Scott Hahn’s New Book Is a Culinary Pilgrimage Through Lent

“In denying ourselves the satisfaction of our bodily appetites,” writes Hahn, “we become more aware of, and closer to, the spiritual reality of God.”

Cover and excerpt from ‘The Lenten Cookbook’ by David Geisser and Scott Hahn
Cover and excerpt from ‘The Lenten Cookbook’ by David Geisser and Scott Hahn (photo: Sophia Institute Press)

We’re barely a month away from Ash Wednesday, March 2 — the beginning of Lent, when “the Church unites herself … to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (CCC 540).

Taking a culinary look at Lent — when most of us cut back on our meals — is Scott Hahn, renowned as a professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and a prolific author of more than 40 books, including his latest, The Lenten Cookbook, from Sophia Institute Press. The text is more than just recipes, however — Hahn draws from his expertise to show us the history of Lent and fasting.

His first chapter is called “The Joy of Fasting,” in which he lays out his premise that today’s Catholics are rediscovering traditional disciplines, including fasting, which teach “prayerful self-restraint in food choices generally.”

“Fasting is part of the good life,” says Hahn, “and fasting is joyful.”

He then moves on to a series of historical sections that examine fasting in everyday life, from the time of Ezra in the Old Testament, to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and eventually to our own time.

Hahn also has a chapter on Lent and on “Fasting Through the Year,” in which he says:

The joy of fasting can be described in many ways, but ultimately, they all come back to a single truth: In denying ourselves the satisfaction of our bodily appetites, we become more aware of, and closer to, the spiritual reality of God.

Hahn also dives deeply into Lenten recipes with the help of renowned Swiss chef David Geisser, a former member of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. The chef created each dish  and Hahn paired the recipes with biblical quotes from the Old and the New Testaments.

Starting with breakfast, meal plans continue through soup, salad, collations (light meals), main dishes (including curries), breads and hot cross buns with a concluding page of dough recipes. By the time readers have thumbed through the book, they will likely run to the kitchen — the recipes are clear and well-presented, and the accompanying color photos beckon the hungry.

The Lenten Cookbook is a culinary masterpiece that you’ll want to have in your kitchen this Lent.


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Hot Cross Buns with Maple Syrup

Makes 10 buns

An Easter and Lenten tradition dating back centuries, hot cross buns are a special treat especially during Holy Week.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (500 g) Zopfmehl (braid flour*)
  • 1 tsp (5 g) sea salt
  • 4 tsp (20 g) yeast
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) butter, softened and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 mL) milk
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk

Preparation

Mix the flour, sea salt, and yeast in a bowl. Add the butter, milk, and maple syrup and knead into a soft, smooth dough. Cover the dough and let it rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes, until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 10 pieces, about 3 ounces (90 g) each. Shape them into balls and place them on the baking sheet. Cover the balls and let them rise for about 30 minutes. Mix the egg with the milk and brush the buns with it. Using a sharp knife, score them in the shape of a cross. Bake on the second rack from the bottom for about 25 minutes.

*Braid flour is difficult to find outside Switzerland. The two most common suggestions for approximating this flour are (1) 10 percent spelt flour and 90 percent wheat flour and (2) 15 percent bread flour and 85 percent all-purpose flour. Alternatively, you can use 2 1/2 cups of white flour for this recipe.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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