Recipe :: Prosphora

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After many batches of prosphora, some passable, and some not, after split tops, and broken seals, and a stubborn dedication to continue to improve, I am finally passing along this recipe in the wake of the horrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I’m not sure how else to respond, except to try to continue to commit to giving, to finding and creating beauty, and to pursuing love right here, where I am… And prosphoron is all about giving, beauty, and love. It’s about dying, and resurrection, too, and that’s the kind of light that is needed right now.

Please feel free to comment with your prosphora thoughts below. This recipe is a work in progress!

Time Commitment and (lots of) notes: I usually set aside about three hours to make two batches, which equals six loaves of 8-inch prosphora. I mix and mold and bake one batch right after the other, finding that it’s easier to handle two mixes of five cups of flour, as opposed to manhandling a big mix of ten cups of flour! That’s a lot of dough to knead at one time for a little person like me… I make six loaves of bread, instead of five, because I often have a loaf or two that turn out worse than the others. I take all the loaves to church and allow my priest to decide what to use. If all the loaves are passable then he simply freezes the extra loaf for back up.

Also, I typically put a bit of my sourdough starter in my prosphoron mix for added loveliness. Flavor, connection to my family, natural yeasties–they are all reasons to include some. I have a blessing from my priest to do this. My starter is only flour, water, and yeast–unlike some starters that may have fruit juice, honey, rye flour or other additives. Every now and then I bake the prosphora strictly with my starter, using no commercial yeast, but this takes about 20 hours of waiting so I have to be in a particularly patient and planning-ahead mood!

Oh, and I shape my loaves by hand instead of cutting them with a large round tin, or baking them in a baking pan. Though they can at times be a bit misshapen from my hand-molding, I prefer working with the dough this way. The key is learning how to shape the dough into a ball before flattening.

And another thing! This mix is fairly wet, because I don’t like a super dry crumb that makes a huge mess all over the church floor. Don’t be afraid of sticky-ish dough. Don’t add and add and add flour to a mix because it sticks to your hands. Practice will help show you how to adjust the ratio of flour to water–and it’s true that my five cups of flour to your five cups may absorb water at a different rate.

Tools you need:
  • 2 large mixing bowls (glass or ceramic) with cover
  • an oven :)
  • cloth for first and second risings
  • wooden spoon
  • prosphora stamp
  • optional–dough cutter

Ingredients: (Mix for ONE batch of prosphora–three loaves–about 8″ diameter each)

  • 5 cups all purpose flour (I use Trader Joe’s unbleached flour in the blue bag)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast (can use cake yeast, just need to double it)
  • 2 cups cool water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I like sea salt)
  • optional–1/4 cup sourdough starter
What to do:

Step One: Combine flour, salt and yeast (and starter) in a large glass or ceramic bowl–mix with wooden spoon. (Hang on! If you aren’t sure that your yeast is lively –for example, if you buy it in a packet from the grocers and don’t bake often–then proof the yeast by putting it in the mixing bowl first and add some water to it. Wait five minutes to make sure the yeast begins to bubble. If it doesn’t activate, then go find some live yeasties!) Add water. Stir until mix begins to come together. Turn out onto flat surface and knead by hand for ten minutes, or mix with dough hook in electric mixer. Pray while you knead! Say the Jesus Prayer to the rhythmic movements of hand kneading…

Step Two: Transfer dough to a clean, floured bowl. Allow to rise until doubled. Around 90 minutes. Go and hug your kids, or find some kids to hug!

Step Three: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Then divide dough equally into six pieces. Roll into balls (here is a video), then gently flatten tops and set aside for 10-15 minutes, covered by a cloth. This step is crucial, allowing the dough to relax before stamping. (If the dough is firm from just being worked, and you stamp it, it will rise right out of the stamp.)

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Step Four: Take two of the rounds, flatten them with your hand or lightly with a rolling pin, then glue them together with water. Wet the top of one piece and the bottom of another with drops of water, or a spray bottle, then flatten them together. Set aside and do the others until you have three, two-tiered rounds of dough ready to stamp. (Some priests will want these two-tiered loaves, and others won’t. Just ask what your priest prefers. I’ve found that the layering actually helps keep large air bubbles from occurring, and minimizes splitting…)

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Step Five: Flour the top of one of the rounds, press the stamp firmly into the dough. Pull the stamp up out of the dough slowly. Set aside, and stamp the other two rounds. Cover the three stamped dough rounds and allow to rise for another 10 or so minutes.

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Step Six: With a toothpick, skewer, or other pointed object, poke holes around the outside of the lamb (that’s the seal in the center of the stamp) in the form of a cross, then poke 8-12 holes around the outer edge of the seal to allow the steam to escape while baking. The holes help keep the loaves from splitting. Make sure you poke the holes clear through the dough.

Step Seven: Carefully transfer the dough to the oven. I bake them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes on a pizza stone in the middle of my oven, transferring them in and out with my hands and my dough cutter or my spatula. (I’ve baked them successfully on a cookie sheet.) Bake until just beginning to have a golden color.

