Soul Saturday is a special day in the Orthodox Church to remember those who have fallen asleep. There are several Soul Saturdays commemorated throughout the calendar year including today which falls on the Saturday of Meatfare Week (Tsiknopempti).
On this day, it is tradition to prepare Kollyva (boiled wheat) and Prosforo (bread) and to take it to Church. Yesterday, I received a phone call from Yiayia Eleni. She invited me over to help her cook and I was grateful for the opportunity to have another cooking lesson. (Here is a link to my first cooking lesson: We made Eliopitas – Greek Olive Bread!)
Yiayia Eleni wanted to make both Prosforo and Kollyva. We made both recipes at the same time so it did get a bit confusing for me when I tried to write down all of the steps. Yiayia Eleni doesn’t use a recipe from a book. She uses the ‘bitsa’ style of cooking – like most Yiayias tend to do. Bitsa style cooking stands for ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’.
If you are looking for a Kollyiva recipe that has accurate measurement and instructions then you might want to take a look at another post i wrote: How To Make Koliva – Remembering Those Who Have Fallen Asleep.
Here is my best attempt to document the day:
Step 1: Shop for Ingredients – Make Sure They Are The Best Quality!
Before you start cooking you must make sure that you have all of the correct ingredients. As these special dishes are made for Church, it is very important (to Yiayia Eleni) that you use ingredients that are the best of the best. Yiayia Eleni did not want to use the flour or the sultanas that she had at home because they had been sitting there for too long. So, she sent me off to the shops to buy 2kgs of flour and Sunbeam sultanas. The sultanas had to be sunbeam, because “they are the best”.
When I got to Yiayia Eleni’s house, she had already started. I didn’t get to take a photo of the first step but here is what she did:
Step 2: Prepare the Wheat For The Kollyva & Bring to Boil
Place all of the wheat out on the table and go through them one by one. Throw away any pieces that might look bad.
Put the wheat in to a pot and fill it up with water to cover the wheat.
Boil the wheat with the lid on top for about 1 hour.
A Trick For Boiling The Wheat Boiling:
Yiayia Eleni said:
“I used to boil the wheat for hours and hours. It would take me a very long time. But then my koumbara showed me an easier way to do it. After you boil the water for 1 hour, add in enough cold water to cover the wheat again. Let the wheat soak in the cold water (with the lid still on top) for another 2 hours. This cooks the Kollyva a lot quicker – only 3 hours in total.”
After the wheat has boiled (for 1 hour) and soaked (for 2 hours) rinse it in cold water, again and again and again until the water is all clean.
Step 3: While the Wheat is Boiling, Make the Proforo Dough
Sift 2kg of plain flour in to a large bowl/tub. Add a little bit of salt.
In a separate bowl prepare the yeast.
Add 4 cups of water (plus a bit extra)
Add 4 teaspoons of yeast
Add 2 teaspoons of bread improver
If you are not using bread improver, then you will need more yeast. Bread improver acts like the yeast but it helps the dough to rise more. So, use either 6 teaspoons of yeast or a mixture of yeast and bread improver.
Let the yeast rise.
While you are waiting, make yourself a cup of tea and have something to eat. This is not an option. Yiayia Eleni will make you sit down and eat.
Making kouloudia or other styles of bread is very similar. However, you would normally use sugar and oil in the other recipes. You are not supposed to use sugar or oil in Church bread – Prosforo – so the texture and taste is different. Remember, it is not normal bread.
Step 4: Knead The Dough
Check to see that the yeast has risen – this will take a different time depending on the heat. In summer it will rise very quickly, on a cooler day it might take a bit longer. We waiting until we finished eating.
Once the yeast has risen, add it to the bowl of flour.
Knead the flour and yeast mixture together until it forms a dough.
Cut the dough in to small pieces and then knead it together again.
Repeat: Cut the dough in to small pieces and then knead it together again.
Continue this process until you are happy with the dough texture.
Using A Thermomix
At this point, I wanted to use my Thermomix. 20 minutes of hand kneading can be done in the Thermomix in less than 2 minutes. Much easier! (Let me know if you want more information about the Thermomix! I will be happy to tell you all about it!)
However, the Priest at Church said that we are not allowed to use a machine to make Prosforo. You must do it ‘the old fashioned way’. Completely by hand.
Step 5: Allow The Dough To Rise
Cover the dough with glad wrap and a couple of tea towels.
Make sure that the bowl is not in the wind or near the window. Try to keep it in a warm place.
While the dough is rising (and the wheat is still boiling) prepare the other ingredients for the Kollyva.
Step 6: Prepare Ingredients For Kollyva
The Kollyva ingredients include:
Wheat (which is already boiling), pomegranate, almonds, sultanas, sesame seeds and cinnamon. Each of these ingredients need to be prepared in some kind of way. Do it in which ever order you find the easiest.
