Communion seems to have snuck up on Nadine and me this time around. Nadine has been sick and working like a crazy person, and I’ve been doing a lot of traveling the past few weeks. Before we knew it, Communion was Upon Us. We talked on Wednesday to settle on a bread.
I’ve had a pumpkin-sage bread swirling around in my brain for a few weeks now, and when I found out she’d be talking about abundance this Sunday, I proposed this Thanksgiving-flavored bread. Nadine was on board, so all that was left was to make it.
I had seen an absolutely stunning loaf of Bread Baking Babe Heather‘s a few weeks ago where she decorated the top of the loaf by pressing herbs into it and then coating it with a flour, like a reverse stencil. I checked with her about exactly how she did it, because I thought sage leaves would make a beautiful impression on my loaves. Her explanation of how she achieved the look was great, so I was off and running. Thank you, Heather!
All I had to do was come up with a recipe. Aside from coming up with the general flavor profile, I made this bread up as I went along. Fortunately I took notes, because it’s delicious. Since I wanted to use a bunch of butter, the crumb is quite soft. What look like rustic, crusty loaves on the outside are actually very tender and mellow, with an almost-sandwich bread texture.
We ate some of the bread last night (I made three loaves and sent Nadine two) with pasta and meat sauce, and I can attest to the fact that it sops up sauce like a champ. It’s so good and soft that the next time I make it, I’ll make them into dinner rolls. Perfect for my, or your, Thanksgiving table!
Some Sciency Stuff, for Those So Inclined
I wanted this to be a very slack, or wet, dough, so I decided to shoot for a hydration of 70%. In other words, for every 10 oz of flour, I’d use 7 oz of water. Of course, both the pumpkin and the butter contain water, so the actual amount of water I added was much less than 70% of the weight of the flour.
This dough is super slack. It cleared the sides of the bowl just a little bit, but it stayed all stuck and webby in the bowl even after ten minutes of kneading on medium speed. That was fine with me. I just want you to be prepared if you make this: the dough is Super Wet. I had to oil my hands every time I handled it, and even then I got some stuck on my fingers.
If you have the time to let the dough rise over a couple of days, cut way back on the yeast. I made this in just a few hours, and the amount of yeast, the slackness of the dough and a warm place to rise had this dough tripling in size for both the first and second rises.
Savory Pumpkin Sage Bread
- 10 oz roasted pumpkin puree, (I used my own. You can use canned, but you will probably need to increase the amount of water in the recipe by a bit)
- 4 oz (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled to warm
- 26 oz bread flour, (I highly recommend King Arthur)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, (you can use Rapid Rise, too)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon each minced sage and rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried poultry seasoning
- 7-9 oz slightly warm water
For the Design, if you want to do what I did
- 1 egg yolk combined with 1/2 teaspoon water
- 9 sage leaves
- 1/2 cup bread flour
- 2-3 ice cubes per loaf
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the pumpkin and butter.
- In another large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the minced herbs.
- Dump the dry ingredients onto the pumpkin mixture.
- Add about 6 oz (3/4 cup) water to the bowl, fit your mixer with the dough hook, and mix for a good 3-4 minutes until there is no loose flour in the bowl and the dough is starting to come together. Remember, we want a really slack dough, almost more of a very thick batter (think about the consistency of pate a choux, but sproingier because of the gluten formation).
- Add another 2 Tablespoons (1 oz) of water and mix (again with the dough hook) for another couple of minutes until the water is all absorbed into the dough. Things should be sticking quite nicely in the bottom of the bowl by now.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium and watch it for a minute or so. Lots of times, dough that sticks at lower kneading speeds magically clears the bowl at higher speeds. You should still have a ton of sticking in the bottom. If not, add another tablespoon (two, if necessary) of water and keep going.
- Once the dough is nice and slack, knead for ten minutes. You'll still have a bunch of dough stuck in the bowl, but some of it will also have climbed up the dough hook. Oil your fingers and stretch out a bit of the dough. If it stretches farther than it looks like it should, you're done.
- If your mixer bowl holds at least five quarts, you can let the dough rise right in your bowl. If your mixer is smaller, you'll have to let it rise in a different bowl.
- Use a bowl scraper to gather the dough into a ball at the bottom of the mixer bowl, or scrape it all out into another large, oiled bowl. With oiled hands, tuck the edges in and try to pull the top of the ball a little bit taut.
- Realize that all is going well, even if you're a little sweaty and unsure. Spray the top of the dough with some cooking spray or oil and cover the bowl with some plastic wrap.
- Heat up some water to boiling in the microwave. Move the mug to one corner of the microwave, add your covered bowl and shut the door. Let the dough proof for 1 1/2-2 hours. The dough will be up to the top of your bowl by then.
- Oil your hand, or a large silicone spatula, and press out the gases pretty thoroughly. Fold the dough over a couple of times to redistribute the yeast, then, form it into a rough ball again. Spray or brush oil on the top of the dough, Cover and let rise again for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until again doubled or even tripled.
- Preheat the oven to 425F and put a baking stone on a rack in the bottom third of the oven.
- Put a cake pan on the rack under the baking stone.
- Cut 3 squares of parchment and spray each with a bit of cooking spray.
- Oil your counter lightly. With oiled hands or an oiled bowl scraper, splorch the dough out onto the counter. Be gentle. At this point, you don't want to press out much of the air if you can help it.
- Cut the dough into three equal pieces (I weighed mine. I won't tell if you just want to eyeball it. Give your friend the smaller loaf and keep the bigger ones for yourself).
- With oiled hands, form each piece into a rough round, gathering the excess dough underneath to keep the top somewhat taut. Place each rough round, gathered side down, on its own piece of parchment on a rimless cookie sheet, cookie shovel or pizza peel.
- Brush the back of a sage leaf with your egg yolk glue. Press it gently into place. Keep gluing and placing until you have 3 sage leaves glued onto each loaf.
- Liberally sprinkle flour all over the top of the loaves. Cover each loaf with plastic wrap and let sit out until puffy, about 30 minutes. The design on your bread won't be as defined now.
- Put two of the loaves in the fridge. Take the remaining loaf and sprinkle some extra flour right over the leaves.
- Take a pastry brush and gently brush off a fair amount of the flour. Make sure to brush any off the parchment, because it will burn in the oven.
- Carefully peel the sage leaves off.
- Slide the loaf, parchment and all, onto the hot baking stone.
- Toss 2-3 ice cubes into the cake pan underneath and quickly close the oven.
- Bring the second loaf out of the fridge to sit at room temperature while this loaf bakes.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is right around 200F (195-205F is fine).
- Remove loaf to a rack to cool.
- Repeat with the second loaf, bringing the third out of the fridge when that one goes in the oven.
- Cool the loaves to room temperature. Enjoy within a day or two. To keep longer, put in a freezer bag and suck out the air with a straw before sealing it. Freeze for up to a month. Thaw in the sealed bag until the loaf reaches room temperature.
Do not be discouraged by the 30 steps. Remember, I’m just trying to help by being explicit. Read them over and I think you’ll see it really isn’t so bad. And if you have any questions, all you have to do is ask. I promise to be a helper.
Enjoy the bread.
Thank you for spending some time with me here today. Have a lovely day.
PS Interested in more of my communion loaf collaborations? Here they are: