Bread Ministry

By Sylvia Sepulveda, April 2019

About a year-and-a-half ago, during an EfM (Education for Ministry) class, I blurted out, “Is it improper to say how delicious our Eucharist bread is?” Everyone laughed, but Rev. Carol followed her laughter with, “That’s terrific. You should talk to Dale Ramerman – he’s always looking for bakers to join the rota!”

I’ve never been a great baker, but I did want that recipe. I netted my baking butterflies and gave Dale’s instructions a try. After mastering the correct depth for slitting the cross on the top of the dough round and having learned to monitor my olive oil freshness, all these months later, I now consider myself a veteran of the bread ministry, along with my dough mentors, Dale Ramerman and Mike Jackets. I love the meditative work of preparing the ingredients and the patience needed to await the rise. The baking is the easy part once the relationship between dough and oven becomes evident. Waiting for the finished loaves to cool so that they can be bagged makes time for a few good chapters of a book or half a movie. And how sweet to deliver the bread to the Sacristy on a Saturday afternoon and place it next to the cruets of water and wine and fresh linens prepared by the altar guild. I can’t help but wonder about who might have prepared the same humble meal for Jesus and his disciples. This is truly a ministry in which I participate as much for myself as for the community.

“The fresh bread ministry started at Christ Church about five to six years ago,” I learned recently from Dale Ramerman. “The impulse grew out of going to church all my life. Bread is such an important element throughout scripture – the story of manna in the wilderness, Jesus feeding thousands.” For many years, he attended a Presbyterian Church that served tiny cubes of white bread and wine offered in diminutive glasses. Later, introduced to the Episcopal church by Rev. Diane, he was impressed by how the Eucharist was celebrated. “Christianity celebrates the faith of a community. Community is the faith. Bread and wine are part of our offering to God. It followed that the use of real bread made by a member of the community would be a more significant offering than wafers that would be bought. It shows our community, something we can do for each other.”

Unfortunately, two of our priests contemporaneously discovered their gluten allergies about the time recipes were being investigated. “We tried to find a workable gluten-free bread recipe without much luck,” Dale said. “We couldn’t make it work as a practical matter.” Crumbs. The winning recipe came from the Diocesan House librarian at the Cathedral office. This recipe contained barley, the old-fashioned ingredient that makes our bread a kind of memorial. “The object captures the memory,” as Dale put it. “Both old and new testaments are clear about the use of barley loaves. Barley was the most commonly used grain.” It’s helpful when our own personal histories (gifts, interests, passions) lend to the need at hand. “I come from a family of bread-makers,” Dale told me. “I wanted to learn from a young age. My mother taught me how to make various baked goods beginning from around my junior-high years.”

While comparing baking notes with our Sunday coffee-hour host, John Delourme, Dale and I learned that John also absorbed much of his baking prowess from his mother. “Cooking is about capturing the essence of the memory of my mother’s food.” Even after the many years of hard work at culinary school, “All the effort learning to prep in a perfect way didn’t capture the special quality of my mom’s cooking. She wasn’t trying to make it perfect, she was trying to make it good.” And the most valuable culinary lesson? “The best way to learn is in the doing. There are no mistakes, just a different outcome from the expected. The mistakes can result in some other beautiful thing.” Having supplemented his mom’s instruction with a few principles from James Beard’s book, “Beard on Bread”, Dale now uses a mixer to blend ingredients, but kneads by hand. “No one can tell, but I know the difference,” he attests. “The feel of it is important.” “That’s it,” John concurs. 

And, yes, there is room in the bread-making rota for you, too! Contact Sylvia Sepulveda or the church office if you’re interested.

Communion Bread Recipe

  1. Add to bowl and mix:
    1 cup warm water
    1 tsp salt
    3 tbs honey (or about 5 tbs sugar) 2 tbs olive oil
    1 3/4 tsp dry yeast

If you have any question about your yeast, you can proof the yeast, ie, wait at this point for five minutes or so to see if the yeast mixture starts to foam/bubble.

  1. Mix together well:
    1 tbs barley flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 2/3 cups white bread flour

(White bread flour is essential for the right texture.)

  1. Add flour gradually to yeast liquid, mixing well.
  2. Turn onto a floured board and knead for about 5 minutes (or use your mixer with a bread hook), until dough springs back when poked with a finger or knuckle. Place in a bowl with some melted butter (or oil), turn the dough so it is covered with the oil, cover with waxed paper, and cover with a damp cloth. Place in a warm place (such as oven at less than 130o) for 45-60 minutes, until dough doubles in size. Remove from oven.
  3. Turn on oven to 350o.
  4. Return bread to floured board, punch down, and divide into two parts. Shape one half into a loaf, flattening it with a rolling pin to about an inch, and place on a greased aluminum sheet. Cover with damp paper towel or waxed paper and let rise for 10-15 minutes. Use the remaining dough for whatever purpose you want.
  5. Using serrated knife, score the bread loaf, from edge to edge and about 1⁄2 through the loaf, forming a cross on the top of the loaf.
  6. Bake at 350o for 12-13 at minutes until golden brown on top. If the bread is soft, it makes it easier for the Priest to serve it without dropping crumbs. Cool completely on a wire rack, and then cover or bag.

This recipe was adapted by someone at Seabury-Western Seminary who had received it from the Abbot the Benedictine Abby of St. Gregory at Three Rivers, Michigan. The barley, presumably, reminds us of the five barley loaves in John 6:9-13.

October 19, 2017 Dale Ramerman