Monday, April 24, 2006


Christ is Risen!

This year at my church, I baked the Artos for Pascha since the lady who usually performs this service was not able to do it. Its been a long time since I've baked Artoklasia or even Qurban (aka prosphora), and I really enjoyed doing it. I've been at my current current parish for about 8 1/2 years, and its been that long since I've baked the qurban (the prosphora - the bread used for communion) and I've only baked the Artoklasia a few times in the very distant past - back in my COR days. I've never baked the Artos before, so I was a tad nervous about it, but excited and honored as well.

A word about the difference between the three breads: Prosphora has several names according to the liturgical language you are using, and is the bread used for Holy Communion. It is made from only pure white flour, water, yeast and salt - no other ingredients are allowed. It is made in either one large loaf with a seal depicting ICXC and NIKA imprinted on it, or five small double loaves with a small seal on it. Artoklasia is five loaves of spiced and sweetened bread, without a seal, which are blessed during the portion of Vigil called the Litya. It is sometimes erroneously called the Litya bread here in America. Artoklasia commemorates Christ's miracle of feeding the many when he blessed the five loaves and two fish and fed over 5000 people. These sweet loaves are brought to church as an expression of gratitude for God's bountiful blessings. Artos actually means "bread", so to say Artos bread actually means bread bread and is made only for Pascha. It is very similar to Artoklasia, and can be made from the same recipe, but is always made in one large loaf which has been decorated with grapes, wheat or olives, or with the traditional seal depicting the Risen Savior (which I don't have). Artos is blessed at the end of the midnight Paschal liturgy, and remains in the church until it is broken and distributed to the faithful one week later, on Thomas Sunday.

Paschal Artos

4 tsp or 2 packets of dried yeast
approximately 6 C of unbleached white flour
3/4 C white sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
freshly grated zest of one orange

Mix all the above listed dry ingredients together to make sure everything is well distributed. Then, mix together the wet ingredients in a separate measuring cup.

Freshly squeezed juice of one orange plus warm water to make at least 1/4 C
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract (do not use imitation vanilla flavoring!)
1 1/4 C water hot from the tap

Make a well in the flour and begin pouring in the liquid ingredients, beating with a spoon as you are doing so. Keep it up, changing to kneading with your hands, until all the liquid ingredients are incorporated into the dough. If the dough is very sticky, add more flour by the tablespoon until the dough is not sticky any more, and is stiffish but not overly dry. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. Punch down, cover and allow to rise until doubled again, about another hour. Preheat oven to 350F.

To make Artoklasia, divide the dough into five portions and form into round balls. Let rise 20 minutes, then bake 20 - 25 minutes. Alternatively, roll the dough out to half an inch thickness, let rest till the gluten relaxes a bit, about 5 minutes, then using a 3" or 4" cookie cutter or a teacup, cut out rounds which can be decorated with a cross. Cover and allow to rise 20 minutes, then bake for 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

To make Artos, pinch off one smallish handful of dough and set aside to make decorations. Form the rest of the dough into a round loaf. Then make your decorations and apply to the loaf by moistening them with water so that they will stick to the dough. Grapes, wheat and olive branches are traditional. Once the 3-dimensional decorations have been applied, brush the surface of all the decorations and the loaf with an egg wash. After about 10 minutes in the oven, check to see that the egg wash is not browning too much and tent the loaf with foil to cut down on browning more while it continues baking. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

If you have the special Artos seal, then you would not make other decorations. You would impress the seal in the center of the formed round loaf, and would not use the egg wash.

Indeed He is Risen!

Update on Monday, May 1, 2006:

This Artos was blessed and broken yesterday at church. The verdict was that it was absolutely delicious - pretty much everyone told me that it was the best Artos they've ever eaten and that they love the orange flavor. So, this recipe is winner, for sure.

What would I do differently next time?

Well, our Deacon told me that there was a small ball of uncooked dough in the center of the loaf. I think that happened because it got very brown VERY fast, and I took it out before it was cooked. Next time, I would lower the heat 25 degrees, tent it with foil after the first five or ten minutes, and cook it about 15 minutes longer.

I also think the flavor would be improved doubling the spices and adding just a little bit of minced candied citron. I'm not a big lover of citron, and if I had some home-made candied orange peel, I'd use that. I think just a little bit, maybe 1/4 cup, would be enough. I'd pinch off the dough for the decorations first, then I'd knead the fruit into the bread.

I would also decorate it much more heavily - I put one bunch of grapes with a few on the side -- I'd probably make three large bunches of grapes and bunch of curly stems and leaves. Or, maybe I'd order the seal from if I knew earlier that I'd be making it.

But I doubt I'll be making it next year, and a young woman in my parish makes all the Artoklasia used at Litya in our parish, so who knows when I'll make this again? It was really delish, though.


Mimi said...

Thank you for the information.

I am in an OCA parish with Russian roots, and our Artos has a white frosting with colored sprinkles on it. I've never seen the one like you posted.

Thank you again.

Denise said...

