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Benedictine Baking 101 

Through a dim monastery hallway, a procession of monks walks slowly in contemplation toward the sound of chanted prayers. Dark robes flutter against sandaled feet, stepping humbly. One monk turns abruptly, his robe briefly revealing a pair of blue Converse All-Stars before he sprints off in the opposite direction. Habit flowing wildly, the bald-headed man runs across the abbey grounds like a frightened jackrabbit. The monk is Father Dominic Garramone, and it's time to take his bread out of the oven.

Father Dom's love of baking and the hearty appetites of the 35-members of his abbey are the inspiration for a new 13-part cooking series produced by KETC, public television channel 9 of St. Louis, to be broadcast on Colorado public broadcast stations starting Dec. 18.

Breaking Bread With Father Dominic isn't your basic uppity gourmet half-hour cooking show, it's a highly entertaining expedition into the world of bread, rolls and other flour-based munchies. While a baking show might sound pass, Father Dom enriches baking lore, expounding on the role of bread in the history of humanity since the first man plopped some rough dough onto a hot stone. The act of breaking bread is an act of fellowship, he points out, a powerful way to bring people together.

A member of the abbey in Peru, Ill., for 16 years, Papa Dom is anything but a reserved, rigid monk. He's got a wonderful sense of humor, is lighthearted and playful. He explains his recipes in a way anyone can understand and use, peppering the programs with semi-sarcastic quips and mini-puppet shows using flour sifters, complete with bizarre cartoon accents.

Included in the episodes are visits to famous bakeries, other abbeys, beautiful herb gardens and thriving foreign cultures within America's cities. Mini-tours and recipes alike are tailored to express Father Dominic's appreciation for bread -- the simplicity, the cultural importance and, above all, the taste. "I love rolls," he jokes. "And that's why I don't have much of a lap when I sit down."

Papa Dom simply loves bread, and he wants you to love it, too, and to be able to make your own fresh creations in your kitchen with your family.

Recipes demonstrated on the show include pizza, multigrain breads, flat breads, calzones, butter-pecan bread, hot cross buns, strawberry shortcake, veggie breads, sourdough, leftover bread creations, holiday breads, spinach swirl loaf and even a tortellini soup.

Companion to Breaking Bread the television series is a cookbook of the same name ($19.95) and a Web site: http://www.breaking-bread.com. The book features Father Dom's recipes, with adaptations for bread machines. Father Dom tries to use pure, wholesome ingredients for the best flavor, texture and appearance and the most nutritional value.

Recipes are accompanied with anecdotes, such as Father Dom's childhood memories of his mother making Fred Flintstone Telephone Rolls (or crescent rolls), which are included in the cookbook as Hog-bottom rolls, due to their resemblance to, well, guess. Sweet breads are a favorite, such as the raisin bread that netted Father Dom's mother 21 ribbons over the years at the Heart of Illinois Fair. Program guides, background information, recipes and merchandise can be found on the Web site.

Breaking Bread With Father Dominic will debut on KTSC Colorado Springs channels 8 and 15 on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 12:30 p.m., with "Basic Bread and Beyond," featuring basic techniques of mixing and forming loaves, and will explain why kneading is not only good for the bread and your body, but for your soul. Check local listings or the Web site for more info.

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