I grew up with my father and mother baking home-made bread all the time. The aroma of home-made bread is literally food for the soul. You get this warm feeling of love and happiness when you smell home-made bread. This recipe will yield 6 loaves of bread. You can make Holy Bread with this recipe, which requires you to place the Prosofro Stamp in the middle of the dough once you form it in the pan, or you can just make home-made bread. When I make this large of a batch, I make some Holy Bread with the stamp for church, like the ones pictured in the front of the picture, and then I also make some for our home without the stamp, like the ones pictured in the back of the picture. This does take a few hours to make, so patience is needed in this recipe, and I personally like to pray as I knead the dough when I am making Holy Bread. It makes you feel better and get things off of your chest and to come at peace with your life. It’s really a beautiful feeling. Okay, good luck, and if you have any questions, please email me, and I will do my best to help you. Here we go…….
What you will need:
5 pounds all-purpose flour
4 packs of yeast OR 9 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups very warm water
extra flour for dusting pans
6 round cake pans
pastry brush and a little water
very large bowl
Step 1- Kneading Your Dough
In your bowl, place your 5 pounds of flour and salt. Mix well with your hands. Make a well, or hole, with your hands, in the middle of the flour. Place your yeast in that well, and add your water. Start kneading your dough until it pulls away from sides of bowl, and it is no longer sticky. Don’t worry, if it is too sticky, add a little more flour, and if it is too difficult to knead because it’s stiff, you can add a little water, to soften it up. Your dough should look like this.
Step 2- Letting your dough rise for the first time
It is now time to “cuddle” or “dress warmly” our dough to help it rise. Using a sheet, or something with no lint so it won’t stick to your dough, cover your dough, then place a blanket on top of that sheet and around the bowl. Make sure the area you place your dough is free of drafts. You now are in the first rising state. Your dough should double in size in about 40-60 minutes.
Step 3- Punching it down, letting your dough rise a second time, and preparing your pans
Once your dough rises, punch it down, and knead it for a couple more minutes, and recover it again. You are now in the second rising state. Your dough should double in size again in 40-60 minutes. It is now time to prepare your pans by dusting them with flour, the bottom and sides, to prevent the bread from sticking.
Step 4- Forming your bread
Once your dough has risen a second time, it is now time to form your bread. Remove the covers off your dough, and using a knife, cut your dough in 6 even pieces. (Yes, your dough will flatten a little, but that is normal, so don’t worry, you are doing everything right). Take each batch of dough, and form it into a ball then flatten in and place in your floured pan (for an easier way to form your dough into a circle, as soon as I take it out of the bowl it was in, I use the “stretch and tug underneath” method- I just made that name up. Basically, as you are looking at the top of the 1/6 part of the dough piece you just got out of the mixing bowl, stretch a little of it, and tug it underneath, and keep doing that until it is in a nice little circle). Place your circle of dough in your floured pan, and flatten it a little, but it does not have to touch the sides.
Step 5- If you are making Holy Bread, stamp your bread with Prosforo Stamp, if not, skip this step
If you are making Holy Bread, this is where you will stamp your bread with a Prosforo stamp by pressing your stamp lightly in some flour, then tapping it to release excess flour so that all the markings are visible. Place your stamp in the middle of your dough and press down very hard so that your dough will capture all the symbols of the stamp. Remove your stamp very slowly.
Step 6- The 3rd and final rising, and preheating your oven
It is now time for the 3rd and final rising. This one will not take very long, though. Recover your pans of dough, and let them rise for about 15-20 minutes. It is now time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Step 7- Baking your bread
Okay, we have come to the final step of bread making: the baking. Since all ovens vary, you will need to use your judgement here once it gets towards the end of the baking process. You are looking for a nice “toasty” color for your breads. Sometimes, I have to rotate my breads from the back to the front, or switch racks by putting the ones I had on my bottom rack on top, so please use your judgment, if you need to do the same. The cooking time is approximately 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, I start checking them every 5 minutes. To give you that nice toasty color, you can also lightly brush the outside of your breads with water, around the 40 minute time frame.
Step 8- The cooling process
Prepare your area where you will be letting your breads cool, maybe on a counter, covered with a sheet, or on cooling racks. Be careful to not place the hot bread to cool on your wooden table because they will sweat while on a sheet and leave white rings or film on your wooden table. Whichever way you choose to cool your breads, they have to be removed from the pan so that they don’t sweat. Once your breads have cooled, you can store them in the refrigerator for longer shelf life, or in the freezer. I wrap mine in aluminum foil, and then I place each one in a gallon size freezer bag. We have to make sure to store them properly because home made bread can spoil quickly, so please consume refrigerated bread in 2 -3 days. If your home is anything like mine, your bread may be gone by day 2. Have a blessed day, and please send me your pictures of your breads.