Sage has been celebrating the Wheel of the Year for 25+ years, and being a holiday junkie, she just can't get enough of the sabbats!
Lughnasadh is coming, and for my family, that means baking bread. But in this instance, store-bought bread dough or machines just won't do. In the spirit of the holiday, bread must be made in the old-fashioned way: by hand.
So put away the bread machine and pre-heat the oven. Don't worry if you've never baked before—this is a recipe anyone can handle. Roll up your sleeves, and clear off a big space to knead—we are going to perform the ancient, sacred ritual of bread making together!
Why We Make Lughnasadh Bread the Old-Fashioned Way
There are a few reasons we choose to make bread the old-fashioned way. For one thing, making bread dough from scratch, just like growing herbs and vegetables, or making things like soap, candles, and butter once in a while teaches the kids (and reminds me, actually) of what the world used to be like for our ancestors. It shows them the kind of time and effort that went into things before everything became push-button and fully automated.
The lesson of Lughnasadh is sacrifice: for something to live, another thing must die. To gain one thing (like bread), you must sacrifice something else (like time, and effort). If you wanted to eat, you needed to work—and even something as minor as putting bread on the table took labor. It makes you appreciate how easy we have it now.
Another reason is that you become more connected to your food and the ingredients when you put your own hands in them and manipulate them yourself. It slows time down, you live in the moment and really focus on what you're doing. It becomes almost meditative as you watch these ingredients transforming by your own hands, step by step. When you finally pull that heavenly-smelling loaf out of the oven, there is a real sense of pride and accomplishment.
The final reason we like to make the dough by hand is that when we mix and knead the dough with our own energy, we can pour in specific energy. This, in Wicca, is an act of magic. A lot of Wiccans like to make their own altar tools, their own incense, hand-write their Book of Shadows, etc. for that reason—to pour their own energy into the task. We can focus positive energy into the dough as we make the bread and imbue it with blessings. Then, when we offer this to the Gods and consume it ourselves with friends and family, we are taking this energy that's been built up back into ourselves, and we're blessed by it.
Preparation Time, Including Rising and Cook Time
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
2 hours 30 min
3 hours 10 min
About 1 1/2 lb loaf
- 3/4 cup milk, optional: substitute water
- 1 package dry instant yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar, optional: substitute honey
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable or corn oil
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp milk
- 2 oz seeds or dried herbs, optional
- extra oil, for greasing bowls
- extra flour, for kneading
Special Ingredient: Your positive energy and thoughts of blessings for you and your loved ones.
Step 1: Making the Dough
- Heat the milk to about 110 degrees. It's important to use a thermometer to measure temperature, because if it is too hot it will kill the yeast, and if it's not hot enough they won't get the little guys working well enough.
- Mix in about 1 tbsp. of the sugar into the milk and add the yeast, then mix until smooth. Let it stand for about 15 minutes, until the yeast starts to ferment and get foamy looking.
- Get a large bowl. Put in the 2 eggs first and beat them. Add sugar, oil, and salt, and whisk until smooth and the grains are dissolved. Add the rest of the sugar and the yeast slurry into the mix well.
- Sift the flour using a sifter, or put it in a bowl and whisk it dry—this will aerate it. Then begin adding flour to the wet mix, one cup at a time, to incorporate.
- Use a big spoon or dough scraper to scrape the flour from the sides of the dough into the center repeatedly until it incorporates all the flour and holds together.
Step 2: Kneading the Dough
- Sprinkle a little bit of flour on a clean, smooth surface. Rub a little on your hands as well. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface. It will stick, especially at first, but don't worry about it. You want to use the flour sparingly. If it sticks to the counter, periodically use a dough scraper or spatula to scrape it up.
- Begin kneading the dough (see videos below for dough kneading instructions if you don't know how to do that).
- Chant or sing a meaningful song as you knead. Think of the blessings you wish to infuse in the bread, like health, happiness, and success. Mentally 'pour' that energy into the bread. In our home, we take turns kneading.
- Knead for about 15 minutes (or longer if you like—you'd have to knead all day to overwork the dough). The dough is ready when it's smooth and silky looking and it's not sticky anymore. Give it the 'window' test by ripping off a golf ball-sized piece and stretching it—if it stretches into a thin, translucent membrane without breaking or cracking, it's good.
- Form a neat dough ball.
Are you ever really dead?
We find you ever-living
In our bread, in our bread.
Bless the dough
Bless the bread
Bless the diners
In their lives ahead
Step 3: Letting the Dough Rise
- Grease a large bowl lightly.
- Put the dough in the bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel.
