Since specialty wheat flour is hard to find, here are some substitutes using all-purpose (AP) flour.
AP flour is a roughly even blend of what’s called hard and soft flours, which means high or low protein. So it’s generally good for anything and can substitute 1:1 without these additions, but these help the products come out better.
Don’t be afraid to use foreign brands if they say all-purpose on them, the ratio is pretty close to ours.
(which is a hard flour with high protein, which helps gluten form, creating the rise and chew that yeast bread and pizza crusts are known for)
(a soft flour with low protein, creating a tender crumb)
Whole Wheat Flour
This is a trickier one because whole wheat flour not only has higher gluten (like bread flour), but it also soaks up a lot more moisture, so replacing it with AP flour 1:1 will result in a soggier dough. Adding 1/4 cup oat flour, buckwheat flour, spelt flour, or similar whole grain can help.
You can also try using just bread flour, you may need to add extra to get the moisture level right.
Today I’m writing about Mistletoe, the legendary plant of love and friendship. As it is toxic to animals and small children, I’m going with a safe felted alternative for decoration.
Mistletoe is the name for a range of hemiparasitic, toxic plants that live off host trees in a variety of climates around the world. The one we know best is the European Mistletoe, an evergreen with paired leaves and white, waxy berries in clusters of two to six.
There are many uses to Mistletoe, and more being studied medically, including cancer treatment, arthritis, high blood pressure, epilepsy and infertility. It is used in folk medicine as a sedative, to lower blood pressure, help heal broken bones, and reduce tumors. Caution must be advised for any internal usage of this toxic plant, and a doctor should be kept aware of your consumption.
From a mythical point of view, the plant has been important for thousands of years, usually as a male fertility symbol. The Celts referred to the berries as the semen of Taranis, the god of thunder, while the Greeks called them “oak sperm.” During Saturnalia, the Romans hung Mistletoe indoors as a symbol of peace and love.
In Medieval times, Mistletoe continued to seen as a sign of fertility and love, while simultaneously a deterrent against witchcraft and unwanted spirits. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe was in full force, though it may have been started by the Romans, or even as far as the Druids.
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe was continued into the Victorian era by the serving class, who made the rules that a man could kiss any woman standing under mistletoe, and that it would be bad luck for her to refuse it. Every time a kiss was granted, a berry would be plucked, and once the berries were gone, no more kisses could be stolen by it.
Magically, the uses of Mistletoe are myriad. Keeping a bit of Mistletoe on you is an excellent bringer of good luck and fortune, and protection against evil. It drives away negative forces and attracts positive ones. In love spells, it draws potential love to you. It can break hexes. Mistletoe is also associated with spiritual development.
A Pet Safe Craft: Felt Mistletoe
You will need:
I freehand cut the branches with paired leaves. I did it in three sizes: one long 4-pair branch, one shorter 4-pair branch, and one short 3-pair branch. I didn’t bother with a stencil because I thought the variation made it more natural. Don’t be too thin on the stems or where the leaves come together!
Once they are cut, you will gently and slowly pull at the felt to stretch the stems and give the leaves a slight cupped curve.
Put the three branches together by their top stems and glue the tips, with a loop of ribbon on the bottom. Let dry completely.
Once it is dry, you may tie the ribbon as you like and maybe add a dot of glue to keep it tied.
Once the ribbon and bow is dry, now you can start fussing with the leaves to twist and tangle them to give them a naturally fluffed appearance, with the leaves draping down. Get a sense of how you want it to look after the berries are attached. Hold it up often to see how it hangs.
I did the berries in two parts, so that they could dry before I flipped it over to do the other side. Mistletoe berries come in clusters of 2-6, along the stem. You can use the positioning of the berries to help fluff up the leaves or keep a tangle in place. And if you need, a drop of glue here and there also helps keep things looking good
There you go! You can make quite a few of these assembly-line style and they make nice early season gifts.
I strongly connect to Kitchen Magic, otherwise known as Cottage, Home, or Hearth Magic. A lot of my posts tend to be about food magic, for example. So I wanted to spend a little time talking about what that means.
A Kitchen Witch blends the magical with the mundane by bringing the craft into ordinary domestic life. They bring hearth and home into harmony by utilizing their skills in enchantment, healing, protection, and cleansing, in normal daily activities. Even the basic tools of everyday life can be imbued with magic. Living with intent, and paying attention to details, are what make this witch such a powerhouse.
