Lazarakia (Lazarus Bread)

Baking Lazarakia to eat on Lazarus Saturday is a tradition practiced in Greece and Cyprus. It is said to have originated in Cyprus, and it is significant that St. Lazarus was their first bishop. The bread is a mildly sweet Lenten bread made with sweet-smelling spices that looks like Lazarus bound up in grave clothes.


Serves 12posts-pic-lazarakia

7-8 cups flour
2 cups warm water
3/4 tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. aniseed or anise extract
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. olive oil (plus more for brushing)
Whole cloves for eyes or whole almonds for face


Dissolve the yeast in warm water along with the honey. Allow to stand for about 5 minutes, until it becomes frothy. Add sugar and olive oil and mix until dissolved. In a separate bowl use a fork to mix 7 cups of flour with the remaining dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and stir in the yeast mixture.

Knead the dough (I use a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook for this process.) for about 10 minutes or until the dough is elastic. (Add extra flour until you get a dough that is neither too dry nor too sticky to handle. If you’ve used too much flour and the dough becomes too dry, you can add in water by the tablespoonful until you reach the correct consistency.) Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour. Punch down and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

There are several ways to form the Lazarakia. You want your breads to look like little men wrapped in burial shrouds.

One way (pictured below) is to divide your dough into 13 pieces, with one piece larger than the rest. Divide the larger piece into 12 cords, and then cut each cord into half. At this point, you should have 12 pieces of dough, and 24 cords. Roll each of the 12 pieces into an oblong shape. Place an almond at the top as a face. Then take two of the smaller cords and, starting just below the “face”, braid the dough together.

Another way to do this is to use gingerbread men cookie cutters, and wrap the arms around the rest of the dough to create the burial shroud. Use 2 cloves for eyes.

Or you can do it free-form, creating the shape of a man with a knife, and wrapping the arms around to make the shroud.

When you’re happy with the form of the dough men, place the breads on an oiled sheet and cover them. Allow them to rise for 30 minutes to an hour. Brush with olive oil and then bake in a pre-heated oven of 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes (or until golden).

Lark Buns (Zhavoronki) Recipe for the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste

Picture of a Lark Bun for the Feast of the Forty Martyrs of SebasteThese lark buns are traditionally baked in Russia each year to celebrate the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. There are forty buns to celebrate each of the forty martyrs. The larks are the first bird to arrive in Russia each spring, and the feast day of the Forty Martyrs falls during Lent, so the buns also celebrate the arrival of spring. You can read about the martyrdom of these 40 soldiers here and here.


Serves 40

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks margarine
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • orange zest, to taste
  • raisins, for eyes

Mix the warm water, yeast, sugar, and enough of the flour so that you have a batter about as thick as sour cream. Let the batter sit until it has risen slightly and is bubbly.

Add the rest of the flour, the margarine and the orange zest (if using). Knead well (about ten minutes). Place in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled in size.

Using a knife or pastry cutter, divide the dough into 40 pieces. Roll each piece into a long hot dog shape. Tie each piece into a knot. Make one end into the shape of a head for the bird by pinching a beak. The other end will be the tail feathers … with a knife create that look. Put a raisin on each bird for the eye.

Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes at 325 degrees.


Source for recipe and explanation of tradition: An Orthodox Kitchen used with slight adaptations under the Creative Commons License

Lady Lent (Kyra Sarakosti) Tradition with Recipe

posts-pic-festive-fast-cookbookThe Greek tradition of Kyra Sarakosti (“Lady Lent” in English) is a great activity for children to count down the weeks of Lent. This excerpt from The Festive Fast Cookbook explains the details of this custom:

…[W]hen there were no calendars and people wanted to have some sense of time during Great Lent (before Easter), they devised an easy method of doing this. They drew up an image of Sarakosti as a nun. They took a piece of paper and cut out a shape of a woman. Kyra Sarakosti does not have a mouth as she is fasting: her hands are crossed in prayer. She has seven feet for the seven weeks of Great Lent [including Holy Week]. Every Saturday one of her feet is cut. The last foot to be cut on Holy Saturday is folded and placed in a dried fig or nut and whoever finds it is considered to be lucky. (G.A. Mega, Greek Feasts) (more…)

Making Burbara for St. Barbara

IIcon of St. Barbarat is a Palestinian custom to make Burbara for the feast of St. Barbara on December 4/17 in remembrance of the food she had available while imprisoned by her father. Read more about her life here. Holy Great Martyress St. Barbara, pray to God for us!

  • 1 lb. shelled wheat
  • 1 lb. raisins
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. fennel
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • crushed almonds and walnuts, for garnish
  • 1 tsp. anise (optional)

Soak wheat overnight and rinse.

Place wheat in a pot and cover with about an inch of water. Boil until wheat is tender, adding water if necessary to keep a stewy consistency.

When wheat is tender, add about a cup of sugar (to desired sweetness), the raisins, and the spices. Boil for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot, garnishing with nuts to taste.

Serves 12-16