The Joy of Baking Prosphora

I love baking phosphora.  I’ve worked at it and learned what I can from my betters, but I certainly can’t claim to be great at it… so it’s all the more humbling to realize how this offering is transformed into something so glorious (a prefect metaphor for the Christian life!).

Here’s my current approach.  It makes one large “Greek style” prosphora (I use this for the host at the Sunday Divine Liturgy) and enough smaller prosphora for that liturgy (in my tradition we use a total of five), a daily liturgy or two (and/or individual commemorations), and Vespers w/Litya.  I do this every week.


  • 6 cups of flour (I use King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour)
  • Half a packet of dry yeast (or a half a teaspoon from the jar)
  • A “pinch” of salt
  • 2 cups of water (or thereabouts… it’s all about consistency)


  • Pray, offering this work to the Lord and asking Him to complete and perfect it to His purposes and glory.
  • Put a kettle of water on for boiling (using boiling water helps make the bread sweeter and gives it a chewier mouth feel).
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven.
  • Pitch the yeast in some warm water and flour.  Set it in a warm place.  It should show bubbles after a while.
  • Put the flour and salt into the mixing bowl.  Mix them thoroughly (note that not everyone uses salt).
  • Measure just under two cups boiling water out of the kettle (the yeast pitch adds the rest).  Slowly add it to the mix.  Keep mixing (1 or 2 on my Kichen Aid) until it cools down enough to add the yeast.  It is short on moisture so it should not come together into a single dough ball.
  • Add the yeast pitch.  Mix on two for about 10 minutes.  Sometimes, the dough will now have the perfect consistency, turning into a single ball that depresses when you push your finger into it but does not stick to your finger.  Sometimes it will be too dry or wet.  If it’s too wet, then add a bit of flour; if it’s too dry, add a bit of water.  It doesn’t take long to get a feel for this.
  • Cover the mixing bowl and put it in a warm place for thirty minutes so it can rise.  Run it on two for a couple of minutes and then knead it my hand to get the bubbles out.
  • Lightly flour your working surface.
  • Take about a quarter of the dough and set it aside.  This will be used for the small prosphora.
  • Take the remaining dough out and knead it into a ball.  This will be used for the large “Greek” prosphora.  I put it back into the mixing bowl in the warm place until I’m ready to use it.
  • Take the set aside dough.  Knead it for a couple of minutes.  Roll the ball flat (about 1/3″) using a rolling pin.  Use your biscuit cutters to cut the dough into an equal number of large and small circles (I actually use the same size cutter, but spread the bottom one a bit to make it a touch larger; YMMV).  Keep up this process (re-kneading the leftover dough from the cuts) until all of the dough is used (the final remnants can be put in the bowl with the big dough).
  • Use your seal on the small circles.  Wet the bottoms of them and the tops of the large circles and join them (one small onto one large; this represents the two natures of Christ).  Put the resulting raw prosphora on your baking tray and poke them with a toothpick crosswise (extra holes are good – I put 8-12 in each).  Let them rise for ten minutes in a warm place then bake them in the oven for 30 minutes (I cover them with loosely with aluminum foil for the first 20 minutes and without it for the last ten).  The water in the oven (and the aluminum foil if you use it) will help keep the tops from getting crusty.  This will make it easier for the priest to make the necessary ritual cuts.
  • Take the remaining dough out of the mixing bowl and knead it, getting rid of the bubbles.  Divide the dough into two parts, one larger (2/3) and one smaller (1/3).  Knead the smaller one into a ball and roll it out into a circle.  Form it into the super-duper cast iron “Gifted Pan“, pressing into the bottom so that the dough works its way into the seal.  Knead the remaining dough (removing the bubbles) into a ball and roll it out into a circle.  Wet the top of the dough already placed into the pan.  Put the circle on top of the wet surface in such a way that there are no air gaps.  Form it so that it goes evenly across and to the edges.  Use your toothpick and poke it through crosswise (I do this a couple dozen times).  Cover it loosely with the aluminum foil and put it in a warm place to rise (again, about ten minutes)
  • Once the small prosphora are done baking, take them out, put the prosphora on a rack and cover with a damp cloth.
  • Put the “Gifted Pan” into the oven.  Bake it for 45 minutes with the aluminum foil on it, and fifteen minutes without it.
  • Immediately flip the “Gifted Pan” over, put it on a rack, and cover with a damp towel to cool (the dampness is to help prevent hard crusts).
  • Once the prosphora is cool, put them into ziplock bags and freeze them.  Take them out and put them in the refrigerator the evening before liturgy so they can thaw.  Only microwave in emergencies (e.g. if you forgot to thaw them the night before or, rarely, if you can tell the prosphora is going to be too crumbly; the microwave makes the bread more rubbery).

I play around a bit, but this is the general approach.  My next bit of experimentation will be to use a sourdough starter.  I started working on the starter today (that worked, but most parishioners preferred the taste when I used commercial yeast).