- Put it in a warm place to rise for 90 to 120 minutes, until it's more than doubled in size. If you prefer, put it in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight to rise.
- About 10 minutes before the bread is expected to finish rising, set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lughnasadh Bread: After Second Rising
Step 4: Preparing the Dough for Baking
- Oil your baking sheet, or line it with parchment if preferred.
- Shape the dough on the pan roughly into a man shape. I do this by making 1/4 of it into a round head, and shaping the remaining 3/4 into a sort of rough rectangle shape. Then I cut into the sides of the rectangle to make two arms, and spread them out, and cut into the bottom of the rectangle to separate two legs.
- If you like, use bits of dough to make decorations or features on the bread man—little eyes, or solar symbols. A big pentagram on his chest—the choice is yours.
- Let it rise a second time for 15 minutes. Cover it with a towel and put it in a warm place (not on top of the stove; it might start cooking). This will help smooth out the form of the bread man.
- Beat an egg yolk with one tbsp. of milk. Brush it over the bread. This will help it brown beautifully.
- Sprinkle the bread, if desired, with seeds (poppy, sesame, sunflower, etc.) or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.).
Lughasadh Bread: Helping It Brown
Lughasadh Bread: "Dressing" the Bread Man
Step 5: Baking the Bread
- Put the bread in the oven. Bake it for 35 to 45 minutes, until it sounds hollow when you tap it. If should brown nicely, but if it browns too soon you can cover it with foil.
- Take it out of the oven and let it cool until you can handle it. Serve hot, or wrap it in foil and cover it with a towel to keep it warm till dinner time.
Traditionally, the head is offered to the Gods and returned to the earth as a symbol of the Sun God's sacrifice, and those participating in the feast pass around the body to feast on it.
Fresh Out of the Oven
Enjoy your Sabbat!
As you pass the bread, you may wish to give the traditional wish, "May you never hunger."
Enjoy and blessed Lughnasadh.
© 2014 Mackenzie Sage Wright
Marki on July 31, 2019:
Hi! So, i don't have an oven... but i have a toaster oven! Would this recipe be too big for my toaster oven? Also, would letting the dough rise in sunlight be too warm?
I really want to make this!!
Eieio on August 06, 2017:
You brought a much needed smile to my face, Blessed Be
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on March 27, 2015:
Thanks so much Kitty! Coming from you that's a real compliment, as I've loved your hubs.
Kitty Fields from Summerland on March 24, 2015:
Gotta tell you I'm really loving your hubs. Catching up on all the ones I haven't read! Thanks for your open-ness.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on September 10, 2014:
LOL, Pawpawwrites, this is true.
Jim from Kansas on September 08, 2014:
The bread man looks a little like the famous doughboy.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on August 20, 2014:
Thanks Ashley, glad you enjoyed it! Bright blessings to you and your family!
Ashley on August 19, 2014:
Thank you for an amazing recipe. My family loved this and the kids would have eaten the whole thing if I let them :)
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on July 28, 2014:
Thanks Blueheron; it's definitely along those lines of egg breads, challah doesn't usually use milk I know, but brioche usually uses butter instead of oil. I have no idea where it originated, it's just tucked into my mom's recipe box written on an index card, and has been there for about 30+ years that I know of. Let me know how it goes if you give it a try, I'll be making it next weekend myself. Enjoy!
Sharon Vile from Odessa, MO on July 27, 2014:
This sounds wonderful! The recipe does sound like challah, which is one of our family's traditional holiday breads--that and limpa--but it sounds richer in eggs. I will definitely try this one! Bookmarking!
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on July 27, 2014:
Thanks, I think it's along the lines of brioche or challah bread. Not sure, I've had the recipe forever from my family. It's very rich and hearty and addictive, most definitely unhealthy, lol. That's why it makes a great holiday splurge (and why we only make it about once or twice per year!).
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on July 27, 2014:
Thanks for your comment, Prosperity. The thing about energy is, you can put it into anything-- good/positive energy, or bad/negative energy. So if that's what you mean by 'black' magic, then yes-- someone could put negative energy into bread, or anything really. Some people will put it in without even realizing it (cooking while in a bad mood and angry at your family, for example, you're putting that negativity into the food). This is why most Wiccan traditions emphasize cultivating a positive attitude. Thanks for stopping by!
Liz Davis from Hudson, FL on July 27, 2014:
The bread man is so cool! I've never baked bread with eggs before. I'll have to give this one a try. Thanks, Sage!
Prosperity66 on July 27, 2014:
What an interesting read and recipe - loving the little message while passing the bread on the table. I just hope there is no black magic bread of that kind on Earth :)