Prosphora –

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For many, many years I was the chief baker for our church. In the Orthodox Church the communion bread must be made by hand by a member of the parish. Now frequently, if the priest if full-time, the bread is made by him or his wife. Our priest worked full-time. I somehow got into being the Prosphora (Communion Bread) baker. Now this bread is very simple, but it must be perfect or it cannot be used. There must be no machinery used in the making, it must be completely by hand. It is the most basic bread I know:
Prosphora

3½ cups very warm water
2 pk yeast
1 tsp salt
10 to 14 cups unbleached or all-purpose NOT bread flour (This bread is really sensitive to how much moisture is in the air at they time of baking)

Mix it, knead it, beat it, you know the drill. Keep adding flour until it is warm, smooth, punches back, does not stick to the finger, and add absolutely no more flour. After the first rise, roll it out to a reasonable thickness, and cut a bottom and a top for each loaf. Some 4” to 5” or so in diameter. Several about 2” diameter, or whatever size the priest likes. Moisten the top of the bottom. Flour the bottom of the top. Stick them together. Firmly impress with the floured seal. Let rise again. Bake in a 350° oven that is humidified. A pan of water is OK, but get it boiling while the oven warms. Bake until they ring hollow, not soggy, and are light tan at the very darkest. If they are dark on the bottom they cannot be used for services. Let cool on a rack. These can be frozen and thawed the night before the service. They must not be allowed to dry out or they are not acceptable for the service.

Now, the Russians are a bit fussy about the size and number of the loaves, 5 main loaves and a slew of the smaller ones. The Greeks and Arabs tend to use just one big loaf. The Coptics (Egyptians and Ethiopians) have the women of the parish each bring in a loaf. The priest then chooses the loaves that will be used in the service. Since it is considered an honor to have your loaf used, this gets to be a competition and a source of pride. Not a good thing.

Of course, the above bread takes a reasonable amount of hand and arm strength. So I don’t anymore.

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One Response to “Prosphora –”

  1. All the Bread Posts - « Rumblings of an Ol’ Curmudgeon Says:

    […] October 18, 2007 Prosphora – […]

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