The Art of Making Altar Breads

In the past many parishes made their own altar breads,  produced from wheat that is unleavened (without yeast).  Some still make their own, with dedicated volunteers helping out on a regular schedule.  Also, there are a handful of monasteries that still make, sell, and distribute altar breads such as the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Ohio (they have two convents that make altar breads: see here or here).   A video of the process can be seen from Passionist sisters in Kentucky here .

The old host making grill in the photos above is over one-hundred years old.  It worked like a waffle-iron.  The first step is to mix water and plain flour.   The next is to ladle a bit of the mix onto the griddle in order to bake between the heated irons.  The result are thin sheets.  Once baked and readied, the sheets are removed and dampened before being cut with cookie-cutter like utensils in the shape of the wafers (and sometimes stamped with pious emblems).  In the Roman Rite, the breads are circular in form, a tradition which goes back to the third century (a circle is an emblem of eternity, with no beginning and no end).  Further, the tradition of unleavened bread goes back to the eight century.  The wafer cutter seen below was patented in 1908 in Boston, Mass.  

"The Roman Church uses at Mass wheaten bread which is unleavened - that is, made without yeast.  This practice probably began in the eighth century.  In the East, all Christians except the Armenians and the Maronites use leavened bread.  Either kind is valid for the Holy Sacrifice, but every Church must keep to the kind required by its own liturgy.  Our Lord probably used unleavened bread at the Last Supper, because He was observing the Passover of the Jews, when this bread only was used" (Source: The Visible Church, p. 113).   

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