Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fasting Bread for Lent

A couple years ago I ran across this recipe for Fasting Bread (originally from www.catholicradiodramas.com) at Catholic Family Vignettes.  I just finished baking it for tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, which is a day of fast and abstinence. (You can read more about fast and abstinence at EWTN.)   It took a little while to make, but my children and I really enjoyed the process and it was great to read about the symbolism attached to each of the ingredients.

Fasting Bread
(makes three loaves)


3 1/2 cups Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1Tbs. Sugar
4 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast  (updated)
2 cups Luke Warm Water
1/2 cup 100% Pure Maple Syrup
1/2 cup Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Holy Water
1 cup Oats – soaked in 1/2 cup hot water for 2 minutes
1 cup Pecan or Walnut pieces – broken and skillet toasted 2 min
1 cup Dried Cherries or Raisins - soaked 5 min in 1/4 cup hot water


1. Combine the first three dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with a whisk.

2. Clear a small area in the center of the dry blend.

3. Add sugar, dry yeast, and the 2 cups of warm water. Let stand for 3 minutes until yeast proofs and forms bubbles. Combine with flour mixture and liquid. This will be thick but more liquid comes later.

4. Add maple syrup, olive oil and holy water. Stir mixture until well blended.

5. Add walnuts and/or pecans and raisins and/or cherries with their liquid.

6. Add soaked oats to the flour mixture.

7. Blend everything together in one bowl.

8. Turn out onto a floured board and knead by hand for 10-12 minutes adding more flour as needed to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead the dough by flattening somewhat and fold-in from the outside towards the center. Press down hard on the center. Rotate the bowl and repeat the process until smooth and elastic and forma “ball”

9. Return the “ball” to the mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, cover and let rise 1 hour.

10. Remove to a floured board and kneed several more times as above. Cut into three equal pieces.

11. Place each piece into a loaf pan coated on all sides with olive oil. Drizzle loaf again with olive oil, cover and let rise for another hour. Olive oil produces a tasty crust.

12. Slash loaf tops and bake in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until brown on top and bottom. Loaf should sound hollow when tapped.

13. Remove bread from pans and cool on a rack.

QUALITY INGREDIENTS AND THEIR SYMBOLIC REFERENCES: This marvelous bread combines pure, wholesome ingredients with symbolic references found in Sacred Scripture.

Stone Ground Wheat and Oats  Symbol of the pain of being crushed by the wheels of God’s Justice – which “grind slowly but exceedingly fine.” “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” Jn 12: 24

White Flour  a reminder of the manna given by God to the Hebrews during their forty years in the desert as Moses led them to the promised land. Manna foreshadowed the Holy Eucharist, also the called “Bread from Heaven”. Exodus 16:35 Jn 6:41

Yeast– unifying many parts into one; a symbol of the the kingdom of heaven and of the Church. Mt 13:33

Salt Christ said to his Apostles: “You are the salt of the earth.” Mt 5:13

Water  Giving life to all things; a symbol of baptism; cleansing. Lenten penances aid the washing away our sins. “He who drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst.” Jn 4: 14

Olive Oil  Acclaimed throughout history as a source of strength, olive oil was used by the athletes of ancient Greece to prepare for them for the contests. Mixed with wine it was found useful in healing the wounds of those injured on the battlefields of medieval Europe. Olive oil is used by the Church in the Holy Oils applied in sacramental anointing.

Pure Maple Syrup – Collected in pure form flowing from a tree; symbolic of the cross and of the sweetness of the Blood of Christ which flowed freely from the tree of his cross, the tree of life; shed so that “sins may be forgiven.” A symbol of God’s love by making this sweet nutrient a gift to be discovered.

Holy Water – A sacramental used in blessings and bringing new life in Baptism. Holy water carries a blessing just by its use and when introduced with the sign of the cross how could this not be a must an key ingredient of fasting bread for lent?

Walnuts and Pecans and Cherries – These pleasant gifts found in abundance from prolific trees are reminders of Christ’s command to go forth and “produce good fruit;” They are reminders of our own call to perform works of charity, prayer, fasting and almsgiving; the fruit of good works to be undertaken during Lent. Jn 15:16

Raisins – Made from pure grapes, raisins are the fruit of the vine; a reminder of the miracle of water changed into wine at the wedding feast in Cana; of the wine changed into the Blood of Christ at the Last Supper and at the Consecration during Mass. These serve as reminders of that mystery where wine is described as the “fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our Spiritual Drink.”

Heavenly Father, Let us enter the season of Lent in the spirit of joy, giving ourselves to spiritual strife, cleansing our soul and body, controlling our passions, as we limit our food, living on the virtues of the Holy Spirit;

Let us persevere in our longing for Christ so as to be worthy to behold His most solemn Passion and the most holy Passover, rejoicing the while with spiritual joy. Amen.

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  1. Beautiful! I love all the explanations, what a fun lesson in the kitchen. Thank you!
    Blessings, Holly

  2. This looks wonderful. I especially loved the Pure Maple Syrup portion. We have tapped our maples and made our own syrup for the last two years (photos at my place if you are interested). We will have to try this!

  3. What a great looking bread! I don't know that I'll be baking it tomorrow, but I think my boys and I will bake it this Lent.

  4. Oh what a wonderful post Jessica. I think we will be trying this bread over Lent.


  5. Looks wondeful! I wish I had this recipe yesterday though.

  6. Oh, I like this so much! And it's perfect for our foray into wheat baking without any egg or dairy! Thank you, Jessica!

    This will be great to work on during Lent...not just for fasting days.