Hi Mimi,
I'm also in an OCA parish that is more Russian than anything else. I've seen Artos frosted once or twice on the West Coast like you describe, too, and I saw it glazed rather than frosted once on the East Coast. I'd have to research it, but I have a feeling that glazing or frosting it is really a confusion between kulich and Artos. Certainly, if you were to google Artos recipes, the unfrosted and unglazed variety would be pretty much all you'd find, perhaps with just one or two exceptions. This would be very a very interesting task.... maybe when I'm unemployed over the summer, I'll do some research!

Anonymous said...

This Artos is a gorgeous work of art, Denise! Christ is Risen! Cristo ha recucitado! Mat. E.

Mimi said...

Interesting. Thank you!

Rebecca said...

I enjoyed reading this. I am still not sure why for prosphora they use ONLY bleached white flour. Certainly it was not always the case because bleaching and stripping wheat was only done for the wealthy starting in about the 10th century or later. It wasn't done for the poor, or for the common man until much later-and it removes all the nutrients so the flour can sit on the shelf for a year or more. ICK! I guess I will never be makin any of the bread for church...

Denise said...

Hi Rebecca,
I believe that the reasoning behind this is the idea that you bring your first fruits as an offering to church - you bring your very best, the most expensive, your very best effort. You're right, certainly in times past, the most common flour was whole grain flour, but church bread was made with the more sought after flour which was sifted of all "bits". The additional effort of sifting was considered a purifying act as well as adding more "value" in the marketplace. Nowadays, of course, it is the whole grain flour that is considered more desirable and more "dear". But Orthodox can never be accused of following trends, now can we? LOL! Anyway, I'm no expert, but that is how it was explained to me back when I first began making prosphora, back in 1981. This would be an interesting thing to resesarch. Maybe when I'm unemployed in July, I will!

Nancy Gaifyllia said...

Just beautiful. Thanks for posting it. I'm sorry I didn't see this before Easter to include in my blog. Looking forward to reading more of your wonderful cooking experiences!

Anonymous said...

Christ is Risen!

A beautiful artos. I've tried for several years to make a good one and rarely been satisfied with taste or decorations.

I have coffee hour after service next week, I'll give this recipe a try.

BTW, I think you're right about reducing the temp and tenting the bread to protect the top. I use a digital probe thermometer to see if the center of the bread is 200 degrees. I sometimes find myself lowering the oven temp when baking a big prosphora for the same reason.


Christ is Risen!

Anonymous said...

A very beautiful loaf of Artos indeed. I'm sure your parish will again ask you to bake another one. I have always felt that if you have several people that want to something they should all be allowed to share in it. Not just Bobby Sue because she has done it for the past 27 years. I did google Artos quite a few months ago and don't remember finding any with frosting or glaze on it. I agree with the post that said it may be a mix of the Russian kulich and the Artos, maybe in blended parishes like ours. "Anywhosit" I did find an Artos recipe I really liked and printed out. Actually I have no idea if the recipe is any good at all but the pictures were pretty. They used white dead dough for decorating the top of the loves. Dead dough is dough without yeast. Therefore no matter how elaborate your decorations they will not rise during baking and chance disfiguring.
We also are an OCA parish a very small one at that and most of our parishioners are Greek (a very long story) We were assigned here to the high desert of California after seminary and will celebrate our first year in August. We are what they call in seminary late life vocations, more and more of us all the time now. Anyhow I am new to blogging, can't figure a thing out to fix my page with the things I want. This (blogging) has it secrete language that my poor old brain doesn't seem to be able to figure out. So if any of you gals feel like stopping by to visit and maybe offer up some advice I would be ever so grateful. It's lonely being the new kid on the block. I started th blog because I though it would be fun to meed Christian and especially Orthodox women who shared some of my interest. Anyhow beautiful bread and looking forward to meeting everyone.

In Christ
Matushka Terri

Elizabeth said...

Instead of the decorations with dough, I have seen a small (3x5") Icon of the Anastasis placed on the top of the Artos - a piece of wood of the same size is baked in the bread, then removed and the Icon inserted in that place.
Dr. Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recipe, I never made Artis before, and this year I am trying for the first time.

Christ is Risen!

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful recipe and this is the third year that I've used it. Everyone in the parish loves it!

At the blessing there is an Icon of the Resurrection that is placed on top of the loaf.

Fr. James

Христос Воскрес! Christ is Risen! Χριστός ανέστη!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your recipe. I am trying it now and will see. We have an additional tradition in our Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, where we add 11 little balls around the middle round loaf symbolizing the 11 remaining apostles at the Resurrection. Then we cover the top with a round icon of the Descent into Hades - Resurrection icon. We use this in our procession around the church 3x on Easter morning at Resurrection Matins singing Christ is Risen!

Claire said...

I too was asked this year to make the Artos. I was a bit stressed. Thinking I could never come close to what the past ladies had made. But with a lot of extra prayers I did it and it was cut last week and all was great. Of all we should be grateful for, the Artos success made my Pascha that much more special.