A Prosphora Baker’s Guide to Common Mistakes

A Prosphora Baker’s Guide to Common Mistakes

I truly believe there is a certain amount of artistry that goes into making prosphora.  Whenever you watch a master, at anything, you can see the ease of motion as they set to the task. They make it look effortless…until you try it yourself. I’ve made many loaves of prosphora over the years – many turned out great and more than I would like did not turn out like I had hoped.  There was one particular Saturday where I was making prosphora with my nieces and sons at my parents’ house.  My dad, who is a priest, came into the kitchen and was telling me all about how one lady at his parish makes perfect loaves every time – no huge bubble under the crust, not mushy and super dense in the center, the crust is not soooo hard that he can’t pierce through the seal, he can clearly see the seal, and it has nice small, uniform air bubbles throughout. To say I felt a personal pressure to make the “perfect” batch of loaves was an understatement especially since they were for my dad and he just shared all his knowledge about baking prosphora with me.  The problem was that I was using an oven that I was not familiar with and in a different climate than my own back home.  (There was HEAVY humidity and rain that day.)  My loaves did not turn out like they normally do back home.  Ug.  For the first time ever, I had the tops of the bread significantly curl up all around the edges.  Impressing my dad was not happening that time around....
Saturday of Lazarus Lesson

Saturday of Lazarus Lesson

I tend to model my teaching style after the Divine Liturgy.  By this, I mean, I try to include the use of all five of our senses when I develop a lesson or unit.  This approach reaches all the different learning styles and at the same time doesn’t require any reinventing of the learning wheel. This lesson was written for use in the home, classroom, or at a retreat.  It can easily be adapted for a small family or for a large group.  It can also be used for a wide age range. A printable version of this lesson can be found here:  Lesson – Sat of Lazarus  Saturday of Lazarus Lesson Attend Liturgy on the Saturday of Lazarus Encourage families to attend Liturgy on this Saturday. Bible:  Read the Story of Saint Lazarus For younger children:  read pages 226-229 in the Orthodox Children’s Bible Reader Orthodox Study Bible:  read John 11:1-45 Icon of the Raising of Saint Lazarus Hold the icon where the children can see it and explain the symbolism on it. Click here to see an icon of the Raising of Lazarus along with an explanation of the icon. Learn Troparion of Saint Lazarus, Tone 1 O Christ God, when Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead, before Thy Passion, thou didst confirm the universal resurrection. Wherefore, we, like babes, carry the insignia of triumph and victory, and cry unto Thee, O vanquisher of death, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord. Listen here to Fr. Apostolos Hill chant the Troparion of Saint Lazarus Listen here to hear an...
…because I never back down from a challenge

…because I never back down from a challenge

Determination.  That’s what this is all about.  I’ve seen the photos of beautiful, red Pascha eggs dyed using onion skins and I wanted to learn how to do it myself.  The first two times were my fault.    The third time, I have no idea where I went wrong since I followed the directions precisely.  The fourth time…much better. For all of those who have never dyed eggs using onion skins or have gotten less than desirable results in the past (like myself), this is what I’ve learned: If you know someone that can make beautifully dyed red Pascha eggs using onion skins, then ask them if you can watch them make a batch!!!!  Take notes.  It will probably save you a lot of trial and error. Keep in mind: There’s always going to be variations between batches and colors when using natural dyes.  I’ve dyed many things in the past using a variety of natural dyes but I’ve never attempted to achieve a specific color before.  It’s harder than it may seem given the nature of the dyeing method.  People fought over the secrets of achieving the deep red I’ve attempted to get for my eggs.  “A Perfect Red” by Amy Butler Greenfield is a fascinating book on the topic. Brown eggs are going to give you a deeper red and will show less flaws than white eggs Steep your onion skins per the directions BEFORE attempting to dye your eggs!!! 2nd attempt to dye eggs using onion skins 3rd attempt to dye eggs using onion skins 4th attempt to dye eggs using onion skins  This is how...
Dyeing with Onion Skins for Pascha Gets a Third Chance