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Step Eight: Allow to fully cool. Make sure you include your prayer list when you take your lovely offering to church. Many churches like you to put the prosphoron in a plastic bag to ensure moisture retention.

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Here are some additional websites to help you in your prosphoron baking!

  • Father George’s www.prosphora.org where you can find stamps and loads of information on baking prosphora.
  • A really cool baking pan with the stamp imprinted in it. Someday I might have to get me one of these!
  • A recipe by Peter Serko that includes lots of photos and good advice, plus some added links.

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And on her lips were prayers of all sorts: for the rain, and the sun, and the moon, and the wheat – and the bread that was to come.

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Winners–Basil and Woman and the Wheat

(A huge cooking and baking day today. Along with some students from my son’s high school, we’re making a meal for 60 to service the homeless in our area. Photos to come!)

And the winner of The Woman and the Wheat is:

 

Raja Marji

Thank you so much for the giveaways! How important it is to surround our children with Orthodox books! We already have the book, The Man and the Vine. We would love to have The Woman and the Wheat to add to our library… +God bless you!

 

And the winner of Basil’s Search for Miracles is:

bluecanopy

Our family would love either of these…thank you for doing this!

(Turns out, blue canopy is Sara. She sent Heather and I this message earlier today:)

Jane and Heather,

Thank you so much for your generosity.  My kids and I are so excited to win the copy of Basil’s Search for Miracles, especially my 7year old, BASIL!

We live in Southern California and have four children, Basil (7), Juliana (5), Simeon (3), Emelia (1).

Thank you for promoting and creating wonderful Orthodox literature,

Blessed Advent,
Sara

Last of all, don’t forget that both The Man and the Vine, and The Woman and the Wheat will be on sale from SVSPress ($15 each instead of $18 each) for three days, starting TOMORROW! (November 16-18th.)

Feel free to tell your friends.

Book Giveaways–The Woman and the Wheat (+ four more)

I’m so excited to be giving away another book! The Woman and the Wheat is my latest picture book released, and has received some very nice reviews. Here’s the page on my website that will tell you a bit more about the story. (Did you know my dad and brothers are actually professional bakers?!) And…you can hear a review of the book on Ancient Faith Radio, a place I go often for spiritual refreshment and learning…

This book giveaway is open for comments right now! All you have to do is leave a comment below to enter. If you’re in the mood, I’d love to hear (if you have a wee one in your life right now) what picture books you’re reading to your little ones at the moment as we tumble deeper into fall and head towards Advent. In our home, we are reading a lot of human body books, and several thick books on machines, too. Oh, and The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a present favorite. The Woman and the Wheat actually gets very high marks from my inventor-boy; he likes the page when the grain is being ground into flour the best… 🙂

So off to the miller did the wheat go next where a large stone wheel turned round and around. The wheel moved the stones and the stones ground the wheat as streams and puffs flowed into bags, and the wheat turned into flour…

I’ll close the comments for the giveaway at midnight, Sunday November 14th, and announce the winner on Monday, November 15th.

The Monster Bonus (don’t stop reading now!)

I’ve rounded up some of my writer friends to join in the book giveaway this week! I’m so excited. As I stated in my last post, I’m hoping that this Christmas many story books will end up wrapped and given to little ones as gifts. This is not about making money as writers–or about getting famous. You know this, right? As writers, we make just pennies from our work–we all engage in this as a ministry, not to make oodles of dollars and retire in the Bahamas! So, if you’re looking for gift ideas, start with a book that will enrich, inspire and encourage.

  • Heather Zydek, a mom of the cutest little girls, and a very vibrant, energetic woman and great writer, is giving away a copy of Basil’s Search for Miracles. Yay, for Heather! You can see more about Basil and read reviews of the book on the Amazon page. And to enter her drawing, just leave a comment below, here on my blog… It’s a two-for-one deal. If you leave a comment below, two people will be drawn as winners. One for my giveaway, and one for Heather’s! Double the fun.
  • Katherine Hyde is giving away one copy of Lucia, Saint of Light. What perfect timing. The name’s day for Santa Lucia is coming up on December 13th. I’ve worked alongside Katherine for many years now, and she is one of the most organized, talented editors I know. She’s also a very creative writer–and I’m sure we’ll see many more books by her in the future. Here’s my review of her book on Ancient Faith Radio.  Click here to visit her at her blog and enter your name in the Lucia, Saint of Light giveaway!

Lastly, don’t forget that both The Man and the Vine, and The Woman and the Wheat will be on sale from SVSPress ($15 each instead of $18 each) for three days, from Tuesday, November 16 through Thursday, November 18th. Tell your friends.

Sending you warm wishes…

jane

Farmer’s Market Fundraising

All week I’ve been baking and giving. Molasses bread, a new challa recipe with sesame and anise, sourdough… They’ve all turned out nicely, and I’ve given the extra loaves to good friends.

