this mug.” ¬†The actual amounts of each ingredient exists only in her head or what “looked about right”. ¬†So imagine the comedy of errors that followed when I demanded, “Mom, you need to measure that and make me a recipe.” ¬†Sweet Jesus. ¬†Everything was in ratios of that stupid coffee cup. ¬†God help me if I lose the coffee cup. ¬†That brown and white coffee cup!!! ¬†She later confessed to me that her grandmother didn’t even use a coffee cup, she used a plate. ¬†A plate!!! ¬†Well, a¬†coffee cup seemed like progress¬†now.

Image 4And so, since I believe baking to be a true “science” and requires precision, and anyone who knows me, knows I like precision, I filled that coffee cup with water and measured it. ¬†Yes I did.

And¬†then I insisted she use measuring spoons for the cinnamon, clove, baking powder and baking soda. ¬†An hour long conversation about rounded teaspoons vs. level teaspoons followed. ¬†I can’t. ¬†Don’t ask.

Let’s just say that after much philosophical discussion, getting lost in translation, I managed to transcribe¬†a recipe that existed only in her head onto paper. ¬†I cracked the code. ¬†I solved the riddle. ¬†The secrets of generations of Greek women¬†have been laid wide out into the open.¬†¬†I have my mother’s recipe in true recipe form.

I always think back to¬†those innocent days when I make these cookies and smile. ¬†And then I pour some coffee into that stupid coffee mug¬†and grab a real measuring cup and go to town. ¬†So let’s make these cookies! ¬†Woot!


Kourambiethes – makes approximately 60 cookies

3 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp whiskey or brandy
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
“approximately” 4 cups of flour (see notes below)

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

Let the butter come to room temperature before whipping in a stand mixer.  Whip the butter for about 5 minutes at medium speed then add the sugar and beat for and additional 10-15 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla, brandy, egg yolks, egg white, baking powder and soda until mixed through.
Begin adding the flour slowly…

A note about the the flour. ¬†You may be wondering, why there isn’t an exact amount of flour. ¬†I want to tell you, that it can vary because of air temperature and humidity in your kitchen, but I would be lying. ¬†In general, this recipe takes approximately 4 cups of flour, give or take a 1/4 cup¬†or more. ¬†How can this be? ¬†Well, ¬†blame¬†“the approximate baking theory”.

However, if you add the flour in the manner I describe next, I promise, you too will be an expert baker of approximate measures.  Do not be afraid.

Begin by adding the first¬†2.5 cups of flour and mix. ¬†Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. ¬†Take the mixing bowl off the stand mixer and start adding more flour about 1/2 at a time and blend by hand until you obtain the desired consistency.

What is the desired consistency you may be wondering? ¬†Well, you want to add enough flour so that the mixture begins to “pull away” cleanly from the sides of the bowl, but not so much that when you roll out a cookie it cracks. ¬†If you get cracks before you baked them, you have added too much flour, so add slowly. ¬†You want a nice smooth cookie. ¬†Otherwise, while the cookies are baking, they will crack some more as they spread and rise, and this is a very tender, crumbly butter cookie.

But I will let you in on a secret, come closer. ¬†All cracks can be hidden by the powdered sugar topping..wink wink, no one will know. ¬†Shhhh, you didn’t just read that.

I like to roll my cookies out into full moons with a dimple in center to hold more powdered sugar (and also because I am incredibly lazy…otherwise you can get creative and shape them into¬†crescent moons and stars.)

The cookies bake about 12-15 minutes depending on strength of your oven at about 360-375 F. (Again, the approximate baking theory applies). You don’t really want color on top of the cookie, but a nice light brown on the bottom, which will be an indicator that they are cooked perfectly.

Roll the cookies in powdered sugar, or if you like more precision like me, use a sifter and cover¬†them that way ūüėČ

Good luck and enjoy!

– Kallie

P.S. I like to make my kourambiethes gluten free. ¬†I like to use the Jeanne’s flour mix recipe from The Art of Gluten Free Baking. ¬†Works out great. ¬†Anyone who is gluten free should check out Jeanne’s delicious website.

#linklove_wednesday

December 16, 2015

Hi there, here are some of the links I love this week, December 16, 2015.

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  1. Strong is the new pretty.  Love this.
  2. Are you looking for a new book to read?  Here are some options.
  3. Again with the Scandinavian countries…check out the gallery.  Hmmm.
  4. Adele kicking butt all over the place AND she’s coming to MY favorite city.
  5. Okay, brown butter anything is awesome, but this!  Whoa!
  6. Well, hello there Santa.  How you doin’?
  7. Who knew Frank Lloyd Wright designed this?  Not me.
  8. She may be 60, but not even close to retiring.
  9. There might be a little too much thought regarding this topic…but funny anyway.  Where do you stand?
  10. Ever wonder how the author of A Christmas Carol lived?  Now we know.
  11. He did it his waaaaaay!!!  Oh Frank.
  12. I love shoes!
  13. Totally making this next week!  Cheers!