The key word to the mind of a Kitchen Witch is Intention. Whether solitary or in a group, Kitchen Witches layer their life in small spells, repeated daily as they do their normal activities. Basic domestic chores can become ritual. Cleaning a room becomes a consistent way to maintain protective wards and clear out negative energies. Washing clothes allows them to bless the garments their loved ones will wear. Their entire home is a sacred space.
Kitchen Witches tend to be practical above all, so they are capable of creating their own ceremony and sanctifying their own tools. The broom is not just a symbol, but something to be used for practical purpose. It doesn’t have to be a specially made item, or from all-natural materials. It’s up to that witch what works for them.
Herbalism is also a huge part of Kitchen Witchery as well. Like a Hedge Witch, they might use herbs medicinally and make lotions or tinctures, as well as being central to food magic.
In creating food magic, you must first determine your goals, and decide by what means you hope to achieve them. There are many options, from a baked good, tea or other drinks, a spice blend, or maybe an entire meal.
Please note that when you prepare something for another to eat, you are literally asking them to ingest your intentions. There is a moral responsibility in that, so whatever your path, I ask you to bear in mind whether the spell, not just the food, is being taken with informed consent or not.
When you know these things, start by considering the very base ingredients that are already required. A baked good requires some form of flour, for example, be it grain, plant, or nut based. Does the recipient have dietary restrictions that must also guide your recipe?
Then you can open up your herbal encyclopedias (I like Scott Cunningham and browsing the internet for this) and cookbooks and start your research. Ingredients don’t have to have the exact same meaning, they just need to be in harmony going in the same direction. If it’s going all over the place, there is no focus, and the energy will dissipate.
Another thing to consider is seasonal ingredients, for these reasons: One, seasonal produce just tastes better. Second, they naturally coincide with the seasonal Sabbats and their magic.
Quick note: Write everything down! Doesn’t need to be in a fancy journal. I use a plain spiral college ruled notebook for most of my recipes. Write ideas, feelings as you work, as well as results and notes for next time.
You can Charge ingredients as well, by chant and meditation, by the moon, or by crystals. Always check before using any gemstone, crystal, or metal, as some are not food/heat safe (like garnet or malachite), or if they might dissolve in water and leave shards (like Selenite).
These are some of the ways in which you begin to Layer your spell. Layering is a technique of building up smaller spells or energies so that the final Working is especially powerful and multifaceted.
Here’s an example:
Imagine, now, what you could do with an entire holiday meal. The cleansing of the space, literally as well as metaphysically. Decorating with meaningful symbols and color, and using essential oils for scent to inspire a mood. The food may have started over a month ago, when you planted the seeds to the oregano you’re using tonight. It all builds up and comes together. Everything has meaning, especially the celebrations of normal life. Layering is building up multiple meanings into a whole conversation.
This recipe was based on the ingredients and techniques that would have been available to the Nordic people in the middle ages, as no written recipes exist. I did it for an event held by a local medieval reenactment group. This is also when I made the butter. Check out my Magic of Bread and Leavening post if you don’t have a sourdough starter ready.
It was a hearty bread with strong flavor, but not really identifiable as a sourdough. I had someone tell me they were very picky when it comes to bread, and they loved this.
Multigrain Sourdough Bread
Utilizes a small-medium Dutch Oven, roughly 8-10″ wide.
Plan for 11-19 hours before actual baking (which is another hour), not including the soaker’s overnight.
Mix together and soak overnight. (If you are in a hurry you can microwave it for a minute or two, then cool completely.)
I love making food from scratch when I can, because by allowing yourself to be involved from as early as possible, you have that much more time to imbue it with your energy and intentions.
I’ll go over the history of bread and leavening agents a bit, then talk about making a sourdough starter. I love using sourdough leavening because it is so straightforward to start all by yourself. You don’t need to buy a premade starter or know somebody. Because you name it, and feed it regularly to maintain it, it kind of develops its own self and energy.
There are no bread recipes from ancient times or the middle ages, because bread making was so common you may as well have been writing down how to boil potatoes. They only bothered to record what they thought was complicated or special. The earliest clear instructions were written by the French in the sixteenth century. So what we know is gathered from a mix of written snippets and archaeological evidence.
We know that bread-making was tremendously varied in the use of ingredients, using all kinds of available grains, seeds, nuts, and produce. The oldest remains come from flatbread unearthed in the Black Desert in Jordon from around 12000 BCE. There have also been grinding stones with grain remnants from 30000 BCE found in Australia and Europe, which suggests bread making.
