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Guide To Baking Prosphora (Holy Bread)

Prosphora seal

Prosphora (Gr. “offering”) is the loaf of holy bread an Orthodox priest uses to prepare the Eucharist. In this guide, we teach you everything you need to know about preparing Prosphora for an Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

When should Prosphora be baked?

We recommend baking the Friday or Saturday before the Sunday on which you will offer it. The Orthodox prepare the Prosphora on these days to remember the time when Christ was taken down from the cross and prepared for burial. If, however, you cannot bake on these days for whatever reason, you can bake whenever it fits your schedule.

When should I bring the Prosphora to church?

You should bring your bread offering to the church on Saturday evening. This works well if your parish celebrates Vespers. Simply give it to the priest or altar server, along with your commemoration list.

Please do not wait until Sunday morning to bring the bread. The priest must begin the Proskomedia service quite early, so it is not practical to bring the bread when you arrive for Liturgy – it will already be too late by then. If the Proskomedia starts late, so does Matins, and so does Liturgy!

Preparations for baking

Since Prosphora is a holy offering to God, you should spiritually prepare yourself and your cooking area before baking.

Confession

It is important to regularly confess sins to your spiritual father. If you haven’t gone to confession relatively recently, make an appointment with your priest before you plan to bake Prophora.

Fasting

Another part of personal preparation we recommend is fasting from midnight the night prior to baking time, if possible. This would include foods (meat, dairy, eggs, fish, etc.) and alcohol, and abstinence from sexual relations with your spouse. You can also extend your fast to anything that represents a passion that tempts you or demands a lot of your attention. For example, attending parties, watching too much television, using social media or electronics, etc.

Site/Utensil Preparation

If you are preparing Prosphora in the same place you prepare raw meats, clean and sanitize the area and your utensils well. If possible, use a separate area and/or separate baking utensils.

Additionally, if you have any open sores or cuts, you must completely cover them with bandages AND gloves prior to baking. This helps avoid getting any blood or scab on the baking surface or (God forbid) into the bread. Try to switch baking days with someone else at the parish until your cuts/cores can heal. Sometimes, this isn’t possible. In that case, cover them well (and double glove if necessary)!

Also, ladies traditionally refrain from baking Prosphora during the menstrual cycle.


Quick aside!

Our Lord died on the cross for us and His blood was shed for us. And He commanded that we never offer a blood sacrifice. It is out of our love for this commandment that the Orthodox take extra care to keep all blood away from the holy bread offering and the place where we’ll be baking it.

Prayer

One more thing you can do to prepare yourself is pray. In the next section, we’ve provided some prayers you can say both before and after baking the Prosphora.

A good goal is to maintain an attitude of prayer the entire time you are baking, but given today’s life schedules, this isn’t always possible. As alternatives, you can listen to sacred music, a spiritual podcast or audiobook; read about the lives of the Saints; read Scripture; or work on a service-related project. All of these can help you maintain an attitude of prayer and humility while you bake this offering to the Lord.

Be sure to also light a candle and set a favorite icon in your kitchen or work area during your baking time.

Prosphora Prayers

Place an icon and a lit lamp or candle in your baking area, preferably facing East, in anticipation of the second and glorious coming of Jesus Christ. Pray the following prayers with piety and humility:

Beginning prayers

Glory to thee, O God, glory to thee.

O heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come, and abide in us and cleanse us from every stain and save our souls, O Good One.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (thrice)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. (thrice)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Then say…

O Lord our God, good and merciful, I acknowledge all my sins which I have committed everyday of my life, in thought, word and deed, in body and soul alike. I am heartily sorry that I have ever offended thee, O Lord: of thy mercy forgive me all my past transgressions and absolve me from them. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy Grace, to amend my way of life and to sin no more, that I may walk in the way of the name of righteousness and offer praise and glory in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Almighty God, our Help and Refuge, Fountain of Wisdom and Tower of Strength, who knows that I can do nothing without Your guidance and help; assist me, I pray Thee, and direct me to divine wisdom and power, that I
may prepare this prosphora, faithfully and diligently, according to Thy will, so that it may be profitable to myself and others, and to the glory of Thy Holy Name.

Now bless the ingredients and utensils with the sign of the cross.

For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. (thrice)

Prayers after baking

Dear Lord, this bread that I have baked represents each one in my family and in my congregation. I am offering myself to You, my very life, in humble obedience and total commitment to You. I place myself on Your holy altar through this bread to be used by You in any way that You feel will help enlarge Your kingdom. Accept my gift and make me worthy to receive the greater gift that You will give me when You consecrate this bread and give it back to me as Your Precious Body.

Bless the finished Prosphora with the sign of the cross.

For with my whole heart I offer You thanks; to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Prosphora Recipe

AuthorSaint John ChurchDifficultyIntermediate

This recipe for Prosphora yields 2 large loaves. Adjust accordingly depending on what your parish may need.

Prosphora

Prep Time1 hr 30 minsCook Time30 minsTotal Time2 hrs

 6 cups flour
 3 cups warm water
 2 ¼ tsp instant rapid/quick yeast (one small packet)
 1 tsp salt

1

Place yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add one cup of warm water (105-115 degrees F) and 1/2 cup of the flour. Whisk together gently with a non-metal whisk or plastic fork. Let this mixture sit for approximately 10 minutes - it will start to bubble and "activate" the yeast. The yeast will start to smell and will "bloom" or change in appearance - grow, bubble, etc.

2

Add two cups of warm water to the activated yeast mixture. Then add 5 1/2 cups of flour and sprinkle the one teaspoon of salt over the flour. Start by stirring with a substantial wooden spoon, or alternatively, use your hands. If your dough continues to stick to your hands and the bowl, add flour one handful at a time until you can scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface.

