How to Make Prosphora (Bread of Holy Oblation)

Thought I’d update this old recipe and step-by-step instruction for baking Holy Bread (Prosphora) for use in the Orthodox Church, according to the tradition of my Antiochian parish. There are various traditions, so check with your priest and ask his preference. The full recipe is at the bottom.

By the way, what is prosphora??? Prosphora is a Greek word meaning “offering”. Prosphora bread is made for use in the Eucharist in Orthodox Christian churches.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
We use all purpose bleached flour – Yes, it’s OK to use bleached flour, you can read more about that HERE. We use rapid rise yeast, so it isn’t necessary to dissolve it in water before adding it.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Just showing this because I thought the graphic was funny 🙂

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Starting out with 2 C of water

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Looking a little dry. Time for another 2 cups of water, slowly added while the machine is mixing.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
One thing I hate about adding water is the dough starts to separate again, or gets some weird texture and looks like it’s ruined. Every time I added water, I had to step away from the machine because I started having a little panic attack. It seemed like it took forever for the dough to get back to “normal”.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Finally the dough looks okay. It’s smooth and soft, but very firm, not dry. Turn it out into a large floured bowl and cover with plastic wrap so it can rise.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
I like to take pictures of my fist punching the dough, that’s my favorite part.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Now we tear off equal portions to be rolled out, the size will depend on your parish tradition.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
We use a tin to cut a perfect circle – old coffee tins work well.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
We do two layers just like we do with our Artoklasia bread.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Now for the seal. Isn’t this a cute little loaf? It’s made from scraps.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
This is a very clear seal.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Press down very firmly. I like to give it a wiggle, too…but I was also told I had to work FASTER! Or while you’re working on the next loaf, your first loaf might start to puff up and the seal won’t look as awesome.

Orthodox Bread of Holy Oblation

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
He’s good at this.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Poke holes in the corners of the Lamb (the center part of the seal) and in a few places around the edge of the loaf to keep the seal from rising and getting distorted as it bakes. We used a chopstick, but you could use a wooden skewer or toothpick.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
I need to buy some seals of my own. Stamping the bread with a seal is an ancient tradition. St. John Chrysostom, who lived from 347-407, mentioned it in his writings, noting that all the bread was “sealed”. Probably with a cross.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Bake the bread until just barely golden brown. It should sound hollow when you knock on it.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Here’s a finished loaf. Let’s talk abut the meaning of the symbols. I’m just learning this myself, I was told to read The Prothesis from The Order of Preparation for Divine Liturgy from the red service book (I don’t know if there’s some official name for the book, but that’s what we all call it). First, notice the IC XC NIKA in the small squares on the top & bottom, and the large square in the center of the loaf. IC XC NIKA is an abbreviation which means “Jesus Christ conquers.”

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Typically the large center square is the Lamb, cut out and used for Holy Communion. Then the small square on the top is removed in honor of the living, and the one on the bottom in memory of the dead. Then other portions are removed in honor of various other things.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
This triangular piece is for the Theotokos. Theotokos is a Greek word that means God-bearer, or Birth-giver of God. In the year 431, the Council of Ephesus decreed that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. So she not only gave birth to his human nature, but also to God Himself.


The Greek letters mu & theta are an abbreviation for “Mother of God.” Looking closely at the triangle, you’ll see it’s formed by kind of stacking the theta on the mu. Hovering on either side are the spear and the sponge (you can see those more clearly on the picture of the seal itself).

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
The 9 small triangles on the right represent the 9 ranks of commemorations:

1. Michael & Gabriel, and all the angels of heaven
2. Baptist John and all the Prophets
3. Apostles
4. Hierarchs
5. Martyrs
6. The Holy Ascetics
7. The Unmercenary Healers
8. Sts. Joachim and Anna, and the saints of the day
9. Saint whose liturgy we celebrate (St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil)

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
And these little guys that fill in the empty spaces are not only ornamental but functional. They keep air bubbles from forming. Neat! But from there, or elsewhere, other portions are removed in honor of the Archbishop, Bishop and every order of clergy.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Each portion is usually cut from a separate loaf, using five loaves total. The remaining bread is used for the antidoron – yet another Greek word, it means “instead of the gifts,” and it is a blessed bread not used for Communion. Customs vary, but generally it’s distributed to anyone present, including non-Orthodox (the lamb being reserved for Orthodox Christians since it’s in the Eucharist). Technically, though, you should not take a piece after Liturgy if you already had one after receiving communion (doesn’t seem like many people keep this rule anymore!) or you at least should not take more than one piece for yourself each time.

Prosphora (Holy Bread) Baking | Orthodox and Vegan
Just in case anyone thought this was fancy sandwich bread 🙂

Prosphora/Holy Bread
5 lbs all purpose bleached flour, plus extra for dusting surface
1 packet quick rapid yeast
1 tsp salt
2 – 5 C warm (mildly hot) water, or as needed

Put 5 pounds of flour, yeast, and salt in large commercial stand mixer bowl. Briefly mix to combine dry ingredients, then add 2 cups mildly hot water and continue mixing. Add water as needed until a soft, but very firm, dough has formed.

Turn dough out into a very large floured bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a draft-free spot until doubled in size – approximately 2 hours.

Preheat commercial convection oven to 325 (you may need to use higher heat for a standard oven). Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper and dust them with flour.

Punch the dough.

Tear off equal portions of dough to roll out on a floured surface, the size will depend on the tradition in your parish. After rolling out the dough, you may choose to use a tin to cut it into a clean circle shape.

If making two-layer bread as we do: Place bottom layers on lined and floured baking sheets.

