Lammas Day (St. Peter in Chains)

Lammas Day is one of the quarter-days of the year. It marks the day between mid-summer, or the summer solstice, and the autumn equinox. It marks the beginning of early fall, which is a harvest season for the Northern Hemisphere. It was celebrated in many different cultures in different ways, but almost all celebrate the harvest of grain.

Lammas, which means “loaf mass”, was a service in which people gave thanks to God for bread.  People would bring their loaves to church to be blessed and some of the loaves would be used for the Eucharist. Some services even included a procession to the local bakery to offer blessings.  

Liturgically it became known as the Feast of St. Peter in Chains. In Acts 12, we read the story where Peter was imprisoned by Herod, but an angel came and told him to leave. Immediately, his chains fell off and he followed the angel out through open doors. It is a day to celebrate and pray for both physical and spiritual liberation.

The great hymn writer, Charles Wesley, writes in “And Can It Be.”

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

To celebrate the ending of summer and beginning of harvest we are making a delicious challah bread. Challah, which is braided, is both delicious and looks great. It’s a great bread to bring to church to be blessed!

While baking, offer a special prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of bread. We recommend placing flour, yeast, water, and salt on the table to teach your friends and family about how bread is made and offer proper thanks.

Pictured Above: Women Baking Bread by Carl Moon, ca. 1937-1943, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum


Challah

Makes 1 Loaf | Total time = Approx 4 hours

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup room temperature water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, plus 1 large yolk (room temperature)
1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch of salt
Sesame or poppy seeds

Instructions

  1. Whisk 3 1/4 cups flour, 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl mix 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk, and 1/4 cup sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Using a stand mixer with dough hook (or kneading by hand), combine the water mixture with the flour mixture and mix at low speed until a dough starts to form, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic about 10 minutes.
  3. Knead by hand for an additional 30 seconds before forming a smooth, round ball with the dough. Place dough seam side down in a lightly greased large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until it has doubled in size, about 1.5 – 2 hours.
  4. Stack 2 rimmed baking sheets together, line with aluminum foil, and spray the aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray. Once the dough has risen, transfer to a clean counter and divide the dough into 2 pieces, one twice as large as the other. (The small piece will weigh about 9 ounces with the larger piece weighing about 18 ounces)
  5. Divide each of the pieces into thirds and cover loosely with greased plastic
  6. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, stretch and roll in to 16-inch ropes. Three of the ropes will be much thicker.
  7. Arrange the 3 thicker ropes side by side, and pinch the far ends together. Braid the three ropes together using a simple braid, and then pinch the end together. The braided loaf should measure about 10 inches. Repeat the braiding process with the 3 smaller 16” ropes.
  8. Transfer the larger braided loaf to the prepared sheet, brush with the egg mixture, then place the smaller loaf on top. Be sure to tuck the ends of the smaller loaf underneath the bigger loaf. (If you fail to tuck well the braid will begin to unravel while proofing)
  9. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise again until loaf increases in size by half about 1 – 1.5 hours.
  10. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375F. Brush loaf with remaining egg mixture and sprinkle with seeds.
  11. Bake until deep and golden brown and the loaf registers 190 – 195F, or 20 – 30 minutes, depending on your oven. Rotate your loaf halfway through to ensure even baking. If the exterior is darkening too quickly, cover the loaf with aluminum foil to shield the crust while the interior finishes baking.
  12. Let cool on wire rack before serving.