60While there are a few things that will make for a smooth Divine Liturgy, for me, having a good loaf of prosforo is clutch. The rub is is that everyone’s grandmother has her own recipe (and a lot of them call for 2 rises so it takes longer), seals vary greatly, and flour behaves only so well depending on the relative humidity, so sometimes priests can get a smooth-topped loaf which then needs a seal cut into it, a major interruption as we are preparing for service.

We had a weekly prosfora baking rota at the school where we’d make dozens of loaves, and they would come out perfect every time. But the recipe was a 25 lb. bag of flour, a whole cake a yeast, and so on. I tried like the dickens to reduce it down to a 2lb. loaf recipe. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, emphatically.

If you know me at all you know I’m really interested in bread baking, and one day I was making lean dough for baguettes, and it hit me: lean dough is just a wetter dough with more yeast. I took my lean dough recipe and just reduced both the water and yeast content. From there I haven’t looked back. Recently my wife expressed her desire to learn how to make prosfora so I will always have a loaf for Sundays, no matter what. So I taught her a month or so ago.

Yesterday my wife made a really gorgeous loaf after changing one of my steps and I shared it around, and she shared it around, and people were asking what she did. So, without further adieu, here’s how you can make communion bread, from start to finish, in about an hour:

Fr. Matthew’s Prosfora Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5C all purpose flour
  • 1/2tsp dry active yeast
  • 1TB coarse kosher salt
  • 1C warm water (about 95 degrees) of which you shouldn’t use entirely

Method

  1. Add flour into a mixing bowl
  2. Add salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl and mix each of them into the flour a little with your finger so they don’t touch
  3. Add less than the 1C of warm water.
    1. It’s important to note here that the key here is as little hydration as possible. I find 3/4C works really well, but you could start with a 1/2C and go from there.
    2. This is just filler text because I was taught in grade school I needed at least 2 points in sub points.
  4. Use your dough hook attachment and let the mixer run on its lowest speed for 10-12 minutes.
    1. Yes, 10-12 minutes. The more you knead dough the smaller the air holes get. When I’m making baguette dough I’ll mix for maybe 3 minutes maximum so when I bake it I’ll get those big air pockets.
    2. If the dough is real chunky and not coming together, and you see a lot of loose flour, add water by the tablespoon until it starts to come together. If the dough is really sticky and looks wet, you need to add 1 tablespoon of flour until it looks to dry up a little
    3. The dough should be firm but supple.
  5. Dump the dough on a lightly-floured surface, cutting the dough into whatever weight you want.
    1. If you have a standard 6″ seal you can get away with cutting the dough in about half. We have an 8″ seal so we use the entire loaf.
    2. See 3.2
  6. Roll the dough into a ball. If you’ve never done this you can watch this video, which is rolling dinner roll dough but similar in application.
  7. Let the dough sit for 30 minutes to rise.
    1. Sit it on the oven top while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Place a damp towel over the loaf so the skin doesn’t dry out.
  8. Seal the bread. Push on it with everything you’ve got!
  9. Take a toothpick and poke holes on each corner of the respective images; so around the 9 triangles, around all 3 of the lambs, etc. You can also poke holes all around the outside of the seal, too.
  10. Let the bread sit another 10 minutes or so.
  11. Bake @ 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Internal temperature should be around 200 degrees.

Besides the whole not having to wait around and do extra steps, I’ve found zero difference in sifting flour vs. the “everyone in the pool” method.

And that, my friends, is how it’s done. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

 

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In the 70’s there was a man named George Price, a man famous in the circle of theoretical biology, who wrote an equation to try and explain the biological drive of altruism. There had been one already written, and it explains that we love our neighbors because it helps to further our gene pool. According to scientists, the same thing that drives us to be nice can also be the same thing that would drive us to be totally cruel. In other words, there is no such thing as selfless altruism.

This drove George a little crazy. A materialist and devout atheist, reportedly selfish to the core, George immediately became a Christian and set himself to being altruistic without gain. He gave away all of his money, distributed keys to his flat so the homeless could come and go. He did everything he could to give to others, even to his own detriment! He lost his life, penniless, with few possessions, in an abandoned house.Continue reading

girl-table

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes necessity is the mother of building. When Pres. Jennifer was pregnant with Beatrice, we knew that the square-model dining room table wasn’t going to cut it for a family of five. We also always wanted to have a table that reflected our value of being able to entertain a large group of people over dinner. But what seminarian has two grand to drop on a big table? My dad is a very skilled craftsman and furniture refinisher, but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity during my formative years to learn about it. Naturally, I decided to build something.

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Yesterday we commemorated the beheading of St. John the Baptist, the patron of our parish. I’ve been preaching on St. John for the last two days and since today is called the apodosis, or leave-taking, or giving-back of the feast, I’d like to take some more time to preach about him.

John is the greatest of all our prophets, because he was sent by God to announce the coming of Christ. In the Gospels he says to ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’. He’s saying ‘Get ready, guys. Get yourselves in order because the Lord is coming’ and having people make confessions of their sins and receive baptism. It was of grave importance to him that everyone understood that they were soon to meet the Lord. And now, even as at that time, we 21st century Orthodox Christians, every Liturgy, will meet our Lord, mystically present in Eucharist, and it’s just as important to be prepared.

