While 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
- 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
- Add flour into a mixing bowl
- 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
- Add less than the 1C of warm water.
- 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.
- This is just filler text because I was taught in grade school I needed at least 2 points in sub points.
- Use your dough hook attachment and let the mixer run on its lowest speed for 10-12 minutes.
- 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.
- 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
- The dough should be firm but supple.
- Dump the dough on a lightly-floured surface, cutting the dough into whatever weight you want.
- 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.
- See 3.2
- 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.
- Let the dough sit for 30 minutes to rise.
- Sit it on the oven top while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place a damp towel over the loaf so the skin doesn’t dry out.
- Seal the bread. Push on it with everything you’ve got!
- 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.
- Let the bread sit another 10 minutes or so.
- 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.