This week in culinary school, I gave a speech on sage.
We were all assigned to give short speeches on different herbs and spices. Sage isn’t necessarily my favorite spice and I haven’t used it frequently in the past. I am more familiar with sage as a medicinal herb with which my teacher successfully treated women for hot flashes. I learned that sage is native to the Mediterranean Sea and was used medicinally long before it’s role as a culinary herb. Garden sage’s scientific name is Salvia officinalis and salvia is derived from the Latin word Salvare which means “to heal” or “to save.”
When the teacher informed us that whoever brought in treats containing their assigned herb or spice would get extra credit, class got delicious. I baked sage bread, while others shared chili dip, braided cardamom bread, thyme biscuits, ginger cookies, citrusy cilantro salsa, and nutmeg-flecked English tea cakes.
I’m new to baking yeast breads and adapted a recipe for Navajo Wild Sage Bread, originally published in the book Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking, republished on the blog Cooking Books. Instead of baking the bread in a bowl, I created small loaves. And because I forgot to buy cottage cheese, I added sour cream, instead. I also added chopped walnut toasted in a little oil with salt and sugar.
The bread turned out to be moist. I may have pulled them out a little too early in effort to race to class, but the bread tasted pleasing anyway.
A little sage goes a long way.
1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm (but not hot) water
1 Tablespoon of honey or sugar
3 cups unbleached flour (I used mostly unbleached bread flour plus a little whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried sage
Chopped nuts, toasted
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon oil
Bloom the yeast by combining it with lukewarm water and sugar. In about 10 minutes, it should be frothy. Combine dry ingredients in smaller mixing bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sour cream until smooth. Incorporate oil and yeast mixture. Add the dried sage and nuts. Gradually add the flour mixture until a stiff dough is formed. I used about 2 1/2 cups of the dry mixture, stopping when the dough became smooth and elastic.
Place dough on a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, flipping to make sure all exposed surfaces are covered with the oil. Let the dough rise until about doubled, which should take about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Punch down the dough and knead for 1 minute.
Form the dough into desired shape and bake until the top is golden brown and crusty. My two small loaves took about 35 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a rack.
*I made my dough the night before and let it rise in the refrigerator, covered. Before I went to bed, I punched down the dough and re-covered. The next day, I shaped the dough in the pans and placed on top of the preheating oven, covered, until it rose. Then, I baked the loaves.