St. Honoratus Baker's Guild of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin

St. Honoratus, or St. Honore, was a 6th-century bishop of Amiens, France, esteemed as the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs.

 

Legend says that when news reached his hometown that Honore had been proclaimed bishop, his old nursemaid, who was baking bread for the family, refused to believe he had been elevated to such a position. She said she would believe it only if the peel (a long-handled board used to take bread in and out of an oven) she was using put down roots. When the peel touched the ground, it was transformed into a blackberry tree that gave flowers and fruit.

 

In 1202 a baker named Renaud Cherins donated land to the city of Paris to build a chapel in honor of the saint. The chapel became one of the richest in the city, giving its name to Rue du Faubourg St-Honore. In 1400 the bakers of Paris established their guild in the chapel, and in 1659 Louis XIV commanded all bakers to observe St-Honore’s feast day (May 16).  To this day bakers and pastry chefs celebrate with processions and fairs, and a rich pastry named after the saint (Gateau St-Honore) may still be enjoyed today. His symbol is a baker’s peel.

 

The Recipe

From Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York as adapted from the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Ghost, Conyers, Georgia

 

For a double batch:

  • 4 c. white flour

  • 4 c. whole wheat flour

  • 8 t. baking powder (or a little less -- if bread puckers, use less next time)

  • 4 t. salt

Honeyed water:

  • 1 c. honey

  • 2 1/2 c. warm water

  • 2 c. milk

  • 2/3 c. pure vegetable oil (Canola oil works well.)

  • 1/3 - 1/2 c. molasses

 

Mix water and honey until thoroughly blended. Add milk and oil, and stir well.

 

Sift dry ingredients together into a bowl, then pour enough honeyed water to make a smooth, soft dough (usually requires only about 2/3 of the honeyed water).

 

Turn dough onto lightly-floured surface and knead gently. Flour dough lightly and roll to about 1/4" thickness (or a little thinner!)

 

Cut to desired size and shape. (A 3 1/2" loaf will communicate about 25 persons easily. A 6" loaf will handle 40-50, an 8.5" loaf about 80.)

 

With a knife score a cross on top of the loaf; this enables easier breaking of the loaf at the Fraction.

 

Bake on parchment or a lightly-floured baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes (or a bit longer) until golden brown. Do not overbake; that makes bread crumb more easily.

 

Let bread cool 20-30 minutes. When thoroughly cooled, wrap in plastic and place in plastic containers or zip lock bags for freezing. Several loaves can be made at one time and frozen for future use.

 

Allow about 1 1/2 hours for thawing large loaves. If you leave them out too long they become dry and stale.

 

NOTES:

  1. Please bake 8.5" loaves unless another size is specifically requested. (Leftover dough can be used to make smaller loaves for weekday celebrations.)

  2. Thinner is better. You want to produce a round, relatively flat loaf, not a dome-shaped loaf. A height of 1/4" or less may seem small, but it really works! Bread that is too thick or is dome-shaped is more likely to crumb and be harder to swallow. Larger, 8 1/2" loaves can be slightly (1/8") thicker.

  3. Roll the dough as if it were cookie or pastry dough. After rolling, use a bowl or luncheon plate like a cookie cutter to cut out each loaf. Do not just push down, but down and out towards the circumference. Make sure the surface on which you roll the dough is well-floured. If dough becomes too dry, add a small amount of flour or honey water and roll again.

  4. Make the cross boldly (somewhat deeply, but not all the way through) on the dough before baking. Each branch of the cross should extend through entire diameter of the loaf.