|Unleavened dough–ready for the oven|
If you ever visit New Heights Chapel, you’ll find a church family steeped in tradition. We are a nondenominational church with roots in the Brethren tradition. We have two primary services: (1) a contemporary service with your usual praise songs, prayer, and teaching; and (2) a conservative meeting where the men stand and share what they’ve learned in personal study of the Bible that week, the women are silent and keep their heads covered, and we all sing hymns a cappella. One obvious connection remains between the two services: the observance of communion.
About 5 years ago, the elders asked if I would be willing to bake the communion bread occasionally. No stale crackers for us: Mrs. Seagroves had been baking unleavened bread every week since my family has attended NHC. She was getting older and losing her vision, so she needed the help. The recipe that came my way looked something like this:
- Regular flour
No proportions. No instructions. She cooked the way my grandmother did: from memory. While there is a certain charm to old recipes, this was a nightmare.
Enter the one tool my grandmother never dreamed of: the Internet. There are days when I genuinely thank God for this miracle of technology. I googled communion bread and found a million different recipes. I had direction. After several months (maybe years) of playing with the technique and proportions, I’ve pretty much got it down to a science. Like Mrs. Seagroves, I now have this recipe memorized, and I’ve enjoyed sharing it with others–some who now bake bread for the church once a month, and others who genuinely love the stuff and want to make it at home. What a compliment!
On this Maundy Thursday, I’m doubling my recipe in anticipation of Easter Sunday and a big church crowd. I’m also thanking God for this connection to my Christian ancestors and, more importantly, for Jesus’ flesh and blood sacrifice that communion represents Easter Sunday and every Sunday.
An unleavened bread recipe brought to College Heights Chapel by Frank Couch, prepared every Sunday for 2 decades by Mrs. Frances Seagroves, and updated in 2007 by Amanda Haley.
Makes ~200 pieces
PREP 10 minutes
COOK 20 minutes
TOTAL 30 minutes
- 1/2 Crisco stick, original flavor
- 1/3 c sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 c all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c milk
- In a stand mixer, blend shortening, sugar, and salt with paddle blade until fluffy. Add 1 c of flour, and blend thoroughly. Add half of milk, and blend thoroughly. Repeat, ending with flour. Switch from the paddle to the dough hook, and knead for 3 minutes.
- Roll dough out on a pizza stone. Using a pizza cutter, cut into squares. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes.
- When cool, break apart the pieces and transfer to a Ziploc bag.
There is so much fat content in the shortening that it doesn’t matter what type of cow’s milk you use. Go with what’s in your refrigerator already.
Do not knead the dough longer than 3 minutes: it becomes rubbery. Do not skip the kneading step: the dough is too sticky to roll out.
If you have trouble cutting the raw dough, it may be refrigerated for about 30 minutes to firm the dough. If you do this, make sure the dough has returned to room temperature before baking it.
This dough–raw or cooked–does not freeze or refrigerate well. If making ahead of time, store in an airtight container on the counter top.