Artoklasia, means the cutting of a specially made artos (bread) that has been previously blessed in the church by the priest or the metropolitan and then distributed to the congregation symbolizing the bread that Christ blessed in the desert, then multiplied and distributed to the assembled crowd in the hope that God’s blessings will be shared and multiplied. It is a very short ceremony and a very old liturgical act of the Church and has its roots in the apostolic times. It is considered a remnant of the common meals of the first Christians.
The service takes place at the end of Orthros, the Divine Liturgy, or Great Vespers. It includes hymns, petitions, and prayers for health, well-being, and the strength to endure life’s difficulties. To perform the service, you need five “artos” (bread), a small container of oil, a small container of wine, and a list of names of loved ones. The wine symbolizes the blood of Christ and the olive oil the healing of our bodies and souls of the present and non-present loved ones mentioned by the priest.
Ingredients for 5 (8 inches) artos (Lenten):
2 packages of dry yeast
1/2 cup vegetable oil
12 – 14 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon aniseed (optional)
3 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 – 3 cups lukewarm water
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Preparation of the Artoklasia bread:
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the 2 1/2 – 3 cups of lukewarm water.
Add sugar and salt and stir well.
Add the remaining water, oil, cinnamon, and six cups of flour.
Stir the mixture until creamy, then slowly add enough of the remaining flour to make medium consistency dough.
Divide the dough into five parts; shape it into round loaves and place it into five round slightly oiled pans. Cover with towels and let the rise in a warm place until they double in bulk (about one hour).
Bake loaves in a hot oven (about 175º C/350º F) for about 45 minutes or until brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool. Boil aniseed in one cup of water and brush the tops of loaves with the liquid or lightly brush the loaves with honey. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.