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In June of this year an ISIS jihadist converted to Christianity. His story goes that he was quite comfortable and willing and happy to be killing Christians and Muslims alike, until he began to have visions in his dreams of a man in a white robe telling the ISIS man that he was killing all of his children. Then, the next day, he was given a Bible from a Christian he was about to martyr, read it, and then, being disgusted by his actions, converted. This is exactly what St. Paul was doing, as he referenced himself in today’s epistle about Christ revealing himself. He was murdering and persecuting Christians, on behalf of Jewish leaders. He says that by the grace of God is he is what he is, and that grace working in him inspired him to work harder. St. Paul here was reconciled to Christ’s body through repentance and metanoia, a change of action, a change of mindset to bring about better behavior. We’ve talked a lot about forgiveness over the last few weeks, dealing with one another gently and always expecting best intentions, but today I want to talk about reconciliation. It’s different than forgiveness, because you can forgive someone, but you might never try to reconcile! And if St. Paul can do it, so can we! What do I mean by this?

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UnknownThe Gospel on Sunday was the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor. If you’re unfamiliar with the parable you can follow the link and read it. It’s pretty self-explanitory; if you’re not forgiving people then you shouldn’t expect to be forgiven by God in your own life. There’s no clever way to skirt around it. In order for us to receive forgiveness (and grace, and charity, and so on) in our lives is to in turn take those freely-given gifts and practice them towards others. As Christ says in the Gospel of Matthew when we do these things for others we are doing them to Christ.

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(07/05/2014)

Since I’ve been training to try a Strongman competition, but I’m also trying to lose some fat, I have to exercise self-control. I have to eat x amount of protein, fat and carbs. I have to follow particular exercising programs. When I wake up in the morning I eat a certain amount of protein, three hours later a little something else, something before I lift, while I lift, etcetera. I couldn’t do this all at once (I’m still not doing it all at once!) and so I started slow and have been gradually working my way up. I’ve seen the programs of Olympic athletes and their schedules and programs are insane!Continue reading

I’ve mentioned before that the Church, in her wisdom, will sometimes designate pApostleFedorZubovarticular Gospel and Epistle passages for feast day that are different than what they may usually be (like, for example, if the Transfiguration falls on a Sunday). You may have noticed that since Pascha we haven’t been reading Epistles but the Acts of the Apostles. This book tells the story of the early Christian Church, especially about the ministries of the Twelve and St. Paul’s conversion and work. In the Paschal season we’re reminded in these readings the missionary efforts, the great work, and unflinching faith of the Apostles, a small, fledgling group of men and women dedicated to the Glory of Christ. This month will be my twelfth month here at St. John; I think we’ve accomplished a lot! And as we continue moving forward we’re excited wondering what else we can do. Where can we go over the next three, five, ten years? What are our values here at St. John the Baptist? We can use the Apostles very example to shape our own mission and vision for this parish community. These are the acts that built the Christian Church!

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I’m sitting on a load of backlogged draft posts. At least we’re still in the Paschal Season! – +FM

Christ is Risen!

We’ve made it through our first Holy Week together, and it was such a beautiful time! What was especially beautiful was that we had Bill back with us for the week, with his trusty sidekick Bryce, the seminarian, and the chanting was on point. It was very good, and we were blessed to have a seminarian come down so we could hear these wonderful, theologically-rich hymns both in English and Greek. Bryce is a cool dude, guys. He was a junior when I was a senior, so I honestly spent no time with him. It was fantastic to get to know him, and I’m glad that my parish got to know him, too!

Not only was this our first Holy Week together at St. John it was plain my first Holy Week as a priest. I learned so much this week; and now I have a better idea of what works and doesn’t work, what I’d like to do differently. It was especially humbling that so many priests, amidst their own busy-ness of the week took time to talk (or very late-night texting) with me about things that aren’t really covered in the books, things to think about. And my parish! What a blessing it was for me to be in this community, to sing and worship with them, to anoint them and bless them. We can have this beauty all year round! We can have the beauty of Orthros and Vespers and anointing whenever we want!

Dear ones, enjoy your Paschal season. Christ is Risen!

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How many of you here are familiar with the show Undercover Boss? I admit, it was a guilty pleasure of mine. For the uninitiated: Undercover Boss is a show where CEOs of companies such as 7-11 and Roto-Rooter completely change their appearance (with hair dye, a dashing beard, or temporary tattoos) and, under the guise of a trainee, interact with the hourly workers who keep their corporate machine running. There they hear the struggles and hopes of their workers all while participating, some who are living in homeless shelters, who can’t afford to pay for babysitters and college so they can rise up. After prodding they often say things like ‘if our CEO was here I’d say x’. At the end of every show there are three or four people who get called to the corporate headquarters, where the company bestows on them a gift of some sort; a scholarship, luxurious vacation, franchise opportunities, and in one case, $250k to get a family out of a homeless shelter and into a house! Pretty fantastic, yeah? But what if one of these folks who got a huge college scholarship decided a few days later that though the scholarship would help eventually, really a large cash donation would have been better, and that person became embittered and angry? Kind of crazy, isn’t it? Continue reading