Recreating the Lechem Hapanim
Did you ever wish you could go back in time to the Beis Hamikdash and see what things were like there? And beyond seeing, what about your other senses? What would you hear, or touch, or smell, or taste?
Les Saidel, a master baker originally from South Africa who now lives in Karnei Shomron, Israel, has spent years researching and studying to figure out how to recreate the Lechem Hapanim of the Beis Hamikdash. What were the Lechem Hapanim made out of? How did they taste? And how did they stay fresh all week long? At the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute, he’s answering these questions for hundreds of visitors at his Breads of the Beis Hamikdash workshop.
There are lots of answers in the Gemara, but at the workshop, you won’t just read about the Lechem Hapanim… you’ll make it and taste it for yourself, like a group of 16 eager boys in Yerushalayim, ranging in age from four to fourteen, recently did.
What goes into the Lechem Hapanim?
Most of the boys at the workshop didn’t have much experience baking bread, but they had some good guesses about what goes into the challah that they had at home: flour, yeast, water, eggs — and, according to one boy, chocolate chips.
The Lechem Hapanim didn’t have most of those ingredients, though. (Especially since chocolate chips hadn’t been invented yet!) In fact, the Lechem Hapanim was actually kosher l’Pesach, so it wasn’t made with yeast at all. And just like matzah, it had to be kneaded and baked within 18 minutes so the dough wouldn’t become chometz.
So what went into the Lechem Hapanim?
Soles: Unlike regular matzah, which is made with either white or whole wheat flour, the Lechem Hapanim was made with a type of flour called soles (in English, it’s called semolina). Rather than being a fine powder, soles flour feels sandy, like corn meal.
Water: Just like when we make matzah, the water for making the Lechem Hapanim had to sit out overnight to come to room temperature.
Salt: Just like all Minchah korbonos, salt was added to the Lechem Hapanim.
Baking soda: Probably the biggest difference between Lechem Hapanim and regular bread is that there’s no yeast allowed. But we know from the Gemara that the Lechem Hapanim was the thickness of a tefach, about four fingers thick. So how did they get it to rise without making it chometz? They probably used “neter,” a natural mixture of chemicals including sodium bicarbonate — exactly what modern baking soda is made out of.
Vinegar: Baking soda only bubbles when it comes in contact with an acid. But it only takes a little acid to create lots of bubbles. In ancient times, vinegar would probably have been made from wine.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 772)