Thursday, December 31, 2015

Making Showbread with Shelley Houser

This is a guest post by my friend Shelley Houser of, in which she tries to bake a Showbread. This is an abridged version, so go to her web site or email her at 

But first, let's take a look at what Written Torah says about Shewbread:
YLT Lv 24:5  'And thou hast taken flour, and hast baked twelve cakes with it, two tenth deals are in the one cake, 
YLT Lv 24:6 and thou hast set them two ranks (six in the rank) on the pure table before Jehovah, 
YLT Lv 24:7 and thou hast put on the rank pure frankincense, and it hath been to the bread for a memorial, a fire-offering to Jehovah. 
YLT Lv 24:8  'On each sabbath-day he arrangeth it before Jehovah continually, from the sons of Israel--a covenant age-during; 
YLT Lv 24:9 and it hath been to Aaron, and to his sons, and they have eaten it in the holy place, for it is most holy to him, from the fire-offerings of Jehovah--a statute age-during.'
As you will see below, the reason why Shelley takes 0.2(two tenth) of an Ephah of flour (which is equal to 2 Omers) and not two tenth of an Omer of flour (as I wrongly assumed here
) is because an Ephah is listed as a unit of measurements in the offerings in Lev 5:1, Lev 6:20, Num 5:5, Num 28:5. As you can see, the word "Ephah" is absent from the wording of Lev 24:5 but it most certainly refers to an Ephah, as Omer would be too small.


I had a chance to make the shewbread yesterday, and have some pictures, as well as my recipe.  My brother questioned the traditional "loaf" look of the bread in some of my earlier posts, and he suggested an alternate shape for the loaves, based on some research he had done.  

Here is the recipe I followed for all of the loaves.

Showbread, makes 1 loaf:

Ingredients(US Cups):

2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C olive oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 C water


Measure out 2 C of whole wheat flour into a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add 1 tsp salt, and mix. Add 1/2 C olive oil, and stir with a fork until all the flour is moistened.  Add 3/4 C water and mix with the fork.  If it is too dry, add a bit more water.  Mix until you can form a soft ball.  If it is still too much like a batter, you can add more flour until you get a soft ball.  Turn out the ball on to a well-oiled surface, and knead for 1-2 minutes, adding more oil to the surface, if necessary.  

Traditional loaf shape:  

Roll the ball into a rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.  Fold it in half, and then in half again.  Then, take the resulting rectangle, and fold it into thirds.  Pull the top down over the sides, and taper the ends into a football-type of shape, and tuck under the loaf.  Put the seam to the bottom, and take a little water or oil on your hands, and smooth out the top, and hold the bottom together.  Put into a greased loaf pan, 5-inches x 3-inches x 1.25-inches tall.  Bake at 325-350 degrees for about an hour, or until top is browned, and the top sounds a bit hollow when it is tapped.  Take out of oven, and cool on a cooling rack.  If the bottom is not browned when it is taken out of the pan, return the loaf to the oven for a few more minutes, until the bottom is nicely browned, also.  This is very dense bread, and it needs a lot of baking time, to get baked all the way through.  It also takes longer to cool than normal yeast bread.

A different loaf shape:  

Some sources seem to say this may be a more authentic Mid-Eastern loaf shape.  This shape would not require the use of a pan, and so might be easier to have done in the wilderness.  Roll the finished dough ball into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Spread it with about 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Fold in half, and spread the half with a little oil.  Fold the resulting half into thirds.  Take the rolling pin, and roll this folded dough back out to the full rectangle size.  Spread with more oil, and fold in half.  Spread the half with more oil, and fold the half in thirds again, to be somewhat like a folded "cinnamon-roll" shape, as above.  The dough should be quite stiff and nearly rubbery at this point, and should hold it's shape on a cookie sheet.  If it is not, then you can roll it out again, oil, and fold as above.  Place the folded "roll" on a cookie sheet, and bake at 325-350 degrees for about an hour, or until the top and bottom are nicely browned.  Take out of oven, and cool on cooling rack.

Note:  Some tasters thought this was a bit salty, so you can use 1/2 tsp salt if desired.

