Bread is the ultimate symbol of the Lammas season. After all, once the grain is harvested, it is milled and baked into bread, which is then consumed. It is the cycle of the harvest come full circle. The spirit of the grain god lives on through us in the eating of the bread. In many traditions, a loaf of special bread is baked in the shape of a man, to symbolize the god of the harvest.
You can easily make a loaf of Lammas bread by using a pre-made loaf of bread dough, found in the frozen food section in your grocery store. Certainly, you can make your own dough, but if you’re not much of a baker, this is an easy alternative. If you’d like to make your own, here’s a recipe:
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups bread flour, plus more if needed
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups milk, scalded
- 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons honey
How to make it:
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the peanut butter and the honey to the hot milk and stir to combine. Cool milk mix until it reaches 115ºF. Stir milk mix into flour mix.
Knead for 15 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to make a smooth, elastic dough. Oil the dough’s surface, then cover with plastic or a damp towel.
Let it rise in a warm spot until double. Punch down, then shape into 2 rectangle loaves, which could be subdivided into three equal sections and braided, or you could make one large braided wreath. Sometimes these loaves are shaped into “man” shapes, or if you’re really artistic, into a sheaf of wheat.
Let rise again until doubled. Bake at 375ºF until golden; it should make a hollow sound when tapped. Yield: 1 large or 2 regular-sized loaves
Source: The Fairy Party Book
Bread is a central feature in Lammas and Lughnasadh celebrations. Here’s a great recipe for whole grain bread:
In a large mixing bowl combine:
- 2 cups milk (warm to the touch)
- 2 packages of dry baking yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Cover this mixture and set aside in a warm place until it has doubled (about half an hour). Add to this mixture:
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of unbleached white flour
Stir until bubbly. Now mix in:
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 cup of rolled oats
- 2 cups stone ground wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons sesame seed
With floured hands, turn this dough out onto a floured board and gradually knead in more unbleached white flour until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your fingers.
Place this dough in a greased bowl, turning it so that the dough is greased. Then cover it with a clean cloth and keep it in a warm place to rise until it is doubled (about an hour).Then punch it down and divide it into two or more elongated loaves, roughly sculpted into mummiform shapes, and placed on greased cookie sheets.
Cover these and return them to a warm place until they double again. Bake the loaves in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until they are done and sound hollow when tapped.
A great recipe to celebrate Independence Day in the United States:
- ¾ cup sour cream
- 1/4 tsp. coarse black pepper
- 1 tsp. white sugar
- 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. fresh chopped dill
- 1/8 tsp. fresh grated lemon peel
- 1/4 tsp. finely grated red onion
- 1 cucumber
- 3 garden fresh red tomatoes
- 10 borage flowers
Combine all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and flowers. Slice tomatoes and arrange them, overlapping, around the edge of a serving platter. Mound the cucumber mixture in the center of the platter, just covering the inner edge of the tomatoes. Chill well, and place the borage flowers decoratively on the salad just before serving.
Serves 4 to 6
Recipe by Di-Di Hoffman
- 2-1/2 gallons water
- 1 cup meadowsweet herb
- 1 cup woodruff sprigs
- 1 cup heather flowers
- 3 cloves
- 1 cup honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup barley malt
- 1 oz. brewer’s yeast
Pour the water into a large cauldron or kettle. Bring to a boil and add the meadowsweet herb, woodruff sprigs, heather flowers, and cloves. Boil for one hour and the add the honey, brown sugar, and barley malt. Stir thirteen times in a clockwise direction and then remove from heat.
Strain through a cheesecloth and allow the mead to cool to room temperature. Stir in the brewer’s yeast. Cover with a clean towel and let it stand for one day and one night. Strain again, bottle, and then store in a cool place until ready to serve.
Midsummer Ritual Mead is an ideal drink to serve at Summer Solstice Sabbats, as well as during all Cakes and Ale Ceremonies and Esbats.
From: The Wicca Spellbook
Oats and oat cakes are still used today in Beltane celebrations, especially in Scotland where the tradition originated. Therefore, oats have been widely accepted as a very appropriate Beltane food, good for fertility and luck. This recipe for Farls, was popular in northern Ireland and Scotland, incorporating the ever-popular potatoes as well (with the oats!). Best of all, it’s gluten free!
