Making your own altar bread can be a spiritual practice as well as a gift to your congregation. Several recipes are listed below along with an article about why you may want to make your own altar bread.
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St. Gregory’s Abbey Altar Bread
- 7/8 cup lukewarm water
- 4 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 1 pkg. active quick rising yeast
- Measure the water into a mixing bowl and add yeast, stirring until the yeast is dissolved.
- Stir in the honey, oil and salt.
- Stir in the unsifted flour.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes until elastic.
- Replace the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours until double.
- Roll out the dough to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter, a tin can or a glass. Make a cross in each loaf with a serrated knife.
- Transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.
Note: Do not use stone ground flour or the bread will be crumbly. Pillsbury plain whole wheat flour works well. The recipe can easily be doubled.
Monastery Altar Bread
FROM THE SOCIETY OF ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST
“Tastes yummy, freezes well, fractions nicely, and is not crumbly!”
Half Recipe (6 loaves) / Full Recipe (12 LOAVES)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sift together into a large bowl:
- 4 cups / 8 cups whole wheat flour
- 4 teaspoons / 8 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons / 4 teaspoons salt
Mix together in a separate bowl:
- ½ cup / 1 cup milk (2%)
- ½ cup / 1 cup oil (vegetable, canola, or safflower)
- ½ cup / 1 cup water
- 6 oz / 12 oz molasses OR 1 cup / 2 cups honey
- 1. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix till well blended; the dough should be stiff and moist, but not sticky.
- 2. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead briefly, using additional flour as necessary.
- 3. For ease of handling (especially the full batch), divide into two portions and work with one at a time. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board, to about 3/8” thickness.
- 4. Cut into rounds of appropriate size (no larger than 6 1/2” diameter).
- 5. Mark with a cross, using a sharp, thin knife dipped in cool water.
- 6. Place the rounds on cookie sheets – try using parchment paper; or oil the cookie sheets if you prefer.
- 7. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. 210 degrees on instant-read thermometer.
- 8. Cool the loaves on wire racks, and then wrap well before refrigerating or freezing.
Notes for Bakers:
- Whole wheat flour needs to be stored in the fridge to prevent it tasting rancid.
- Before rolling out the dough, shape the dough into 6 / 12 round balls.
- Try to roll the dough as evenly as possible and try rolling to ¼” rather than 3/8” – experiment with different size rounds and depths, so that you can find the combination that works for you and your oven.
- To make the cross, lay the knife, blade down, on top of each round and lightly imprint the dough with the knife.
- After the loaves have cooled to room temperature (a couple hours), wrap each loaf in plastic wrap, then insert several loaves into Ziploc freezer bags. The plastic wrap provides additional protection from drying out, and also prevents the loaves from sticking together as they freeze.
- Finally, remember that these aren’t just any loaves, but rather they will be made sacred when they are consecrated at the Eucharist. As you go along, take time to notice the smells, textures, and colors of the dough and loaves. The process of preparing them is both mundane and holy, and it involves all your senses. It is a very special way of sharing in the liturgical and spiritual life of our community.