Step 1:  2 C of whole wheat flour.

Step 2:  1 tsp salt

Step 3: 1/2 C olive oil

Step 4: Mix to moisten flour with the oil.

Step 5: Add 3/4 C water.  Mix to form soft ball.

Step 6:  Knead 1-2 minutes to develop gluten.  

Finished ball should be smooth, and satiny.

Step 7: Shape loaf as desired.  First method is traditional American loaf shape.

Step 8: Putting into pan and oven. Cooling.

Put the dough into a 5-inch x 3-inch x 1.25-inch pan.  They have some small loaf pans for sale at Walmart, in a 4-loaf pan that I think might work.  I had a small casserole dish that I used, and my husband made me 2 more pans from some aluminum roll flashing that we had on hand here.

With the American loaf shape:

Here are some pictures of the loaves on the table. We made a rectangle of 18-inches x 36-inches, and put some yellow linen on our table, to show the dimensions.  (Based on an 18-inch cubit, and the table dimensions of 1 cubit x 2 cubits).

[Aleksandr Sigalov]: As you can see, there is a plenty of space between the loafs for Table utensils.

I have one butter dish, which is approximately the right size for one of the loaves, and I have a few sets of camping utensils, that are small enough to put on the sides of the loaves.  I also show there is room for the other containers of oil, and frankincense (I am showing salt for the frankincense).  I am not sure if the frankincense was supposed to be sprinkled on the actual loaves, or just on the table in between the loaves.  I am showing it sprinkled in between the loaves.

Regarding the taste:  It's a bit hard to describe, but it is a very pleasant taste, which is like the yeast bread, but has no yeast flavor, if you can imagine that.  

It has a somewhat hard/crunchy crust, about 1/4-inch thick, then it goes into a softer interior, which actually makes me wonder if it will mold or spoil by the end of the week in our environment, without being refrigerated.  I want to leave them out as an experiment, but since we are not in the desert, it probably is not a fair comparison.

It does not have a "toasted" taste, like a baked cracker, like "Wheat thins".  There is more of a "raw flour" taste, because the loaf is so dense, that it didn't get really toasted on the inside.  However, since it is made with more oil than most bread recipes, there was a very pleasant oil flavor with it, which reminded me a bit of eating the high-end croutons one can get at a salad bar in a nice restaurant.

It was also very filling!  Just one or two of the small slices were enough to make me feel quite satisfied.  I was not starving hungry before I ate them, and I was not too stuffed after I ate them, but just felt like I was just full, and not particularly wanting to eat any more.

Bill thought they were a bit too salty, but my son and I thought they were fine in that regard.

It was able to be sliced fairly easily with my bread knife.  It was a bit easier to slice after I put the cooled loaf in the hot oven for about 2 minutes to warm it back up, than trying to slice the fully cooled loaf.  I also tried cutting and tasting the test loaf I had made 2 days earlier, which had set out on the counter for 2 days.

I didn't like the looks of the test loaf, because it had been baked in a larger pan, and had spread out to be wider and flatter than was visually pleasant for the picture.  I looked for a smaller pan to use for the loaves in the picture, and my husband made me a few more to speed up the baking process.  So, I haven't actually cut into any of the pictured loaves yet.  The picture of the sliced loaf is actually the test loaf, so you can see the flatter slices there.


[Aleksandr Sigalov]: According to Shelley's experiment, she came up with the following numbers:

Average size: 2.9 W x 4.8 L x 2.6 H with average mass of 478 g.

Standard deviation:  0.22 x 0.19 x 0.25 inches, 30 g.

One of her 12 loafs came out to be 3.0 W x 5.0 L x 2.25 H, mass of 416 g as I predicted in my previous post on the subject. My error for other loafs was about 15%, which is amazing considering that I took random values off the internet. Its crazy what technology allows one to do.

It is also interesting to note that my approximation of 600-700g/loaf from years ago in this post was more or less accurate. The highest mass of a loaf in Shelley's experiment was 518g (416g being the lowest), which is also about 15-20% off the real-life numbers. Not bad for a guess ;)

Enjoy and visit Shelley's web site here for more detailed information!

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