- 3 cups real mashed potatoes
- 2 cups dry oats
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of pepper
- Pinch of rosemary (optional)
Soak the oats in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes. (Use the amount of water your oats package tells you to use as if for cooking.) Drain the oats if there is extra water at the end of their soaking, then mix the potatoes and other ingredients into the bowl. Knead it together until a dough forms. If it’s still too moist, add flour until it can be picked up and shaped. Form into round patties. Fry in hot vegetable oil until lightly browned and serve immediately.
They seem to cook best if you put them in the pan and don’t smush them down with the spatula on their first side. When you flip them over, that’s when you can smush them down a little, because they’ve got a cooked surface that won’t get stuck to your spatula.
Yield: 8 servings
The serpent or snake is a symbol of May because of its ancient association with fertility. This association dates back to the earliest Pagan religions, and though later religions cropped up casting the serpent in a deceitful role, the Earth religions still honor the snake as a blessed creature this time of year. Its way of slithering along the body of the Earth made it an obvious phallic symbol, and May Day is full of such symbols (the maypole being the most well-known one).
The holiday of Beltane comes on the first of May and encourages those who celebrate life to greet spring’s bounty with festivities, and that of course always involves food. This snake-shaped cake, incorporating appropriate seasonal ingredients, is a wonderful addition to a party table.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- The zest of one orange
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons honey, boiling
- 1/2 cup strong espresso coffee
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup amaretto or rum
- /3 cup wild cherry or raspberry jam
- Garnish: 4 coffee beans and some candied orange peel, in slices
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Mix the sugar, spices, zest, soda, and salt into the flour in a bowl. Cut in the butter until little pebbles form. Pour in the honey, coffee, and liqueur, and mix in the egg. Mix the batter until everything is evenly distributed and you have a nice soft dough. Let it cool.
Turn it out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Roll one half into an 18-inch rope. Make a deep trough down the center and fill it with jam. Seal it by bringing the edges up over the jam and pressing the seam together. Then flip it seam-side-down onto a parchment-paper-covered baking sheet. Arrange the snake in a circle, but don’t press the ends together. Make one end tapered like the end of a snake’s tail, and make the other end triangular like a snake’s head.
Press in coffee beans for eyes and orange rind for scales if desired. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough and bake them for 30 minutes.
Yield: 2 snake cakes.
Source: Beltane, by Grimassi
This is a very crusty and somewhat dry bread that is incredibly delicious and almost pastry-like in its sweetness. It is ideal for May Day/Beltane celebrations.
- 1 envelope active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup real maple syrup
- ¼ cup warm water (105ºF-115ºF)
- 3 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup shortening
Dissolve yeast in the water. Mix 1 ½ cups of the flour with the brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening. Dissolve the syrup into the yeast mix too. Add yeast mix to the flour mix; stir. Add flour until dough is easy to handle. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Cover and let rise for 15 minutes. Form into round, place on cookie sheet. Let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Slice pleasing image into bread top. Bake for 30 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Loaf can be brushed with syrup or butter during last 5 minutes of baking.
NOTE: Your bread will have trouble rising if the syrup is too cold! Warm up the syrup if it has been in the refrigerator, it should be room temperature or warmer.
Yield: 1 loaf
Source: A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook
Fritters are a nice variation on pancakes, and the bonus for this particular recipe is that they are sweet without any additions, requiring no syrup, sugar or jam. Many people have had fritters of various types, especially the popular apple variety. But . . . “elder flower” fritters? Yes, these actually contain elder flowers!
Flowers were a common ingredient in cooking during medieval times, which is where this recipe comes from (England, specifically). In this recipe’s case, the flowers mixed into the batter help add a kick and a minty taste.
Because of the elder flowers, these sweeties have been associated with faeries in folk myths. Because of that, they have been used at Pagan celebrations of Beltane, Litha, and Lughnasadh to help as a protection against the malevolent and mischievous fair folk, and sometimes these are even made at Samhain season as a symbol of keeping away bad spirits.
If you’ve never made a recipe incorporating flowers before, you might start with this one–you’ll be pleasantly surprised! (Read on after the directions for variations and notes.)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups elder flowers, freshly picked and cleaned
Mix egg, rose water, honey, and brandy in a bowl, then stir in flour and cinnamon. Should be thick like pancake batter. (Add flour if it’s too thin, and add more brandy if it’s too thick.) Fold in the flowers. Fry like pancakes, OR drop by the teaspoonful into a deep-fat fryer until golden brown. Serve with orange water sprinkle and fresh lemon, or dip in sweet cream.
