Sunday, November 30, 2008

Baking Church Bread (Again)

So one of the things I'd hoped to accomplish over this long weekend was to complete my assignment from the little prosphora-baking class a couple of weeks ago. That assignment was a 2-parter: to do this on my own (outside the watchful eye of the prosphora-matron of our church and her daugher who are our parish's resident experts), and also to try and get a decent looking seal on the bread.

In the middle of my Sunday afternoon nap, I awoke and realized that I hadn't yet done this, and that I probably wouldn't have time again until next weekend (if then, as weekends sometimes get away from us) so I got up and got to work.

The mixing was as easy at home as it seemed to be at the little tutorial, thanks to the dough hook on our mixer. The machine did the most laborious of the work, the kneading. Rolling out the loaves was a snap - the only challenge being to get pieces of the same size together.

We had a resin prosphora seal which has belonged to DearHusband since some year BC (before -C) and then last weekend a fellow-class participant gave me an extra wooden one that she had - we'd heard that wooden ones were best. The pattern on the seals is slightly different, but I decided that since the recipe makes 4 loaves, I'd stamp 2 loaves using each of the seals to see which one turned out better.

The loaves seem to have turned out OK! They're still hot, and I'm leaving them to cool now. But the imprints seemed to turn out about equally well on all of the loaves - and more importantly, the image is pretty clear on all of them. I just wasn't planting the seal deep enough the first time, I guess. ElderSon is the only member of the family who gets an up-close look at the prosphora each week, and it seemed to pass muster with him.

I found a great website with some helpful hints about baking church bread. I loved the following from his introduction:

A word to the beginner...
Baking is an art. That means, just because you followed the recipe doesn't mean the bread always comes out the way you intended. Just like singing or painting icons, it takes some practice and still there will be mistakes. Go easy on yourself as you learn. Don't pour holy water in the dough or make long prayers in front of your first loaf, since you will more than likely be feeding it to the birds or wishing you could put jam on it as you eat your mistakes. You are not in the 5th century, so you don't bake bread daily. If you do bake every day, then your prosphora probably comes out pretty reliable. For those of us in this century, it takes years to acquire the skill...and still we have problems. After all, yeast is a living creature. Most of all, enjoy learning! It is the Christian calling to grow in the life with God, and so try to grow as a baker and continue developing your skills all your life. Learn from your mistakes, glorify God for your successes and never cease to relish the feel of well-kneaded dough!


So, my class assignment is finished, except we will have to eat one of the loaves for supper tonight. (They might look OK, but who knows? They might be completely raw inside or something!) So tonight for supper - salmon, cauliflower and practice prosphora.

4 comments:

-C said...

A little coarse and a little dry, in my opinion.

Back to the drawing board ...

DebD said...

Oh your stamp looks lovely! Next time I'll leave my stamps in longer next time. I had to laugh about your son's helpfulness... I usually ask my son the same thing.

Mimi said...

I would love to bake Prosphora someday.

-C said...

Well, get going Mimi! I had to bug someone to teach me - and I still have some practicing to do, but it's a handy skill to have. What parish has too many bakers?

Deb - I read an interesting thing about the seal at that site I referenced. It said that the suction that is created when you pull the seal out of the dough is what brings the dough up completely into the pattern on the seal. I really sunk that seal in this time and had a bit of a time getting it out, but maybe that had something to do with it? I'm not sure.

Now I gotta try and find out if I used a bit too much flour or if I baked it a couple minutes too long. It was a little crusty on the bottom - but it tasted OK with the salmon for supper!