3

Knead until the dough is smooth and firm, adding flour by the handfuls until it no longer sticks to your hands. This is the hardest part - finding the "fine line" of not too sticky, not too dry. As you bake more and more, you will find that you feel when you reach this point.

4

Knead dough for approximately 10-15 minutes until the dough stays smooth and pliable. Then form into a large ball and place back into your mixing bowl. Cover with a thin towel and place in a warm area of your house or kitchen to rise. This first rise can take 60-90 minutes. But start peeking at 30 minutes, since humidity and weather can affect rise time. Your ball should double in size.

5

After your dough has doubled, remove from the bowl and gently knead again, only about five minutes this time. You are basically just punching down the air and redistributing any bubbles with this kneading. Then, form your dough into a round and cut into two equal halves.

6

Generously flour the bottom of our pan. You can use either 8" or 9" pans, or 8" or 9" pie plates. Non-stick or glass. Do not use foil/disposable pans or pans with quick release handles; they will stick or leave the imprint of the handle in the bread.

7

Place one half of the dough shaped into a ball, in each pan and press to evenly fill the pan. Next, press your seal into flour. Then firmly press your seal down into the middle of the dough. The seal will go deeply into the dough. Pull the seal out gently. Then, using a toothpick, press holes into all corners of the "Lamb" portion of the seal, and all around the outer blank edge of the dough, approximately 12-16 holes. This allows steam to escape while the bread bakes, keeping the seal intact and not lifting the seal off the bread. Also, using a sharp knife, cut just into the bread all around the outer edge, just at or below the edge of the pan. This allows the bread to rise upward uniformly while baking.

8

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake loaves for 25-20 mintes. Bread is finished when it's just starting to turn brown and has a nice thump when you flick - no give or squish.

9

Remove the loaves from the pans immediately and cool on racks. If you do not have racks, cool the loaves on sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper. DO NOT cool on towels - towels absorb steam and moisture and make the bottom crust soggy.

10

When loaves are COMPLETELY cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil. If you need to bring bread to church while it is still warm, please wrap loosely in towels only, this will allow the bread to finish cooling and not trap the moisture.

11

Finally, include a note for the priest saying that you have made the bread. The first time you make bread, be sure to include a list of commemorations - both Orthodox living and departed, for the priest to using during the Proskomedia. The priest will keep your commemorations list and refer to it each time you bake. You can update your list any time by getting it from the priest, or simply turning in a new list.

Ingredients

 6 cups flour
 3 cups warm water
 2 ¼ tsp instant rapid/quick yeast (one small packet)
 1 tsp salt

Directions

1

Place yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add one cup of warm water (105-115 degrees F) and 1/2 cup of the flour. Whisk together gently with a non-metal whisk or plastic fork. Let this mixture sit for approximately 10 minutes - it will start to bubble and "activate" the yeast. The yeast will start to smell and will "bloom" or change in appearance - grow, bubble, etc.

2

Add two cups of warm water to the activated yeast mixture. Then add 5 1/2 cups of flour and sprinkle the one teaspoon of salt over the flour. Start by stirring with a substantial wooden spoon, or alternatively, use your hands. If your dough continues to stick to your hands and the bowl, add flour one handful at a time until you can scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface.

3

Knead until the dough is smooth and firm, adding flour by the handfuls until it no longer sticks to your hands. This is the hardest part - finding the "fine line" of not too sticky, not too dry. As you bake more and more, you will find that you feel when you reach this point.

4

Knead dough for approximately 10-15 minutes until the dough stays smooth and pliable. Then form into a large ball and place back into your mixing bowl. Cover with a thin towel and place in a warm area of your house or kitchen to rise. This first rise can take 60-90 minutes. But start peeking at 30 minutes, since humidity and weather can affect rise time. Your ball should double in size.

5

After your dough has doubled, remove from the bowl and gently knead again, only about five minutes this time. You are basically just punching down the air and redistributing any bubbles with this kneading. Then, form your dough into a round and cut into two equal halves.

6

Generously flour the bottom of our pan. You can use either 8" or 9" pans, or 8" or 9" pie plates. Non-stick or glass. Do not use foil/disposable pans or pans with quick release handles; they will stick or leave the imprint of the handle in the bread.

7

Place one half of the dough shaped into a ball, in each pan and press to evenly fill the pan. Next, press your seal into flour. Then firmly press your seal down into the middle of the dough. The seal will go deeply into the dough. Pull the seal out gently. Then, using a toothpick, press holes into all corners of the "Lamb" portion of the seal, and all around the outer blank edge of the dough, approximately 12-16 holes. This allows steam to escape while the bread bakes, keeping the seal intact and not lifting the seal off the bread. Also, using a sharp knife, cut just into the bread all around the outer edge, just at or below the edge of the pan. This allows the bread to rise upward uniformly while baking.

8

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake loaves for 25-20 mintes. Bread is finished when it's just starting to turn brown and has a nice thump when you flick - no give or squish.

9

Remove the loaves from the pans immediately and cool on racks. If you do not have racks, cool the loaves on sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper. DO NOT cool on towels - towels absorb steam and moisture and make the bottom crust soggy.

10

When loaves are COMPLETELY cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil. If you need to bring bread to church while it is still warm, please wrap loosely in towels only, this will allow the bread to finish cooling and not trap the moisture.

11

Finally, include a note for the priest saying that you have made the bread. The first time you make bread, be sure to include a list of commemorations - both Orthodox living and departed, for the priest to using during the Proskomedia. The priest will keep your commemorations list and refer to it each time you bake. You can update your list any time by getting it from the priest, or simply turning in a new list.

Prosphora For Divine Liturgies



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