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.

 

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!

DSC05124

It’s been about four months since I published anything, and the last thing wasn’t even all that earth shattering. (Note: I did smash my tests, and again in December.) I wrote some sermons that I was going to put up but I haven’t gotten around to it, and now I may not. We’re waaaay past the Lukan account of Jesus healing the demonic, so it seems confusing. But there is so much to write about, so it’ll come up in time.

The unfortunate part of this is I have to write a junky post just to get my mind back into writing something for other people to see. So, I mean, you may not even bother reading.

So what’s been going on? Well, a lot for a new priest, though nothing most people would find edifying. (And for my parishioners, this is all old news!) We’re running a lot of services. I’m learning a lot, hanging out with my parishioners, hearing a lot of stories from local folk. I’m still lifting every week and bopping around the city, letting confused folks at the Wal-Mart “sneak” cell phone pictures of me. We’re going to keep bees this summer. Basically, I’m trying to experience some present tense. I have a solid core of brother priests to mentor me.

Since last I wrote we had an incredible bake sale and dinner at the Church in November which was a lot of fun. I met a ton of city folk and was able to give some Church tours / eat a ton of delicious baked goods. I told the ladies that I learned a great deal about Greek baking preparing for this sale. I don’t fear making baklava!

My first Christmas Liturgy went very well. Beautiful, really, being among my parish family. So did my first Vasilopeta cutting.

Last week I opened the State Senate in prayer, which was really awesome!

One thing I’m particularly blessed by is my daughter Adeline. Our chanter has been out sick and when I put out a call for people to help, she was the only person who said she’d try. Except for a couple parts, she’s really on point, and it takes me into Heaven when I hear her voice coming through the royal gate. It’s a rich, rich, blessing both as her priest and her father. It’s pretty infectious, really, as now Katherine and, to some degree, Beatrice, are chanting around the house.

And, that’s about it, really. I’m going to actually start writing more, because I have a lot of things I want to talk about that go beyond the time I get on Sundays.

 

This change was wrought by the right hand of the Most High! (c. Josh Cole)

As some of you know I was recently ordained to the diaconate then priesthood, and installed over the course of four days. It was a busy and beautiful time, one that I wasn’t fully able to process for several days after we moved into our house here in Chas. Part of the ordination in the Orthodox Church is a declaration from the ordinand, giving a bit of history on how he reached this point, showing a sincere understanding of the Task At Hand, and also giving thanks to God for the people in his life who have shaped him to be the man he is at that time. Since we had to time everything so quickly we weren’t able to have many of our loved ones present with us, and so they didn’t get to hear me say before my God, my Metropolitan, and the Church how much they changed my life leading up to the point of ordination. Well, loves, four months to the day, here’s to you; you’re an amazing bunch of God-kept people!

Note: Because I use some Greek words that may be unfamiliar I will use [editor’s brackets] and links if needed.Continue reading

It seems like since I’ve come to Charleston I’ve had so many amazing conversations with people about their experiences, or something they read, or something I preached on, that I always feel like there could be some follow up.  But honestly, I just have a ton of incredible people in my Parish that have already taught me quite a bit. I also enjoy writing about what’s going on in my life and the lives of my family.  Also, I just like to write.

Expect some of the following things on this blog:

  • Posts pertaining to the life or happenings at St. John Greek Orthodox Church
  • Posts pertaining to practical Orthodoxy. (Orthopeeps: I’m no Ochlophobist, Fr. Damick, or Fr. Freeman!)
  • Posts pertaining to my family – probably heavy on my adorable children.
  • Posts about my general life interests which is currently baking, gaming, listening to and collecting music, and training for Strongman (and to stay healthy!).
  • Some cute animal gifs. I love them, without shame or apology.

I’ve got a few ideas in the queue, but I’m not going to be hasty.

Dear ones, courage.