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Author Topic: Help with baking Prosphora  (Read 1969 times) Average Rating: 0
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LizaSymonenko
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« on: September 02, 2012, 08:50:26 PM »


Hi all!

I've been to this site and gotten a basic recipe:  http://www.prosphora.org/

Our church would use something similar to the "Russian" recipe.  We have small prosphori that are used during the Proskomedia, and then handed out to the faithful after Divine Liturgy...with the little bits taken out.

There's also the antidoron....not to mention the Lamb.

So, here's my situation.

My pastor will be away for a couple of weeks at the end of the month for a family wedding.  We will have a visiting priest.  My parish priest always bakes his own prosphora.  However, he won't have the time to bake enough before he leaves, and the visiting priest will be staying in a hotel, ergo no oven.

Therefore, I have been approached to bake the prosphori for those two Sundays.  I might perhaps involve the church children so they see how it is done.

Problem is....I don't know how it is done!  Wink  Never seen it done. 

So, I know enough to realize this is a completely holy procedure and not to be taken lightly.  People were telling me I was stupid for accepting this "challenge"....while I saw it as a complete honor to "make" something that would be used in the Liturgy.  I'm just silly that way.

I plan to buy hair nets for all the kids...no matter how funny they look, I'll get a new clean bowl, bottled spring water, etc.  Pray before hand, etc.

However, I would totally appreciate any and all advice and suggestions....since, as I said, I've never done this before.

I will be baking in the church kitchen, which has an industrial quality convection oven. 

I need help with:
Is the recipe on that site above, a good one?
Should I put a pan of water in the oven to keep the humidity at the correct level?
Are there any particular prayers that should be read?  I was thinking the Lord's Prayer, but, am willing to pray more if necessary. 
I think I can figure out the two level round prosphori with the stamp, but, what about the bread for the Lamb?  I have NO idea what it should look like.  I have never had the honor to be an altar boy, and have only seen the Lamb after it's in pieces in the Chalice. 

Any and all advice will be gratefully accepted.

Thanks!!!

I have a couple of weeks to go, so, maybe I will practice at home.  Smiley

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« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2012, 09:20:30 PM »

I bake prosphora for our parish... but I've been a breadmaker for more than 20 yrs.  It is still intimidating to make bread for the Eucharist.  I always end up with a few lopsided loaves.   Do you make your own bread?

If not, I would strongly recommend that you help your priest make prosphora at least once before you try to do it yourself.  You should use his recipe.  Ask him if you can make a few "practice" loaves - you don't have to shape them into prosphora-  just to see how they turn out.  I would also recommend Laurel's Bread Book.  It is *the* best book on breadmaking.  The chapter on making it by hand is classic - you won't need all the recipes...just the instructions - so buy it cheap.  

Really, it's not much harder to make than a regular loaf, except that it is shaped differently.  

I don't use warm water to keep the humidity... usually you use water/steam for chewy breads like French bread or bagettes, not for something like prosphora.

My recipes is a mixture of one from prosphora.org and one from a prosphora baker at my parish.  We make the big loaves (Greek Style??) and I make 4 at a time.  I do'nt know that it will help you much.  Again, ask your priest for his recipe.

« Last Edit: September 02, 2012, 09:24:25 PM by PrincessMommy » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2012, 09:23:10 PM »

oh the prayer I read is:

O Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who has said with Thy most pure lips: Without Me you can do nothing.  O Lord, my Lord, with faith I accept your words; help me a sinner, to prepare the Bread of Offering, that the works of my hands may be acceptable at Thy Holy Table and may become through the operation of Thy Holy Spirit the communion of Thy Most Pure Body for me and for all Thy people.  In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen. 

I'm pretty sure I got it from that website because the person who taught me never said anything about praying before making prosphora.
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« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2012, 01:01:02 AM »

My paternal forebears were, in the main, breadbakers by trade for generations. A grandmother was also a champion baker and cook.

Tip 1: Use the higher-gluten breadmaker's flour (also known as "strong" flour), not the general purpose flour used in baking and cooking.

Tip 2: The best place to let dough rise (both the first and second rise) is in the car on a mild-to-warm day. The gentle, even heat is perfect for raising yeast dough.

Tip 3: To ensure that the stamped dough retains the imprint after rising and baking, knead extra flour into the dough which will be used for the top section of the prospori. This will "stiffen" the dough.

Tip 4: After the second rise and before baking, prick the prosphori with a fine skewer in four places all the way through around the top layer. This will help the loaves to rise evenly, with less skewing.

More tips: (from the abovementioned grandmother) No jumping or running, no slamming doors, no banging oven doors, no swings in temperature. Pray any prayers you wish while you work. Make the sign of the cross over the ingredients before starting, and again as you put the prosphori in the oven. Use a little holy water in the water to be used to mix the dough.

Above all, make them with love (which won't be difficult for you, Liza!).  Smiley Smiley

I'm struck by the difference in the prosphori baked by two people I know. One, a humble, quiet, saintly woman who, despite her age, still does so much for her parish, makes the most wonderful prosphori. Even when they have dried out, they are still edible. Leave a dry piece in your mouth for a minute, and it crumbles easily. The other, someone who on the face of it is friendly and pleasant, but who has a definite dark side which has upset many people, and driven some away from that parish, makes prospori which are OK when fresh, but become rock-hard and flinty once dried out. Even soaking in water won't soften them.

