To honor the recent passing of our koumbaro (a best man in the Orthodox wedding ceremony), I wanted to bake prosforo to be donated for our church's future services in his name. Of course, I referenced by trusty Norfolk church cookbook for Presvytera Goumenis' recipe.
As this is the preparation of a religious article, you open with the following prayer:
Dear Lord, this bread that we are baking represents each one of us. 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.
modified for 4 loaves
5 lbs. Bread Flour
2 t Salt
3 packs Quick Rise Yeast
5 cups Water
Add 3 packs of Quick Rise Yeast with about a 1/2 cup of warm tap water and mix to dissolve the yeast.
Let stand about 10 minutes.
Add Bread Flour and Salt to the Kitchen Aid with the dough hook and begin mixing with the yeast mixture. Add 1/2 cup of water at a time until your dough forms into a smooth dough (not too sticky).
Remove from Kitchen Aid and knead onto a floured surface.
Divide the dough into 2 parts and put each part in a large mixing bowl. Cover each bowl with a kitchen towel that has been dampened with hot tap water. The cover again with towels or blankets (shown below). This will keep the dough warm while it rises.
And check out that fabulous beadboard backsplash we installed last year.
Allow to rise for 1 1/2-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
Remove dough sections from bowls, knead again for 5 minutes, then separate each section into two, leaving you with 4 loaves of dough. Flour 9" baking pans and put each loaf into a pan.
This is my great-grandmother's metal seal for the prosforo.
The Prosforo seal, or "THE SPHRAGITHA"
The center of the seal has the letters ICXC and NIKA which stand for "Jesus Christ Conquers." This section of the bread will be removed by the priest and changed into the Body of Christ during the Divine Liturgy. This section of the bread is called the "Lamb of God."
The left section of the seal (large triangle) represents the Virgin Mary.
The right section featuring the nine small triangles commemorate the angels, prophets, apostles and saints of the church.
During a service prior to the liturgy, the priest breaks the bread and the seal and prays for those represented by the seal: the Theotokos, the prophets, angels, etc. The priest also prays for all the living and the dead who have been submitted to him. (from go-stgeorge.org)
Place the prosforo seal onto the bread and press firmly into the dough. Take a toothpick or skewer and poke holes around the seal to allow space for expanding on the next rise (this will assist the seal to stay intact).
Recover with warm, damp kitchen towels and cover with towels or a blanket to keep warm while the bread rises again to the top of the pan.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40-50 minutes.
Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Wrap well with saran wrap or a gallon ziplock bag, and provide to your priest with a list of name(s) in whose honor or memory you baked the prosforo.