Yield: Fried like pancakes: About 10. Deep fat fryer: About 2 dozen.
Use for: Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Samhain, The Floralia
Source: A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook
Note: In many areas it may be tough to find fresh elder flowers. If you order from somewhere or pick them yourself, make sure they are the Nigra variety because there is a kind you shouldn’t use due to high toxicity.
IF YOU CANNOT FIND ELDER FLOWERS or you are squeamish about eating flowers, there is a variation:
You can make this recipe by substituting very finely diced apples–about a cup’s worth–for the flowers, and adding a little fresh mint. If you do do this substitution I urge you to not neglect the mint, because with either elder flowers or with apple-and-mint, the minty taste is really what makes it so good.
- 1 cup sweet woodruff
- 2 bottles rose’ wine
- 4 dozen rose petal ice cubes
- 1 quart strawberries
- 1 quart chopped peaches
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup white rum
- 2 bottles champagne
- 1 bottle white wine
- 1 liter lemon-lime soda
Two weeks before serving: clean woodruff and pack into one bottle of wine. Cork and let sit.
The day before serving: make four dozen ice cubes by placing rose petals in the compartments before adding water. Freeze until solid.
Hull and wash the strawberries. Slice. Mix peaches and strawberries. Add sugar and rum. Marinate overnight.
An hour before serving: Strain woodruff out of wine and discard leaves. Mix champagne, all remaining wine, lemon-lime soda, and fruit in a large bowl. Stir.
Add ice cubes 15 minutes before serving. Serves 20.
Dancing with the Sun
by Jasmine Yalenorn
Mothering Sunday has been celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent since the 16th century. In Bristol, Mothering Sunday was commemorated with Mothering Buns as well as cakes.
A Mothering Bun is a circular, slightly enriched, bread bun with white sugar icing strewn with hundreds-and-thousands. These small, fairly plain yeast rolls were also topped with the much-appreciated caraway or aniseed comfits (candies) that also flavored bath buns and seed cake.
From The Verse-Book of a Homely Woman:
Then down to Farmer Westacott’s, there’s doings fine and grand,
Because young Jake is coming home from sea, you understand.
Put into port but yesternight, and when he steps ashore,
‘Tis coming home the laddie is, to Somerset once more.
And so her’s baking spicy cakes, and stirring raisins in,
To welcome of her only chick, who’s coming Mothering.
Here’s a recipe:
A specialty of Bristol, these are made by local bakers the day before Mothering Sunday. Traditionally, on this day only, the Lent fast was relaxed. The buns used to be decorated with caraway or aniseed; today, hundreds and thousands are used.
Ingredients for the buns:
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 50g caster sugar
- 7g sachet instant yeast
- 50g unsalted butter, diced and softened
- 300ml water
Ingredients for the icing:
- 200g icing sugar
- 2–3 tbsp water
Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt and sugar on one side, the yeast on the other. Add the butter and three-quarters of the water, then turn the mixture round with the fingers of one hand. Add the remaining water a little at a time, mixing until you have taken in all the flour and the dough is soft and slightly sticky; you might not need all the water.
Oil the work surface to stop the dough sticking. Turn out the dough and knead for 5 mins, or until smooth and no longer sticky. Lightly oil the bowl, return the dough to it and cover with cling film. Leave to rise for at least an hour, until doubled in size. Line 2 baking trays
with baking parchment.
Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and fold it inwards repeatedly until all the air has been knocked out and the dough is smooth. Divide into 12 pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball by placing it into a cage formed by your hand on the work surface and moving your hand in a circular motion, rotating the ball rapidly.
Put the balls of dough on the prepared baking trays, spacing them slightly apart. (They should just touch each other when they have risen.) Place each tray in a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for about 40 mins, until the rolls have doubled in size. Heat the oven to 220C/Fan 200/425F.
Bake for 10–12 mins, until the rolls are golden and sound hollow when tapped underneath. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
For the icing, mix the icing sugar with enough water to give a thick but pour-able consistency. Dip each roll into the icing and then into the hundreds and thousands. Makes 12 buns.