Sage has been celebrating the Wheel of the Year for 25+ years. 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.
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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