God Bless Martha.
The freakish first frost of Austin savagely murdered all of our Fall garden plants, save the broccoli, cauliflower, and a few select herbs. Among them: sage. So much sage.
My December issue of Living arrived, and Martha provided the solution. It’s like she knew this ingredient of the greatest potential was quietly thriving in our forlorn Fall garden, waiting to be put to use.
I knew little of the uses of sage before planting it, but it has been the ultimate trooper through our strange bout of Fall weather. It has grown beautifully and abundantly, and I’ve been tossing it into any broth or stew that comes through our kitchen. Apparently, it is the trademark of a Thanksgiving stuffing, which I didn’t realize until after the last Thursday of November. It’s also often cooked with butternut squash or pumpkin. In fact, we had an amazing butternut squash ravioli with a sage infused olive oil at our most recent Dinner Lab, and it converted me to a stout believer of that flavor marriage.
Just as I was contemplating how on earth we could use up all of this happy little plant, Martha premiered a versatile bread dough, braided with whole, fresh sage leaves tucked in between the ropes of dough. I knew then it was a winner.
Granted, it took a few weeks to muster up the courage to make it, since working with/waiting on a yeast product is grating on my nerves and patience. But it was soooooo worth it. The final product was as pleasing to my taste buds as it was to my self esteem. While the process may be a wee bit long, it is well worth the effort, in the form of a shiny bakery-style bread that is sure to make you overconfident in your bread making abilities.
I tweaked the recipe only in the slightest by adding a bit extra flour. That is probably more of a commentary on the humidity in my kitchen, or my ability to measure butter. Nonetheless, you can use your best judgement: if the dough is sticky when it’s supposed to be smooth and silky, knead in more flour, bit by bit.
This recipe makes two loaves, so one can be a bit of a practice round, in case you forgot how to braid. In my moments of panic with dough in my hand, I’ll admit that I had to retrace my steps and curse my 6th grade self for not joining in with the other girls while they braided each other’s hair and became masters of the art.
The second loaf can be your pride and joy.
Even if it doesn’t come out pretty, it is delicious nonetheless. The bread itself is sweet and extra buttery, full of those sop-up-soup capabilities you long for in December. The sage crisps perfectly and is reminiscent of the mythical and astounding stuffing recipe your mother makes at each Thanksgiving.
We paired this bread with my recipe for Barley and Wild Rice Chicken Soup. It wasn’t in the interest of promoting my recipes, I promise. There’s a quid pro quo situation in our home: I make Kevin’s favorite soup, and he makes updates to my blog.
Now, go dig out that obscure and almost expired packet of instant yeast and get going on this delicious bread. And make Martha proud.