  7. Wonderful post and recipe!
    I can't wait to try it!

  8. Beautiful, just beautiful. I would need to put on my thinking cap to recreate this gluten free for the kiddos.
    Peace And Raw Health,

  9. I think the amount of Yeast in the recipe may need to change slightly.
    2 packages of yeast is more like 4 1/2 tsp, not the full 3Tbs. it is calling for.
    I tried it with just 4 1/2 tsp, and it came out VERY well.

    Thank you for the recipe. I'll be making it often.

    1. I agree with Leenie. It should be 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast.

      Also, I think it should be 1 1/2 Tablespoons of salt, not teaspoons. I made it with teaspoons and the bread tasted very flat.

      I usually put 2 tsp of salt in my regular bread loaf so it stands to reason that a recipe that makes three loaves should use about 3 times as much salt. 1 1/2 Tbs of salt is 4.5 tsp. That seems like a much more reasonable amount of salt.

      Otherwise I love this recipe and have been making it all year round. I substitute cranberries and currants for the raisins or cherries.

    2. I just checked the original recipe and the amounts in my post do match. Thank you for the suggestions though, I will have to try that the next time I make the bread! And I love your suggestion for substituting cranberries and currants. Yum!!

  10. Thank you everyone, for all the great comments!

    Cary ~ I am sorry I wasn't able to post the recipe sooner. Here at Catholic Cuisine us "Mom Bloggers" share what we are making with our family, and are not making recipes just to blog about them - which means that often times the recipes won't be added until the day before, or even the day of, the suggested feast, etc. However, we now have a wonderful archive full of ideas, and as a few others pointed out, this bread could be made anytime during lent! :)

    Elizabeth ~ If you are able to come up with a gluten free version, please let us know!

    Leenie ~ I really thought my bread should have risen more, but then, I don't generally have the best luck with making bread, and it still turned out delicious. I am looking forward to making it again and double checking the yeast measurements (I had just used two packets). I will also add a note to the recipe above. Thank you!

    1. I know you might not see this because your post was almost 2 years ago, but maybe future readers might. If you proof the oven (when you start the pre-heat, put an oven-friendly container of water in to hydrate the air) it causes loaves of bread to "spring" up. I've found I get much better rises this way.

    2. Thank you so much, Leah! I'll try that when I make our next loaf!

    3. Trying this bread today for fasting Thanks I used cranberries and hope it turns out as I did not read about the yeast factor until after. Will let you all know. God Bless.

  11. We had a great time making this together today! It may become a Holy Thursday tradition for us. I love the symbolism and it will be perfect to have ready for tomorrow!

    Thanks again for stopping and taking the time to share all you do with us!

    With Prayers and Blessings,

  12. Hi, since some of the ingredients are so difficult to find or very expensive in my country (Panama, Central America), I think I'll make some changes...I'll use corn syrup instead of pure maple syrup, and some granola for the walnuts; I hope this works. I´m planning to make this bread for lent fridays, and the basic bread recipe (just flour, yeast, salt and olive oil) for ash wednesday. Thank you!

  13. Ana, I've used honey instead of maple syrup in recipes and that may be easier for you to find (my grandmother had hives in El Salv.). It would be more natural than corn syrup. I use almonds instead of pecans or walnuts sometimes in recipes or just skip. Cashews might be more available although the taste might change some.

  14. I tried this recipe today since I like fasting on Fridays. Wow, was it good! Thank you so much. The problem now is how to stop eating it :) God bless you.

  15. I have been doing a bread/water 24hr.fast on Wed. And 18hr. Fast on Fri. For almost 2 yrs. Now and am very thankful for the recipe. I have adapted it for my bread machines to use on the dough cycle. I also make fasting rolls instead of loaves. I alternate between craisins and raisins. As others have mentioned it doesn't lower the yeast amount as well.

    1. How have you adapted the recipe for your bread machine

  16. Great recipe and I use it for my 24 and 18 hourbread/water fasting I do on Wednesdaysome and Fridays. I have adapted the recipe for my bread machines on the dough cycle. I make fasting rolls instead of loaves. Also I alternate between craisins and raisins. For bread machine just cut all amounts in half and add all liquid ingredients first including the soaked craisins and oats. You may have to add up to 1/4 (tbs at a time) cup of flour during the mixing cycle until nice dough ball forms. As others mentioned yeast should be lowered to 2 1/4 tsp per loaf/batch (I use saf yeast).

  17. I am fasting a minimum of three days a week, not just during Lent, and buying fasting bread is too expensive for our budget. I look forward to trying your recipe, but, after hearing a Seminarian express his horror and disgust that people cook with Holy Water ... I'll be bringing water to be personally blessed, rather than just get some from a local parish! Thanks for posting!

  18. I tried this recipe today and it turned out fantastic! Shared with a lot of friends on Facebook, too.

  19. I'm thankful this recipe is still here! Third year trying it. We live to gift a loaf as well. ;)

  20. Just made this bread for our fasting today, Ash Wednesday, 2020. I was shocked at how delicious it is!!! Thank you for this recipe, which was shared with us from a dear friend.

  21. Is there a gluten free version yet?

  22. Hello, do you have the break down of the ingredients just for 1 loaf? Thank you so much!!!!

  23. Spectacular! I have felt called to fast on Wed and Fri for many years and couldn't do it on bread and water. Was always a failure. I believe this is the key to success. The explanation of ingredients is so helpful. I recently started to read "Freed and Healed Through Fasting" by Sister Emmanuel. The recipe and the book fit hand in hand. Prayers of gratefulness for you