The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

Bambino Bread to Celebrate the Centenary of Greccio

By by Father Dominic Garramone with Vicki Lopez-Kaley on Monday, November 27th 2023

2 C lukewarm milk
2 packages (3 and 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast
¼ C sugar
1 beaten egg
¼ C (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 tsp salt
5¾ to 6½ C all-purpose flour or bread flour


1.    In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle yeast over milk and stir to dissolve. Let stand for 5 minutes to develop.
2.    Add in sugar, egg, butter, and salt and mix well. One cup at a time, add 5 cups of flour and beat thoroughly after each addition until flour is incorporated. Add enough of remaining flour to make a soft dough that is slightly sticky.
3.    Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding small amounts of flour as necessary to keep dough manageable. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until dough is smooth and satiny.
4.    Lightly oil the surface of the dough and place it back into rinsed bowl and cover with a clean, dry towel. Allow to rise in a warm place free from drafts until doubled, about 60 minutes.
5.    Punch dough down and divide in half. (The recipe makes 2 breads so you can gift one to a neighbor!)
6.    Roll each half of the dough into a rope about 24 inches long, and form the braid as illustrated below.
a)    Form the rope into the shape of a circle with a long 6” - 8" “tail” put under and over the top of the circle toward the right as in Illustration 1.
b)    Take the bottom of your circle,  and turn it toward the left to make what was a circle into the shape of the number “8”.  This is difficult to describe, so look at Illustration 2.  The tail remains at the top right. 
c)    Next, take the end of the long “tail” and move it behind your dough until you can pop the end of the tail through the bottom hole in your “8” shape as in Illustration 3.  This end should form the bambino’s head peeking out from blankets or "swaddling clothes".  


7.    Carefully, place the shaped braided bambino on a lightly greased baking sheet, using one or more large spatulas or a unrimmed cookie sheet.  Cover with a clean, dry towel and let rise for 30 minutes or until doubled.  This should close up any gaps in the braid and resemble the finished bambino.
8.    Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes.  Brush with melted butter to make the surface shine.

To simplify the project:
The slow way of making bread dough is part of the fun of this project, but if time is a deal breaker, frozen bread dough can be used to skip the first steps.  Place one frozen loaf in a large sealed zip lock bag or covered dish and thaw in the fridge overnight.  Each loaf makes two “bambinos”.

OR Use an easy Pizza Dough recipe, such as the one that follows, which is enough for 1 "bambino" or 1 large pizza crust. 
Add 1 T yeast to 1 ¼ C of warm water and let sit for 10 minutes.  
Stir in 1 T sugar or honey and 1 T olive oil.
Add 3 C all-purpose flour or bread flour.  
Knead, let rise as in steps 3 – 8 above. 

This Advent and Christmas season is special for Franciscans.  We celebrate that 800 years ago in the Italian village of Greccio, a humble brother named Francesco from nearby Assisi created the first live reenactment of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  I
In a cave in the Umbrian hillside, farmers offered Brother Francis the setting and animals to make simple and loving tribute to the humanity as well as the divinity of the Christ Child.  The creche or manger scene has become a meaningful tradition for Christians all over the world and calls for awe and wonder at the humility of Jesus.
Francis’ simplicity still invites us to embrace the mystery that God became human in a simple and somewhat precarious setting.  Divine love was born on earth as “God in the flesh”.  What could be a more life-changing?

This recipe for Bambino Bread is from Father Dominic Garramone, OSB.   Father Dominic,   the Bread Monk, is a Benedictine priest at Saint Bede Abbey in Peru, Illinois.  He teaches High School drama and his cookbooks, blog, and bread demonstrations are a witness to the Benedictine life of prayer and work.  His latest book is ‘Tis The Season To Be Baking (Reedy Press).

As you may know, FSPA is involved in several events Honoring 800 Years of Tradition.  Click here for more details about: 
Nov. 29 - Dec. 17          The Greccio Experience: A Display of Nativity Scenes from Around the World
Dec. 4 - Dec. 15            Community Mural: A Nativity-Based Paint-by-Number Experience for All
Dec. 4 - Dec. 21            Baby Item Drive: Echoing the Love and Care Shown to the Holy Infant
Dec. 10                        Lighting of Mayo Clinic Health System's CAMS Building
Dec. 10                        Franciscan Night at La Crosse's Rotary Lights Holiday Display

Enjoy an article by Annette Mikat on The 800 Year Legacy of the Creche.

One more fact that impresses me:  Did you know that Bethlehem means “house of bread”?  The Word of God made flesh is born in a manger, a feeding trough, to feed us with his divine presence in the Eucharist, in the Community and in all the poor and lonely of this world. 

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