The Secrets of Step by Step Prosphora Making

A prosphora in the Church is the symbol of Christ. Each ingredient has its own meaning.

A prosphora consists of two parts, which symbolize two natures of Jesus Christ – the human one and the Divine one. At first, each part is prepared separately and then they are joined together. The round form of the prosphora is the sign of eternity and is a reminder that a human is created for eternity.

Flour, water and salt joined by fire symbolize that God united with us, He gives us assistance and support. What is more, it means that he fully accepted our nature. 

The secrets begin…

The best sorts of flour are used for making dough. Then leaven and salt are added in it and are mixed in with clean water.

However, not all flour is suited for this. If you hope to go to your local store and buy some, then you can condemn the whole process. This is why prosphora bakers work only with reliable suppliers, who understand the importance of flour quality.

Secret 1 – where to find suitable flour? If you do not have any suppliers, you can certainly buy it in any store. But how can we determine its quality while it is packed? The main principle is not to buy flour in a plastic package. Flour must be packed in a paper package because it should “breathe” so that no processes of self-warming can occur, which can cause a musty flavor.

Check the expiration date on the package. Old flour loses its friability and can contain little bugs. You should buy only fresh flour. Bring it home, open the package, smell and taste it. It should not be sour or bitter or have any foreign flavors. If you chew the flour it should not cause the feeling of sand on your teeth.

Secret 2 is water. The quality of the finished product depends much on the purity and taste of water. As we know, the taste of water differs in different places, which leads to the fact that the taste of prosphoras differs as well.

Secret 3 is the professionalism and coherence of prosphora bakers. A prosphora should look nice and have a golden crust, which saves moisture and protects the prosphora from drying.

The equipment for mixing and rolling dough can be used in a regular baking room. Besides, you can do everything by hand. It all depends on you necessities and opportunities.

An ancient recipe of prosphoras

We need to take 1.2kg of premium flour. Usually it is finely grounded powder, which has been passed through the smallest possible sieve.

Pour on the bottom of the vessel (earlier it was a wooden barrel, today it can be a steel saucepan) a bit of holy water and pour 400g of flour, adding boiling water and mixing everything until we get a smooth mass similiar to cooked semolina. Steaming makes the dough sweet and resistant to the effect of efflorescence.

When the dough is cooled off, we need to add salt diluted with holy water and put 25g of leaven in the dough. In 30 minutes, when the dough grows, we can add the rest 800g of powder and mix everything thoroughly again.

In about 30 minutes, the dough can be placed on a table and rolled until it become as thick as necessary. Rolling can be made either by hand using a heavy pin or with the help of special equipment. As a result, the dough should be smooth and should not be crumbly. The dough for the lower parts should by 18-20mm thick, while for the upper parts it should be 11-12mm. Of course, the dough for prosphoras used in church services will be much thicker.

After the dough is rolled, it should “rest” for a while. For this, it would be better to cover the dough with a buckram.

Backing using wax

The next step is cutting into round pieces. The lower parts are made bigger then the upper ones. The shape of the lower part is corrected by hand. Then it is covered with a thick cloth and a buckram and left like this for 30 minutes. Here, we should be attentive and see that the dough does not dry out. Otherwise, the prosphoras will lose their shape and taste.

The prepared lower parts of the prosphoras are laid on the backing pan, greased with natural wax. Wax has less fat then butter and it does not leave any marks on prosphoras. What is more, using butter is impossible according to the Church canons.

If there is no wax, it is possible to use backing pans made of food aluminium since they should not be greased win anything. However, in this case the prosphoras will lose their sunny color and honey flavor. The same can be mentioned about various non-stick backing pans.

The upper parts are sealed with a stamp of the necessary size. As a rule, different monasteries have different stamps, which makes them the signs of this or that prosphora bakery.

When both parts are ready, they are joined together. The place where they are joined is moistened with water and the upper part is pushed on the lower part. It should be done carefully so that the seal is not harmed.

After that, both parts of the prosphora should be pierced with a needle to let the air out. This will help to avoid formation of cavities inside and will ensure maximum consistence of the prosphora.

The metal backing pan with prosphoras is put into the oven heated at 200-250 degrees and then they are baked at this temperature until they are ready (up to 15 minutes for small prosphoras and for about 20 minutes for service prosphoras). They should become gold by color. It is necessary to check all the time whether they are burnt or not.

Rest under four blankets

After the prosphoras are taken out of the oven, they are laid on trays and covered with several coats: with a dry cloth, then with a wet cloth, then with a dry one again and finally with a blanket on the top. In such state they should “rest” for about an hour. When you become soft and cold, they are put in special baskets or boxes, in which nothing excerpt from prosphoras can be put.

Service prosphoras are prepared in the same way, but there are still certain peculiarities. The backing process should be under constant control. It is better to stop the process, needle prosphoras and push them once again to let the air out. If they begin to burn, it is needed to change the temperature.

However, even if we care about every little detail, every time the process will be slightly different. There can be no similar interaction of natural components in the nature and the outer forces influence the result as well. Be creative, and may the Lord help you!

An excerpt translated from: http://www.pravmir.ru/sekretyi-prosfornika-ili-hlebushek-s-zapahom-solntsa/