I’ve shied away a little from some of the more savoury bread recipes in Bread Illustrated. I think that’s because I consider them a little less versatile (i.e., not so tasty with Nutella in the morning). But I’m pleased to say I’ve finally dipped my toes into the world of savour with the Sage-Polenta Bread recipe – and it was delicious!
As the recipe name would suggest, there are two star ingredients in this loaf: sage and polenta.
The sage is just right – enough to give it a nice, herb-y flavour, but not so much that it screams “SAGE!!!!!!” in your face. The four teaspoons of minced sage provide a subtle but present taste.
The polenta is pretty cool – you don’t just use cornmeal, you actually whip up some polenta and mix it into the dough. Whereas the sage lends to the flavour, the polenta is all about the texture. It gives the bread a substantial quality that’s hard to describe – not quite dense, but definitely hearty. It would be a great bread to pair with a nice soup in the fall or winter, or to support a fully loaded sandwich (you know the kind – with artichokes and roasted red pepper and fancy deli meat). The cornmeal also plays a supporting role in the crust. While most loaves are dusted with flour, this one is dusted with a combination of flour and cornmeal. This gives the crust an appealing grit (but don’t worry, it’s not overpowering – it’s not like eating spoonfuls of raw cornmeal).
As for the recipe itself, it’s a two day affair. You start by making a simple sponge, which sits for 6 to 24 hours. Then you whip up some polenta, let it cool, and divide it in half: some gets mixed into the sponge, while the rest gets added to the dough a little while later.
It’s usual bread business from here (lots of waiting and folding), and then comes the fun part: shaping the loaf. This recipe called for an almond shape loaf, which feels fancier than the usual ball (or should I say boule) shape. After the initial shaping, you let it rise under a couche (i.e., a dish towel, in my kitchen) – as you can see, I had a little gaping at the seam, but I just pinched it all together and it was good as new.
I loved this loaf. It’s made me more amenable to some of the other recipes in this book. Fig and fennel, caramelized onion… what next!