Making Prosphora Bread

The information below can be used for making regular bread for yourself (don’t forget to add some salt) or Prosphora Bread for the Church (without salt). In this case, Holy Water and Artos are needed, as well as your prayers.

Ingredients for one loaf of Prosphora Bread (most likely, you will not be asked to bake just one bread, but the measuring of water and flour is helpful). A cup with clearly marked units is important for measuring liquids.

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup & 33 ml. lukewarm water
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • a few drops of Holy water
  • one pinch Artos from Pascha

Ingredients for two loaves of Prosphora Bread

  • 6 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 2 cups & 66 ml. lukewarm water
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • a few drops of Holy Water
  • one pinch Artos from Pascha

Ingredients for three loaves of Prosphora Bread

  • 9 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 package yeast
  • 3 cups & 100 ml. lukewarm water
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • a few drops of Holy Water
  • one pinch Artos from Pascha

Ingredients for four loaves of Prosphora Bread

  • 12 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 4 cups & 130 ml. lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp Holy Water
  • one pinch Artos from Pascha

Ingredients for five loaves of Prosphora Bread

  • 15 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 5 cups & 165 ml. lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp Holy Water
  • one pinch Artos from Pascha

Ingredients for seven loaves of Prosphora Bread

  • 21 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ packages yeast
  • 8 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp Holy Water
  • one pinch Artos from Pascha

How to begin

In a large bowl, stir 15 cups of flour. Use a wooden spoon to form a well.

Sprinkle dry yeast granules into a small glass bowl containing 1/3 cup of lukewarm water and 1 tsp sugar; let it dissolve for 5 minutes. Granules will float on the surface and then sink. Once the yeast has dissolved, stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. The yeast mixture is now ready to be added to the flour.

To make sure you have lukewarm water, use a thermometer. The ideal temperature for preparing yeast is 98.6 F. Another method for achieving this is to mix two-thirds cold tap water with one-third boiling water. Lukewarm water should be comfortable to the touch, not too hot, but not cool. If the water is hot, the yeast is killed, if it’s too cool, its growth is inhibited.

Add the dissolved yeast, ½ tsp Holy Water and one pinch Artos. Using a wooden spoon, draw in the flour from the sides of the bowl, a little at a time, to combine with the dissolved yeast in the well. Gradually pour in the rest of the lukewarm water while mixing in the flour from the sides of the bowl. As the water is added, the texture of the combined ingredients will change from a crumbly mixture to a shaggy, slightly sticky mass that will begin to come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. The dough should remain soft and not too dry before it is transferred to a floured surface to knead. If you find necessary, add more water 1tbsp at a time to achieve the right consistency.

Kneading

Kneading performs a crucial function in preparing the dough to rise. First, it completes the mixing process by distributing the activated yeast throughout the dough. Continued kneading then allows the flour’s proteins to develop into gluten, which gives the ability to stretch and expand.

  1. Shape the dough by folding one half over the other, bringing the top half toward you. Keep a little additional flour on the side to lightly dust the dough as you knead. Use this extra flour sparingly.

  2. Use the heel of your working hand to gently push the dough away from you. At the same time, use your other hand to rotate the dough slightly toward you, guiding the dough slowly around in a circle.

  3. Repeat these kneading actions, gently folding, pushing, and rotating the dough continuously for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until the dough achieves a firm touch, a silky smooth surface, and an elastic texture. Take time to work the dough slowly and firmly, but do not use excessive force. The dough will gradually become more elastic and easier to knead. Shape the dough into a ball for rising. Place the kneaded dough in a bowl (glass and ceramic are better, but avoid metal containers since they can conduct heat, causing the dough to rise to quickly). Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let it rise in a cool to normal, draft-free room.

Prayer while kneading

“Dear Lord, this bread that we have baked represent each one of us in this family and in our congregation. We are offering ourselves to You, our very life, in humble obedience and total commitment to You. We place ourselves on Your holy altar through this bread to be used by You in any way that You feel will help enlarge Your kingdom. Accept our gift and make us worthy to receive the greater gift that You will give us when You consecrate this bread and give it back to us as Your Precious Body. Amen.”

The speed of rising depends on certain factors, such as temperature and humidity, as well as on the integral elements of a recipe. On a warm, humid day, dough should rise more quickly than on a cold, dry one.

Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size. For most dough, this will take 1-2 hours. Do not allow the dough to over-rise. Check the dough after one hour. To ensure that rising is complete, test the dough by gently pressing with a fingertip. When rising is complete, the indentation made will spring back gradually. If the dough is under-risen, the indentation will spring back at once. If the dough is over-risen, the finger will create a permanent mark that will not spring back at all.

Punching down and chafing

Once the dough has risen completely, punch down or deflate the dough by pressing down with your knuckles. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface.

Form the dough into a ball by cupping your hands gently around it. Apply a light downward pressure to the sides, while simultaneously rotating the dough continuously in a steady clockwise motion. This action is called chafing. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes.

If you are making 2 breads, cut the dough in two equal pieces, and so on if you are making more breads.

Shape each piece of dough into a round loaf. Handle the dough gently and avoid over-shaping or excessive reshaping. Apply pressure evenly and allow the dough to rest if it begins to resist or tighten. Gently press your fingers into the base of the rounded dough while holding it with both hands, as you would the steering wheel of a car. Rotate the dough between your cupped hands. As the dough is turned, exert light pressure with the tips of your fingers, while tucking the sides of the dough under what will become the base of the loaf.

When the dough becomes smooth and rounded, place the base of the loaf face down on a lightly floured work surface. Cup both hands around the dough and rotate it continuously in a steady clockwise motion until a smooth, evenly shaped round is formed. Turn the dough over so that the base is now facing upward and pinch the seam, or “key,” together. Place the loaf “key” side down in the prepared pan (sprinkle the pan with a little bit of flour to ensure that the bread will not stick to the bottom of your pan while it’s baking, and dust away the excess flour after the baking is complete and the bread is cooled).

Proofing

Proofing is referred to as the final rise. Shaped dough is left to rise until doubled in size in the prepared pan just before baking. Cover the pans with dish towels so that you can have a smooth surface for sealing, instead of a dry, crusty one. Let the dough proof for 25-30 minutes. Preheat the oven at 375 F halfway through the proofing time.

Flour the seal (especially its sides), kiss the edge of the seal, make the sign of the cross over the dough with it, saying “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Press seal with light pressure into dough, while praying: “ O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.”

Remove the seal slowly. Repeat with the remaining breads. Don’t forget to pray each time.

Use a tooth pick to poke a hole at each of the four corners of the lamb (the center square of the seal on the loaf). Also, poke outside areas of seal in four places around the seal.

Note: Some people, seal the dough before the proofing time. I personally prefer to do it after the proofing is complete. There are some reasons for doing that, and one of them is that sealing the dough after proofing ensure that under the center square there are no bubbles. They might be a problem when the bread is cut. To make sure that I don’t have a very dry surface for sealing, after I shape the dough and leave it in the pans, I gently press down the dough and cover the pans with a lightly wet dish towel. The reason for pressing down the dough at this point is to make sure that the dough would not stick to the damp dish towel. I always check the dough when doing that and have never had a problem with it. After proofing, I dust the seal, especially its sides and use a little flour for the dough’s surface as well. The seal in the bread looks very clear.

If you want to bake all five breads at once in the same oven, place the three on the top rack of the oven, and the remaining two on the lower rack. After 25 minutes, switch the positions of the breads (put the top three on the lower rack and the other two on top) and bake for 15 more minutes, for a total of 40 minutes. Always make the switch as fast as possible so that the oven does not loose heat.

It you want to bake three breads at first, allow the two remaining pieces of dough to rest a little more before beginning shaping them into loaves. Don’t forget to cover them to prevent forming the crust. When the first three breads are in the oven, begin working with the remaining two. Bake at 375 F for 35 minutes.

If you have two ovens, work with all five at once.

As you are putting the breads in the oven, pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Brush off excess flour after baking and let the bread cool on a wire rack. Cooling baked bread on a wire rack prevents the bottom crust from becoming damp and soggy. Don’t put the bread into plastic zip lock bags while it’s still warm, only after it cooled down completely.

Undercooking bread is a common mistake of the novice baker. Bread is indigestible when it has been undercooked, so it is important to test for doneness. A well-baked bread should be golden brown, not too pale or too dark in color. The texture and feel of the bread should be firm to the touch without seeming hard.

Normally, every Sunday, 5 fresh baked breads are needed.

Emilia C. Florea