Peal the pomegranate and separate the seeds. Make sure you don’t get any of the white part because that is very bitter.
Boil the almonds in hot water. Peel the skin off each almond. (If it was me, I would buy pre-blanched almonds to make this step much quicker – however, Yiayia Eleni likes to blanch her own almonds).
Lay all the sultanas out on the table. Go through each sultana individually and ensure that they look ok. Discard any sultanas that might be too hard, too dark or if they have stems sticking out.
Boil the sesame seeds and then dry them in a tea towel.
Freshly ground cinnamon is best but you can also use pre-ground cinnamon (that is what I would do!)
Patience, Love & Prayer
Making Kollyva is not difficult. It is just very time consuming. It feels like we checked every single piece of ingredient before adding it to the mixture. This can seem very frustrating for someone who is preparing Kollyva for the very first time. However we must remember that quality is of the up most importance. While making Kollyva we are offering our time, our thoughts and our prayers to our loved ones who are no longer with us. Preparing Kollyva should be done with patience and love.
Step 7: Bake The Proforo
By now (or even a little bit earlier), the dough should have risen.
Cut the dough in to two even pieces. We will be making 2 loafs of bread. Whichever looks the best at the end will be the one that we take to Church.
Roll out the dough in to a nice round circle. You can use a round baking tray if you like. However Yiayia Eleni prefers to roll it out in to her own shape.
The bread must be imprinted with a special stamp. I am not sure what it is called or where you can buy it from – but I endeavour to find out.
Get a toothpick and poke holes in to the bread. The holes will allow for air to flow when the dough is in the oven cooking.
Put the bread in to the oven and bake at a medium temperature.
How long do you bake the bread for?
Continue baking the bread until it is a nice golden colour on top and on the base. Or until Yiayia Eleni says that it’s ready.
Step 8: Mix The Kollyva
After rinsing the wheat (step 2), drying the wheat (very very important step) and preparing all of the other ingredients (step 6), it is finally time to mix the Kollyva together.
Put (almost) all of the ingredients in to a large bowl. One at a time add in each ingredient and then mix. Leave a handful of each ingredient (specifically almonds, sultanas and pomegranate) so that you can decorate the top of the Kollyva later on. Make sure you mix it very well so that there is an even amount of pieces throughout the whole bowl.
Recipe Info: Normally at this stage you would also add in some ground chickpeas or bread crumbs. This helps to absorb the moisture so that you can add icing sugar on the top later. However, on Soul Saturday, you do not use icing sugar. Therefore you do not need the bread crumbs or chickpeas.
Select your serving dish and fill it up with the Kollyva mixture.
Decorate the top of the Kollyva with the ingredients that you put aside earlier.
We decorated our by using almonds around the outer edge and then creating a cross in the centre. The pomegranate was put in two corners of the cross and sultanas were put in the opposite two corners. You can decorate however you like.
Glad wrap the Kollyva to stop it from drying out and also to keep the decoration on top safe. Put the Kollyva in the fridge until you are ready to take to Church.
Step 9: Cool & Wrap The Prosforo
Once the bread has baked to a nice golden brown colour, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool.
Do not wrap the bread until it has completely cooled. If you do, then the bread might sweat. As soon as it is completely cool, wrap the bread in foil – for easy transportation to Church.
We made two loafs of bread. The one that looked the best is the one that we took to Church. The other bread stayed at home to eat later and I took half home for my husband to try.
Step 10: Write Out The Names Of Loved Ones
The final step in preparation for Soul Saturday is to write out the names of loved ones who have fallen asleep. Take a pen and a blank piece of paper and write each person’s name down one by one, each on a separate line.
Put this piece of paper in to an envelope and take it to Church. Hand it to the Priest (or sometimes there is someone who collects the envelopes on behalf of the Priest) and then your list of names will be read during the prayers.
Normally each name is read out 3 times. However on Soul Saturday, it is common for the Priest to be overwhelmed with many many envelopes. Instead of reading out hundreds of names 3 times each, he might say something like: For All Those Who Where Named Before.
Finally: Go Home And Rest
The whole process took us about 5-6 hours to prepare. As I said before, making Kollyva and Prosforo is not difficult, it is jus time consuming. I made Kollyva for my papou last year when he passed away and it took me a lot longer to do it all by myself. I will share that recipe/story with you some other time.
Do You Have A Recipe For Kollyva and/or Prosforo?
Please share it in the comments below.
Related Posts You Might Like:
- Greek Mythology and The Tradition Of The Pomegranate
- How To Make Koliva – Remembering Those Who Have Fallen Asleep
- Yiayia Eleni’s Eliopitas – Greek Olive Bread
- Greek Cooking Challenge Recipes