Dyeing with Onion Skins for Pascha Gets a Third Chance

I had at least six people tell me I could get a darker red using onion skins for my Pascha eggs than the results I got in my first two attempts.  Two lovely ladies (thank you Maria & Erica!) were kind enough to share their recipes with me and I used both!  I also figured out the trick we missed!  You have to steep the onion skins BEFORE you dye the eggs. Crucial step.   I also do not normally hard boil my eggs for more than 11 minutes and both of their recipes called for the eggs to sit in the hot dye for longer than that. I wouldn’t call the eggs red but they are most definitely much darker than my first two attempts.  I would call them a reddish brown.  I’m okay with this because I prefer the natural dyeing method but if you’re looking for a more vibrant red, I’m not sure you’re going to get it from onion skins. For both recipes, I used both white and brown eggs to compare the difference between the two.  My results were: Red onion skins gave a much darker reddish, brown color to the eggs than the yellow onion skins White eggs will give you a reddish, brown color but for whatever reason showed imperfections in the dyeing process much more profoundly Brown eggs gave a deeper color result but the color was more of a rich chocolate brown than a reddish color There was not a significant difference in results between the two recipes Above are the results for my third attempt to dye eggs with onion...
Different Dyes, Different Shades of Red for Pascha Eggs

Different Dyes, Different Shades of Red for Pascha Eggs

There’s a tradition, especially among the Greeks, of having red eggs for Pascha.  It’s a tradition that has been passed down from one generation to the next as we break the fast together on Pascha.  Where the Slavic traditions will bring a basket of food with them to be blessed by their priest, the Greek tradition is to receive a blessed, red egg from their priest after the Resurrection service.  Both traditions share the commonality of breaking the fast together as a community. These little traditions are teaching moments for our children.  They are not, in any way, a necessity to our Orthodox Christian lives – but they allow for moments of conversation between the grown-ups and children.  They are opportunities to explain our faith to our children while engaging them in an activity that will remain a lifelong memory for them. The story goes that Mary Magdalene visited the Emperor Tiberius after Christ’s Resurrection.  Mary was telling him how Christ had risen from the dead and the emperor mocked her saying that a man could no more rise from the dead than the egg in her hand could turn red.  Immediately, the egg turned red in her hand and this is where our tradition for red eggs on Pascha originates. Parents and grandparents alike have explained the symbolism of the red eggs to their children and grandchildren over the years – whether it’s while they are making them together on Holy Thursday, gazing at them in their hands after Liturgy on Pascha, or while they take that first bite after cracking it open with a triumphant, “Christ is...
Lenten Staples: Meals on the Go – the Sequel

Lenten Staples: Meals on the Go – the Sequel

Here’s one more set of Lenten meals on the go during this season.  After this post, I’m going to focus on some of the traditional foods for Pascha – egg dyeing, bread, etc. These are simple meals I made for my family to eat on the way to or from church during last week.  Trust me, at 6 months pregnant, I did not spend a lot of time putting these together. These are quick and easy meals to prevent us from stopping at fast food on the way home from church.  I put the containers in a big bag with a fork, napkin, and juice box for each person – and there you have a Lenten meal in the car when everyone is hungry.   In this meal: Pretzels (regular or gluten free) Almond Butter Peas Strawberries In this meal: Quick Vegetable Biryani Tomato & Cucumber Salad Blackberries Quick Vegetable Biryani: 1 box “A Taste of Thai Yellow Curry Rice” prepared per directions on the box.  If you don’t like spicy foods, just use little to none of the little red spice packet when preparing the rice. Saute 1 chopped zucchini, 1 chopped carrot, and 2 cloves of garlic in 1 tsp of olive oil Heat up half a bag of frozen peas Then mix vegetables and rice together In this meal: Pasta & Masala Marinara (“Dave’s Gourmet” brand pasta sauce – If you like Indian food, this is a seriously yummy pasta sauce!!!  It’s not spicy at all for kids either.) Fruit medley – pears, orange, and plums Corn In this meal:  (This is the gluten free, pregnant...