Christian denominations differ in their interpretations of the Eucharist's significance, but Catholics and Protestants tend to agree that the wafers typically used for the ritual aren't culinary standouts. Even manufacturers of communion bread rarely tout their product's flavor, instead focusing on its size, shape and shelf life (and, more recently, its suitability for congregants with gluten sensitivities.)
"Somehow it has been drilled into their heads that 'unleavened' means just flour and water," a Christian bookstore owner was quoted as saying in an American Jewish Life article about churches using matzah for Communion.
While many churches prefer to use unleavened bread, the Scriptures don't dictate a recipe for Eucharist bread. Depending on the church, the priest or pastor may consecrate boxed commercial wafers, pita triangles, Saltines, cubed white bread or oyster crackers.
But at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, the Eucharist bread is made in the church's basement kitchen. Five volunteers gather monthly to to bake the 80 loaves the church needs for four Sunday's worth of services.
The project started three years ago as an effort to save money, but church members say the baking sessions have helped reconnect them to the meaning of the ritual.
"There's a feeling that spreads across thousands and thousands of people," says Sterling Blackheart. "The love is spread, like good Italian food."
Blackheart and his 12-year old son, Sebastian, joined the baking crew after sampling the bread at Communion.
"We tasted it, and I was like 'I need to know how you're making this bread,'," Blackheart recalls. "They wouldn't give me the recipe unless I helped."
The recipe, which calls for whole wheat flour, milk, honey and baking powder, produces faintly sweet bread that's drawn raves from congregants and visitors, many of whom are surprised - and grateful - to encounter a homemade wafer.
"I had one gentleman who came to visit and he wrote me an e-mail," says Heidi Geis, who points out that in the years before the Industrial Revolution, it wasn't uncommon for worshipers to bake their own Eucharist bread.
And, she adds, it turns out it is indeed cheaper for the church to produce its own loaves.