Blaise was a fourth century physician and bishop of Sebastea, Armenia. According the legend, he was martyred by being
tortured by what what known as carding, and beheaded. Carding was the use
of large iron combs which were used to scrape the flesh from the body. St. Blaise is one of the most popularly venerated saints and his feastday is
marked in many countries with the ritual blessing of the throats with
crossed candles. This tradition is based on a legend in which St. Blaise
saved a little boy from death who was choking on a fishbone that had lodged
in his throat. This legend resulted in Blaise's appellation as the patron
saint of throat disease.
The cult of St. Blaise did not develop until the 8th century, more than 400
years after Blaise's martyrdom. The original cult of St. Blaise placed more
emphasis on the saint's ability to cure a variety of animal diseases since
his legends also portray him as the precursor of St. Francis, and was able
to communicate with wild animals. One of these legends claim that when
Blaise was arrested prior to his martyrdom, he was found in the woods
surrounded by wild animals who had come to him for healing. In medieval
celebrations of St. Blaise's feast, a specially blessed jug of water called
St. Blaise's water was distributed to farmers and herdsmen to use in the
treating of diseased or injured livestock.
The use of crossed candles to bless throats was primarily a French and
Germanic tradition. In Central Europe and many Latin countries, the
distribution of specially blessed bread sticks (Pan bendito or
St. Blaise's breadsticks) replaces the blessing of throats with candles.
Whenever someone has a sore throat, they break off a piece of the Pan
chew it and the sore throat is often said to diminish, a phenomenon known in
medical science as the placebo effect.
We suggest enjoying Pan
while watching the
Endless Breadsticks episode of TV's Robot
3, Episode 6).
- Combine the water, yeast, oil, honey and salt in the bowl
of a stand mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment); beat at medium-low speed
to incorporate. Add the flour a handful at a time until it is all
incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 or 6 minutes,
until a smooth and supple dough is formed.
- Liberally flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the
surface; pat and fold it over on itself to shape and form a neat rectangle
measuring 2 inches deep by 16 inches wide. Transfer the dough to a large
baking sheet and coat the dough with oil (to keep a crust from forming).
Place in a warm spot free of drafts; let it rest for about 30 minutes or
until the dough has doubled in size and is puffy. Sprinkle lightly all over
with semolina, then gather enough semolina to form a small mound at one of
the short ends of the dough.
- Position oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the
oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Have ready 2 large baking sheets lined with
- Starting at the end of the dough next to the mound of
semolina, use a 6-inch dough scraper to cut 1/2-inch-thick strips of dough,
pushing them through the semolina to coat well. Gently transfer the strips
to the baking sheets, stretching the dough into 16-inch strips. Repeat to
use all the dough.
- Bake immediately for 12 to 15 minutes, until nicely
browned and crisp; rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back
halfway through baking. Transfer the breadsticks to a wire rack to cool
slightly before serving. Bless before serving/
Makes 24 breadsticks