« Last Edit: September 03, 2012, 01:05:26 AM by LBK » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2012, 03:23:10 AM »

EDIT
I was going to provide a link to videos on Prosfora making until I saw that those videos were already in the link that you provided.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2012, 03:26:05 AM by Cantor Krishnich » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2012, 11:06:25 AM »

I used to let the dough rise twice.  However, my current Priest (Serbian) does not let the dough rise.  He just mixes everything up (after letting the yeast foam) and then puts it in the oven, where it rises while baking.  I have made it both ways, and have gone over to making it his way.  BTW - the Serbian parish where I attend uses the single loaf like the Greeks. 

I never had a problem with the imprint staying sharp using the above method.  But then again, I make a pretty dry dough anyway.
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« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2012, 12:20:02 PM »

Thanks for all these tips.

I gave up long ago - my attempts were excellent for paving stone use, maybe.
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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2012, 03:38:08 PM »

I used to let the dough rise twice.  However, my current Priest (Serbian) does not let the dough rise.  He just mixes everything up (after letting the yeast foam) and then puts it in the oven, where it rises while baking.  I have made it both ways, and have gone over to making it his way.  BTW - the Serbian parish where I attend uses the single loaf like the Greeks. 

I never had a problem with the imprint staying sharp using the above method.  But then again, I make a pretty dry dough anyway.

letting the dough rise makes a softer bread (it's essential when making ww bread, which is  what I used to do)... it also aids in preservation (IIRC) and of course, that isn't an issue with Prosphora.   It's also nice if you don't have enough oven space and you're making a large batch.  You cook some up with one rise and let the others get a 2nd rise.   Grin

I only do one rise with my prosphora too.
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2012, 03:39:33 PM »

I used to let the dough rise twice.  However, my current Priest (Serbian) does not let the dough rise.  He just mixes everything up (after letting the yeast foam) and then puts it in the oven, where it rises while baking.  I have made it both ways, and have gone over to making it his way.  BTW - the Serbian parish where I attend uses the single loaf like the Greeks. 

I never had a problem with the imprint staying sharp using the above method.  But then again, I make a pretty dry dough anyway.

I'm going to have to give this a try when I make prosphora this week.  Having the imprint disappear as the bread rises is a constant issue for me.
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« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2012, 11:02:50 PM »

Here, "an old, respectful widow":
http://fotosentimente.blogspot.com/2011/11/viata-satului-romanesc-painea-de-la.html
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« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2012, 07:50:59 PM »

I made prosphora this week and wanted to update some minor thoughts I had.

One is I use King Arthur Bread Flour and I've been very happy with the results.  Bread flour has more gluten than reg. white flour... this make better breads.  Also, having good yeast is a MUST.  I like SAF yeast.  It's expensive, but it's really good and I've never gotten a bad batch.  I know others who swear by the store bought stuff (they come in little packets), so everyone will have an opinion about it.  If you use the store bought stuff, just buy a little extra and proof it first.  If the first one doesn't work, try the next packet.

edited to add:  I forgot to mention.  I tried adding extra flour to the top part before stamping per LBK's suggestions.  It didn't make a difference.  Undecided  The stamp originally comes out nice but flattens out as the bread rises.  You can make out a bit of it, but it's certainly not obvious.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2012, 07:53:22 PM by PrincessMommy » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2012, 08:06:42 PM »

Quote
I tried adding extra flour to the top part before stamping per LBK's suggestions.  It didn't make a difference.  Undecided  The stamp originally comes out nice but flattens out as the bread rises.

You'll need to add quite a bit of flour to make the dough reasonably stiff, and, when using the stamp, press it down all the way, hold it for a few seconds, then remove it. And make sure the stamp is well-dusted with flour to prevent sticking. The flour from the stamp will also help to stabilize the imprint in the dough.
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« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2012, 08:11:24 PM »

Quote
I tried adding extra flour to the top part before stamping per LBK's suggestions.  It didn't make a difference.  Undecided  The stamp originally comes out nice but flattens out as the bread rises.

You'll need to add quite a bit of flour to make the dough reasonably stiff, and, when using the stamp, press it down all the way, hold it for a few seconds, then remove it. And make sure the stamp is well-dusted with flour to prevent sticking. The flour from the stamp will also help to stabilize the imprint in the dough.

yes, I may not have added enough flour to the top layer.  In regular bread baking this can mean the difference between a bread and a brick  laugh.  I'm always a bit wary of adding too much.  I usually hold down the stamp and say the Jesus prayer one time through.  Then I leave the stamp on it while I make up the next loaf.  I almost never have a problem with the stamp coming off or with have a beautiful looking imprint... it just doesn't stay that way.  When I was taught they told me not to put flour on the stamp as that would impede the imprint.  I think I'll try your way next time though  Grin

Thanks.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2012, 08:11:48 PM by PrincessMommy » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2012, 09:39:10 PM »

I started baking prosphora less than 6 months I learned how to make bread.  But I practiced and practiced.  I still don't get everything perfect, sometimes I'd have to re-do a batch because they don't come out right.

Lopsided prosphora is a result of not proper rolling.  get them as flat and as level as possible.  Also form the prosphora soon afterwards and punch the holes in so the gas the yeast gives out escapes.  If it doesn't escape then they will be trapped, and there is no guarantee one side will have the same amount of gas as the other.  Also, flour as you work.  Uneven surfaces are also a result of mishandling of the shaped pieces.

Here's what I made for last year's Nativity Liturgy:

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