Cultivated yeast is a modern invention, and has only been around for about 150 years, so all forms of Medieval yeast bread used one of two agents: Barm, or Sourdough. Both use a bacterial culture called Lactobacillus in combination with microorganisms and yeast to create the rise we love in our bread.
Barm is the skimmed foam off the top of freshly made fermented liquids such as wine (must) or beer, and can be used to start the next batch of alcohol. Countries with a larger brewing industry use more Barm for their bread, like England.
The relationship between brewers and bakers has been a close one for thousands of years, connected by the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a precursor to the commercially available baker’s and brewer’s yeasts of today. In bread, it is sweet and rises quickly.
Sourdough is made with wild yeasts, and the flavor is much stronger and more sour, with a slower rise. 100% rye flour breads must use sourdough, as there isn’t enough gluten content for cultivated yeast or Barm to function properly.
Forms of sourdough are known to have been baked as early as 3700 BCE in Switzerland, but has likely been around since the cultivation of grains in the Fertile Crescent several thousands of years prior. It has traditionally been utilized more heavily in wine-drinking countries like France.
Families tend to their Sourdough Leavens (the fermented slurry of water and flour) and portion them out to their children when they move out on their own, and to friends as gifts. Some claim a long heritage for their particular Leaven and have their own rules and ingredients. Amish Friendship Bread, for example, is a form of sourdough Leaven that uses milk and sugar (for medieval reenactment purposes, sugar was not available in the middle ages).
How To Make Your Own Sourdough Leaven:
Sourdough is begun fairly simply with a starter known as a Leaven, which is a mixture of distilled water and flour (more on flour later) left to ferment and daily ‘fed’ more water and flour. A more liquid Leaven results in a more sour flavor than a stiffer Leaven. A balanced mix would be about 4 oz of each.
This is placed in a glass or food safe plastic bowl that allows room for expanding (up to three times is usually safe). It is given a breathable lid of cheesecloth, fabric, or a paper towel and held in place with a rubber band. It should be placed where the temperature is fairly consistent, and ideally between about 71°-86°F. For me, that is my Hestia altar in the summer, and in the winter it is kept inside the oven, the heat off, with just the light on. I also have to lay something lightly over the top to shade it from the oven light, or it gets this skin on top that has to be removed.
After a day or two, bubbles will be seen on the surface of the Leaven. It will start to get that classic yeasty, sour scent. When it’s at full rise, the scent is sweeter. Learn those smells, because its how you will be able to tell if it’s healthy later. You can even taste it if you want, some bakers do.
Every day while you are building it up, up to half the Leaven will be discarded (this is to maintain slow growth rather than ending up with way too much Leaven than can be used or stored), and another 4 oz each of water and flour is mixed in. Some people swear on sticking to a careful schedule of feeding at the same time of day, while others are more lax, but missing a day altogether can result in an imbalance in the micro culture. On the 4th and 5th days, you can even double the feedings to every 12 hours when it is at its lowest point.
The Leaven culture that is being fostered here is a delicate one. The symbiotic relationship between the wild yeasts and Lactobacillus relies on both being strong enough to edge out other microorganisms that constantly threaten to take over, including molds.
The kind of flour used does matter. Organic, unbleached, unbromated flour contains more microorganisms than more processed flour. Bran-containing flour has the highest amount of them, as well as a wider variety of minerals. As long as it is a grain-based flour, it can be used. If you care about having ‘local’ microorganisms, then use locally sourced flour.
Extra microorganisms can be ‘seeded’ by use of various fruits and vegetables, such as soaking unwashed organic grapes for the culture on their skins, or using the water from boiling potatoes for the additional starch. This is not a necessary step but something that can be experimented with to see if it affects the rise or flavor, which is a debated topic.
The starter is usually ready to be baked with five days after it has begun bubbling. Some days it will expand a great deal and it is perfectly alright to move it to larger containers when needed. Once it has reached this point, it can be kept in the fridge and fed only once a week or so, and can even go months if necessary if you take time to revive it before using it.
Set it out and feed it the day before you plan to bake with it. It should rise up well overnight, otherwise you need to feed it and try again the next day, as it may have gone dormant.
There are many sourdough bread recipes available utilizing a wide variety of grain flours and techniques, and I’ll be posting some now and again, like this Multigrain Sourdough Bread. As sourdough Leaven is a slow riser, many of them take up to a full day before it is ready for the oven and may involve a specific schedule of kneading/folding and resting. It takes planning, attention, and patience, for a delicious flavorful reward.