Monday, February 23, 2009

Baking prosphora

I found the following on another blog and thought some of you might find it helpful. It is one of the best descriptions on baking Prosphora I have read. At the end of this article is a link to the author's blog. Check it out for picture and more. You might follow her blog. It is well worth reading on a regular basis. I followed her instruction the last time I baked. Did not look as good as hers, but far better than usual.

Baking Prosphora {Athonite Style}

Today I made prosphora and I decided to post how we do it here at the monastery. It's very different from the typical phrosphora used in most churches. This is the way they make it on the Holy Mountain and in other Athonite monasteries. The texture of this type of dough is very different from regular dough and usually has a sourdough sort of taste to it.

We use something called "prozimi" instead of yeast to make the bread rise. Prozimi itself is a miracle. On either September 14 (Exaltation of the Precious Cross) or on Holy Friday a bowl containing only water and flour is taken into the altar during the Gospel reading. The priest then blesses it. Afterwards our Gerondissa takes it into the kitchen and places it in the oven (the oven is not on) and leaves it there overnight. The next morning the bowl is overflowing with this "yeast". It is then separated and refrigerated in airtight containers and is used each time prosphoro is made. Every time you make a new batch of dough you tear a small piece off and set aside for next time.

What you'll need:

7 cups warm water
5 lb. bag unbleached flour
3 cups Semolina
1 1/2 tsp. salt
prosphoro seal (often we use 2 different ones at the monastery)
beeswax candle
6 in. pans
icon/holy relics
CD (or someone reading) the Akathist Hymn
heavy blankets
plastic bag
2 white sheets
*It's important to keep these items clean and only use them for prosphora or artoklasia. Someone should be reading the Akathist hymn (I listen to the CD and pray the Jesus prayer)

On the night before you plan to bake your prosphora you prepare the prozimi. {I also like to thimiasi (cense or bless) the house when I do this and also on the following morning before I begin.}

To begin, you'll put 7 cups of warm water in a pot. Place the pot on the stove until the water is almost hot. Add your prozimi and and mix very quickly to help it dissolve. Add approximately 2 lbs. of unbleached flour (I use King Arthur or Arrowhead Mills brand) Mix it thoroughly, place lid on top of pot and place in a thick, plastic bag. Tie bag and cover with a heavy blanket. Place in a warm room overnight. I usually place an icon or relics on top.

You'll want to lay out a blanket and a (clean, obviously) garbage bag on the surface where your dough will rise. I also keep a space heater in the room to really heat the room up. You'll need another garbage bag and heavy blanket to cover it. This dough needs a lot of heat to rise.

Next you'll measure approximately 8 cups of flour in a large bowl. Add 3 cups of Semolina, 1 1/2 tsp. salt. Then add your prozimi.

Knead the dough until completely mixed. Dough needs to be very stiff; it usually turns my knuckles red from the kneading and it's consistency. If it's too soft, add 1/2 cup of flour at a time.

Lay a plain white sheet on the table and have one ready to cover your dough once it's ready.

Separate into 11 parts. You'll need 2 parts per prosphoro (5 of them) plus a piece to save for prozimi. You want a flat, smooth surface to roll on. I use my glass table. You also want to make sure there is no flour around to leave indentations on the dough.

Roll long wise and then shape into a pyramid shape, tucking all the creases at the bottom of each piece. Make sure there aren't a lot of creases or cracks on the top. Place each piece on your sheet and cover. This prevents it from drying out too much and cracking.

Next, you'll prepare your pans. I use 5 6-inch Wilton pans. (These pans should only be used for baking prosphora or artoklasia.) You heat your pan in the oven (pre-heated to 350 degrees) and then take the bottom of your beeswax candle and coat the inside of the pan. This is done because no oil should be used in prosphora. Then set them aside.

Remove each piece and place one on top of the other.

"Bottom" sides with creases should be facing eachother. Now each loaf should look as perfect as possible with no cracks showing (as you can see I'm still working on perfecting mine), the dough will almost shine. Place in pan and press seal down. BE CAREFUL! You should press the seal down from the sides not the center. Push down until you can't anymore, wait a second and then quickly "pop" off. This type of dough is so stiff that it often makes a "popping" sound.

You want the seal to be very distinct so it doesn't disappear when the dough rises. Next take a toothpick and poke the top of the dough (not too close to the seal) in the shape of a cross.

After you seal and poke them all, take them to the place where you prepared the blankets.

Put them down and cover with the bag and blanket. Place your icon or holy relics on top and let rise for 2-4 hours, check them periodically.

Place your new prozimi in your container and let it rise as well. After they're done rising, place them in your preheated oven. Let bake for 45-50 minutes. Once slightly golden, remove from oven and let cool. Sometimes I will slightly dampen a sponge and rub them with it to make them a little shiny.

Clean your seals very good. Scratch off any dough that may have adhered to it when stamping. It's best not to get your seal wet, put a tiny bit of water on your finger if necessary.

It is customary to include a list of names, both living and asleep, to give to the priest with the prosphora.

The antidoron (literally meaning instead of the gift) that we recieve at the end of the Divine Liturgy symbolizes the Theotokos because it is from her that we take Christ (the center piece). The unused portion is considered to be her womb.

For the complete article, visit her site. You will also find several other great articles worth the time of reading. You will find it at:


::Sylvia:: said...

Hi there! I'm humbled that you enjoyed this post and wanted to share it but all content (posts & photos) from my blog are copyrighted. I don't mind you posting a link or a photo or two but I do not want my whole posts copied, especially ones with my children's photos.

I apologize and hope you understand but would appreciate you removing this post.

In Christ,

Adventures of an Orthodox Mom

::Sylvia:: said...

I hope I'm not offending you by asking you to remove this post. You may post a portion of it and link back to my post for the remaining portion. I do want this information shared with our Orthodox brethren.

You have a wonderful blog here! Please forgive me if I've offended you in any way. That is not my intention at all. I just get nervous when my posts, mostly photos (especially of my children) are posted in other places. I truly hope you understand. :)

Very Rev. Dr. Theodosius Walker said...

How's that now Sylvia? I did mean what I just wrote at the beginning of the re-posting. Any time you want to bake for my parish, you are invited.

Very Rev. Dr. Theodosius Walker said...

Readers, you have have to try this also. Sylvia, you need to be closer to our parish. I tried them and they were great with my mother's homemade soup.

::Sylvia:: said...

Ok, Fr. now you're not going to get rid of me. Please repost a few pictures of the prosphora. This post is not nearly as pretty anymore. :)

And you never know, you may just receive a package of prosphora from down South. :)

Please remember my family in your prayers..

Very Rev. Dr. Theodosius Walker said...

Thank you. If you ever want to post directly to our parish blog, let me know. I will give you access without any limitations. I like and enjoy what you write.

Let me know the names, if you wish, (email me privately) and all will be remembered at all our services. Otherwise, we will pray for Sylvia and her family. God does know the names.

I will put some pictures back. Which ones would you suggest?

::Sylvia:: said...

Oh whichever you like maybe the one on top and one other? You choose. :)

What email can I send the names to?
I am humbled by your offer to post on your parish blog. If there is ever anything you would like me to try and address, please let me know. You can email me anytime at OrthodoxMama{at}gmail{dot}com!

Very Rev. Dr. Theodosius Walker said...

Sylvia let know if the changes I made were alright. I'm happy to make more if you want.

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