Wet the top of the bottom layers of dough, one at a time, then place the other layer on top.
(At this point some people let their loaves rise a second time, for about 30 minutes. We didn’t do that, but since we rolled out all the loaves at once, they probably did rise for about 10-15 minutes while they waited to be sealed.)

Dust the loaf tops lightly with flour, and be sure to flour your seal regularly between loaves.
Press the seal down very firmly, giving it a gentle wiggle during release.

Poke holes in the corners of the Lamb (the center part of the seal) and in a few places around the edge of the loaf to keep the seal from rising and getting distorted as it bakes. We used a chopstick, but you could use a wooden skewer or toothpick.

The bread should be a light golden brown (very light). Knock on the bread to see if it sounds hollow. If so, the bread should be done. Allow it to cool on racks.

After our bread is cooled we bag it up in very large freezer bags, 2 loaves to a bag, and they’ll keep in the freezer for several weeks. Let the loaves thaw overnight at room temperature (although you can defrost in the microwave in an emergency).

36 thoughts on “How to Make Prosphora (Bread of Holy Oblation)

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  3. I just made five loaves of Prosphora ( Qurban in the antiochian tradition ). I use the same recipe as yours, but each of the five loaves is about 9 inches round and not stacked. Yours looked beautiful–what jurisdiction is your church? I would really love a stand mixer ! Seems to make it so much easier. Thank you for sharing the lovely pics and the explanation of the meaning of the Lamb in our Eucharist. Blessings,
    Marlene
    st. George orthodox church, Houston

    • Hi Marlene!

      I’m also Antiochian Orthodox. I like kneading the dough myself, but it really is a lot of work! The machine is so helpful, giving my arms a rest, keeping me from getting sticky dough all over my hands…and it’s faster. It’s wonderful that you make the bread for your parish, I hope I can do it more often.

      Is your parish hosting the next national convention?

    • Interesting! I’m Antiochian as well, here in NZ. I’ve never seen a double-layered loaf. I watched my father baking it for years when I was a kid (he was a priest), but tomorrow is his first anniversary and it was suggested that I should bake the Prosphora. It’s 20 years since I left home, and given that I don’t have my dad around to consult, pray that I do it right!
      Also, we don’t use 5 loaves in our church – just one, and a second for Memorial services. Maybe it’s because we have small congregations here?

      • I’m praying for you!!
        We have around 500 in our parish, and the kids like to eat the bread like it’s a meal 🙂 I hope it turns out well. May your father’s memory be eternal!

  4. I just made five loaves of Prosphora ( Qurban in the antiochian tradition ). I use the same recipe as yours, but each of the five loaves is about 9 inches round and not stacked. Yours looked beautiful–what jurisdiction is your church? I would really love a stand mixer ! Seems to make it so much easier. Thank you for sharing the lovely pics and the explanation of the meaning of the Lamb in our Eucharist. Blessings,
    Marlene
    st. George orthodox church, Houston

    • Hi Marlene!

      I’m also Antiochian Orthodox. I like kneading the dough myself, but it really is a lot of work! The machine is so helpful, giving my arms a rest, keeping me from getting sticky dough all over my hands…and it’s faster. It’s wonderful that you make the bread for your parish, I hope I can do it more often.

      Is your parish hosting the next national convention?

    • Interesting! I’m Antiochian as well, here in NZ. I’ve never seen a double-layered loaf. I watched my father baking it for years when I was a kid (he was a priest), but tomorrow is his first anniversary and it was suggested that I should bake the Prosphora. It’s 20 years since I left home, and given that I don’t have my dad around to consult, pray that I do it right!
      Also, we don’t use 5 loaves in our church – just one, and a second for Memorial services. Maybe it’s because we have small congregations here?

      • I’m praying for you!!
        We have around 500 in our parish, and the kids like to eat the bread like it’s a meal 🙂 I hope it turns out well. May your father’s memory be eternal!

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  7. NICE! Great resource with pictures to help take my Sunday School class through the Sacrament of Remembrance! So, we will be reading great directions (with pictures) from you and learning while we make “play dough” Seals, while learning the meaning of each design. Thanks so much for your blog and pictures.

    Kh. Jeanetta Issa in Kansas City, St. Basil’s Antiochian Church

  8. NICE! Great resource with pictures to help take my Sunday School class through the Sacrament of Remembrance! So, we will be reading great directions (with pictures) from you and learning while we make “play dough” Seals, while learning the meaning of each design. Thanks so much for your blog and pictures.

    Kh. Jeanetta Issa in Kansas City, St. Basil’s Antiochian Church

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  13. This is a beautiful step by step instruction.

    My question is different and perhaps slightly odd.
    After a service where my recently deceased aunt was remembered, our family was given a loaf of offeratory bread. Oblation Bread?

    We were confused by this and wondered, do we eat this? Donate it? We would love to know what is appropriate. Was this holy (blessed) Offeratory bread?

    Thank you

    • Hi Jennifer!

      Customs vary, but I know that in some Antiochian parishes at least (mine being one of them), when Holy Oblation is offered for a living person or a memorial for the departed, a loaf of holy bread (blessed bread) is given either to the living person commemorated or to the family of the deceased being commemorated. You can definitely eat it, and often times people will share it with others after Liturgy or take it home to share with family and friends.

      I’m not really sure how this tradition started. Holy oblation is an offering to the Church/to God (which should be prepared by the person requesting the prayer), so it doesn’t really make sense to get it back! But…I do love to get my loaf of holy bread 🙂 I’ve never turned it down yet.

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