But one day of giving especially stands out for me–and I want to share it even though I TOOK NO PHOTOGRAPHS! It was so odd. I brought my camera, tucked it into the cutest little straw basket, but I was so caught up in the moment I forgot to be an observer, and instead was a happy, wandering, purchasing participant…

Our church decided to have a Farmer’s Market right after the service this last Sunday. People from the parish brought all sorts of garden goodies: lemons and limes, oranges, avocados, bags of lettuce, buckets of strawberries, guava, apples, tomatoes, zucchini, homemade granola and salsa… The list goes on, and all out of our own gardens and kitchens. So fun. Because our figs are not yet ripe, and our oranges aren’t terribly plentiful, and because my pomegranate tree is struggling (!!! such sadness) I decided to bake several loaves of bread and bring them to the table.

I started the bread the night before, (using the no-knead recipe, adding in some of my sour starter) mixing up two 1 lb loaves of sourdough, and one giant, 3 lb loaf. I rose early on Sunday and molded, then baked them off. Ooooohh, our car smelled so very yummy while driving to church.

All the money ($843!!!) from the sale went to the Pastor’s Fund, which our church uses to help send kids to camp, to use in emergencies, etc… The reaction from the church folk was crazy! Everyone was buying up the goods, talking about their gardens and trees. It was an ultimate Woman and the Wheat experience!

I hope I’ve inspired you to think about doing this in your own community. Folks are always looking for fundraisers that don’t hurt…

And today, after I ate some homemade granola, I pulled my camera out of my little straw basket

and shot a photo of some of the goodies we snatched up.

Next time I’m hoping I’ll remember to both shop, and shoot. We’ll see!

And the Winner is?…

Been baking up a storm. Scones to school. Bread to Cheryl. Bread to Cara…They all deserve more than what I could ever give…

But forget about the oven for a minute. It’s time to give away a copy of The Woman and the Wheat. Yippee!!! By the way, an awesome review on the book was posted to Ancient Faith Radio yesterday. The review made me cry–which makes me think Katherine Hyde, the reviewer, better keep on writing herself; she’s that persuasive!

Audio review of The Woman and the Wheat

I’m thrilled with this list of favorite children’s books. What a line up! There are several here that are completely new to me–and I have thousands on my shelves. I can’t wait to read each and every new one mentioned…

Favorites

The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M.T. Anderson and Bagram Ibatoulline

Fingal’s Quest by Madeleine A Polland

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Tales of the Kingdom by David R. Mains, Karen Burton Mains and Linda Lee Wells

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola

The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter and Tibor Gergely

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Olivia by Ian Falconer

If you give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace and Lois Lenski

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus and Jose Aruego

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and P. J. Lynch

The Abbot & I : as told by Josie the Cat by Sarah Elizabeth Cowie

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

From I-ville to You-ville by Mersine Vigopoulou, Emani Heers, and Fr. Peter Alban Heers

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

Make Way for Ducklings (and other books such as Lentil, and Homer Price) by Robert McCloskey

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

The Life of St. Brigid: Abbess of Kildare by Jane G Meyer 🙂 and Zachary Lynch

The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan

One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham

Books illustrated by Gennady Spirin

Books illustrated by Ruth Sanderson

The Weaving of a Dream by Marilee Heyer

The Ox Cart Man by Donald Hall

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan and Michael Wimmer

Go, Dogs, Go!, The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett

When Mama Comes Home Tonight by Eileen Spinelli and Jane Dyer

The Monk who Grew Prayer by Claire Brandenburg

The Man and the Vine by Jane G Meyer (another :))and Ned Gannon

Beatrix Potter books

Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gillman

Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch and Sheila McGraw

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

The Gruffalo and The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Celebrate the Earth and The Story of Mary by Dorrie Papademetriou

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney and Ann M. Martin

Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman and Ben Hatke

Hippos Go Berzerk by Sandra Boynton

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister Herbert and J. Alison James

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Tear Soup by Pat Schweibert, Chuck DeKlyen, and Taylor Bills

The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger

Christmas Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jane Dyer

The Golden Book of Poetry edited by Jane Werner

A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

And the winner is…

SAMANTHA STARR!

A high school friend from my Samohi days, whose favorite children’s book pick was Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Samantha, how fun!

Okay, off to the post office with the book. I wish you all a blessed and beautiful last Saturday before Christmas!

The Woman and the Wheat–a Gift

Having the time and space and energy to write has been a treasured gift.

One of the results is this children’s book, which I humbly offer back to you….

And speaking of gifts–it’d be fun to give one away! (This idea just popped into my mind and I’m going to go with it!)  Write a comment here on this blog post, listing one of your very favorite children’s books. I’ll gather all your names and do a drawing on the morning of Saturday, December 19th. That way I’ll still have time to mail it to you by Christmas Day–all wrapped so you can put it under your tree.

Sound fun? Giving is always fun. Plus, maybe we’ll end up with a great list of children’s books to share with each other!

Many blessings to you, my friends.