Traditionally, in catholic (e.g. Roman and Episcopal) churches, an unleavened, productized communion wafer has served the purpose for many decades. However, more recently, Christian communities in the U.S. have been choosing bread with a less mass-market, cardboard-like consistency (those little wafers can be had for $19 the thousand at Amazon and $12 per thousand at “Christian” suppliers like ChurchPartner.com).
In particular, congregations who seek, at least symbolically, to re approach Christianity’s 1st-century roots, wherein communion was not a ritual, but literally communing – as in getting together for a meal – have opted for as many different kinds of bread as there are faith communities.
Our church, Holy Trinity, uses a bread recipe that, apparently, is popular with other Episcopal churches and was introduced into our midst, I believe, by the Rev. Beth Foote. I’d describe the bread as small, soft, bun-like rounds, made from a mix of whole wheat and white flour with honey and olive oil. They are leavened, despite the fact that Christ, celebrating Passover, would have shared unleavened bread with the Apostles at the last supper – but, then, Episcopalians have always been a little loose with Scripture, if not ritual. In any case, the use of unleavened bread is not canonical in the Episcopal church.
The cross cut in the top of each round is both symbolic and practical – it makes it easy to break the bread and the honey-and-oil texture minimizes annoying ‘crumb fallout.’ The honey also gives the bread a wonderful flavor. I don’t think you can buy this bread anywhere, so communities that use it form small ministries who shoulder the task of producing the bread. Which is what my “girls'” bread-baking group was about last night. Here’s the Communion Bread Recipe (pdf)…