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Sourdough Starter for the Bread of Oblation (Prosphoron)

Many of the traditional recipes found in Mediterranean cultures are made and enjoyed in the name of religion, whether to celebrate with or given as an offering. Usually these recipes are the ones with the largest history that have been refined to perfection. This sourdough starter can work for any bread you want to make. 

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Ingredients:

1 sprig of basil from the feast day of the Elevation of the Holy Cross
1 cup lukewarm water
about 1 ½ cups coarse bread flour

Procedure:

1. Dip the sprig of basil three times in the lukewarm water and put aside. Combine the flour with the remaining water and add just enough flour to make a rather thick batter. Sprinkle more flour over the top of the batter and place the basil on top.

2. Cover the bowl with a thick towel or woolen fabric and set aside in a warm place away from drafts. Leave overnight.

3. Next morning remove the basil and add a little water and flour again to "feed" the batter (as the Greeks say). Cover and repeat the process until the next morning.

4. At this point the sourdough starter is ready to be used in making the Prosphoron Bread. However, right after combining the starter with the rest of the bread dough, a piece of dough about the size of a lemon should be kept aside as a starter for the next time bread is made.

5. Just add more flour and little water to make a thick batter again, and let sit overnight.

*The sourdough starter should be kept in the refrigerator after "feeding" it with more flour and water. Every time bread is made the process must be repeated. If using yeast in the bread as well as the sourdough starter, set aside the next starter before adding the yeast (otherwise the starter dough will spoil).

Tips

Τhe basil may be an unnecessary traditional habit that has pointlessly survived due to supersition (there is no scientific or practical reason to its presence, as far as we know!).
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