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George's Prosphora Recipe
Note: This recipe has been compiled from
numerous sources and various experiments, first posted January 31, 1999.
Since that time, I have modified the recipe somewhat to refect
further experimentation. I am constantly looking for new ways to improve.
This recipe makes
four Byzantine style loaves.
- High-gluten or regular bleached flour - 14 cups
- Hot (~100 degrees) water - 4 cups
- Active Dry Yeast - 1 1/2 Tbsp.
- Salt - 2 Tsp.
- Nothing else! I'll comment later on
- Place 12 cups of flour, salt and yeast in
a large mixing bowl. Using a sturdy
wooden spoon, mix the dry ingredients
- Mix in all of the water, stirring with
the spoon until the dough begins to clump
up. When you can't use the spoon any
longer, begin to knead the dough with
your hands. Mash the clumps of dough into
a single ball.
- Here's where you need to stop and look at
your workplace. To avoid kneading
injuries, you need to be able to work the
dough with straight arms.
If you are short, like me, you can
put the bread in the bowl and do your
kneading on the floor in a kneeling
position. Otherwise, put the ball on a
floured board on your sink and start to
- Knead the dough with the heel of your
palms, both pressing down and pushing the
ball away from you. You shouldn't just
press the dough, but stretch it out. The
reason for this will be covered elsewhere. Knead
the dough for 20 minutes . As
you knead, stretch and slam the
dough frequently to aerate the
- The consistency you are trying to achieve
is crucial. I suggest the following: first,
add more rather than less water right off
the bat, then add flour to achieve the
right consistency. Adding water to dry
dough is messy, whereas adding flour to
wet dough is a bit easier and faster. Second,
the proper consistency is judged by
pushing the well-mixed dough ball with a
finger up to the second knuckle. If the
dough sticks to the end of your finger
but not the sides, you have the proper
consistency. The dough, if folded over
and pushed, should "heal" and
not remain two pieces. Yet, it shouldn't
stick to lightly floured, smooth
surfaces. Add flour as you knead until
you get the right consistency. This
- After 15-20 minutes have passed (or you
collapse from exhaustion), cover the
dough with plastic wrap in a bowl with
enough room for the dough to grow. Leave
a little gap or two for air to escape,
but not enough for real circulation to
occur and harden the surface of the ball.
Place this in a warm place, like the oven
before use. The heat from the pilot
usually makes the oven ideal for rising
(~80 degrees is sufficient).
- Allow the dough to rise long enough to
double in size (usually no more than 90
- Set your oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Set
your rack in the lower section of the oven.
For a softer crust, consult the page on Steam
- Take the bowl and uncover the dough.
Grabbing the sides of the ball where it
is sticking to the bowl, pull it away
from the sides and punch it down in the
center. Keep doing this until the dough
is roughly the same size it was before it
began to rise. Bust air bubbles as they
surface and knead for a few minutes.
- Cut the ball into four equal pieces (the picture is from a larger batch). Work three of them into separate
balls, place them back in the bowl
and cover again. The piece left over will
be your first loaf. Place it on a
floured board, and cut it in half.
Choose one of the two pieces and work it
until you are confident that there are virtually no
air bubbles left in it. Form it into a
ball, then flatten this out until it is
around 1/2" thick
- Take a 9" cake pan or the equivalent (I actually
use a large coffee can with holes poked in the bottom) and press
it into the dough, like a cookie cutter.
This will give you a perfectly round
loaf with little effort. Trim away
the excess, and set this with the
remaining portion aside.
Flour your pizza stone, baking sheet or
baking pan, then lay the main loaf body
- Using a conventional teaspoon or your fingers, take some
water (about 1/2 tsp.) and pour it on the
surface of the dough, rubbing it around
with the bottom of the spoon. This
dampens the top of the dough, making it
sticky and allowing the seal portion to
adhere without a bubble. Do not allow
the water to run off the top, otherwise
it will cause the loaf to glue itself to
the baking surface! Very bad!
Now, roll out the remaining portion of the
dough with extra flour, making it slightly
thinner than the previous piece. Follow the same process
as above. Make sure there is a
fresh dusting of flour under this portion.
- Using a dish of water, dampen your fingers and wet
the top of the bottom portion, then moistening the bottom of the top
sure the water does not run off the loaf, because moisture under the loaf
will make it stick like mad. Carefully lay the
top on the bottom, make sure there aren't any
air bubbles trapped between the layers: the easiest way
is to apply the top like a sticker,
starting on one edge and moving across the
top of the loaf like a
Flour the seal and mash it into the loaf
as hard as you can.
- Now, here's where you'll need a tool: in
my case, I use a Korean chopstick. This
stick tapers gently down to a sharp point
from the top to the bottom. When it
pierces, it starts with a small hole and
opens it, verses a blunt stick which will
pull a good portion of the surface down
with it and traumatize the seal.
Pierce the ends of the
cross of the Lamb section, then once
in the middle. You can then make
decorative piercing along the perimeter
of the loaf (I have seen some very
- Allow the loaf to sit out for 20 minutes
and "proof." This is discussed
in greater detail elsewhere
- Pop it into the oven. Set your timer for
15 minutes. When it goes off, form
another loaf. By the time you're done, it
will be ready to turn the loaf in the
oven around to achieve even browning (if
your oven is ancient like mine!). Set the
timer for another 20 minutes, allowing
for the proofing time for the second loaf
and the finish of the first.
- Repeat this until there's no more dough.