Recently I posted an open letter to prosphora bakers, asking for their help in uncovering some of the secrets of making the perfect loaf of bread for church. The discussion ran from the original post, to a stream of comments on Facebook, to a final landing place of photos on my own Facebook page. All of this was amidst a whole day of trial baking–nine loaves in all–four batches of bread–and the hopes that I might continue my learning and better my baking.
And I think what I learned most didn’t have to do with baking at all. It’s what I already knew–what I’ll always know. This kind of work, this kind of act–something destined not only for myself, but for others too, is ALL a gift. The mixing, the kneading, the prayers, the way the house fills with smells from the oven, the way the bread travels with me, from my home, to the church, to the altar… Christ makes his home in that bread, just as he makes his home in our hearts–and that eucharistic bread is changed for us–a holy gift to us, reaching from mouth, to stomach, to our hearts.
All gift. So who cares if a few of the loaves split on the sides? Who cares if a few even split across the top? Three good ones, that’s all Father Nicholas really needs, and the rest, if it comes out well, is simply bonus bread.
All gift. If you bake prosphora, I encourage you to enjoy each and every moment of that process. If a loaf or two come out lame, God doesn’t care, and chances are, your priest won’t either. You offer what you can and leave it at that–proceed from the kitchen to then love those around you, and leave a little more learning for the next time.
(And by the way, the batch I made with using only a sourdough starter, instead of a commercial yeast, came out the best. I’ll be fiddling more with that in the future.)
Cheers, my friends…