Week 2 of Bread: Sage Soda

February 7, 2008 at 10:40 am 9 comments

Up close and personal with Sage Soda Bread 

Let’s see, how many bread recipes have we gone through together so far?  Miracle Bread, Dried Tomato Braid, Pumpernickel, Pesto Whirl, Pita, Sourdough, Cinnamon Rolls, Cheddar Pepper Rolls and Cinnamon Raisin…yep, that makes nine.  That’s what I thought.  Do you know what each of these recipes has in common?  I think I just heard someone snicker, “They’re all breads, moron.”  Yes, I know that much, thank you.  Do you know what else they have in common?  They’ve all taken many shapes and held several different ingredients, but at the start of them all was yeast.  Bubbly hungry yeast took them all from mild-mannered blobs of wet flour to celebrated crusty loaves of homemade goodness.  Bravo, yeast, bravo!! 

Rub whole sage leaves between your fingers to created rubbed sage

Yeast breads have always been my favorite to work with and, frankly, I hadn’t delved much into the other realms of loaf breads, of which I know two types: quick breads and soda breads.  Of course, like any baker who’s been around the block once or twice, I have my standard for zucchini bread and pumpkin (cranberry) bread, two quick breads that are fairly common in my collective neighborhoods.  But I’d only tried soda bread once, quite some time ago, and my vague recollection of it was not all that positive.  Not wanting to leave these realm of bread-making unexplored during SFTF’s Week(s) of Bread, I decided to give soda bread another shot. 

Soda and flour

Soda bread gets its designation from baking soda, which is the leavening agent (what makes bread rise) in the dough, rather than the yeast of the recipes I’ve been posting previously.  Since baking soda is not as rambunctious as yeast, the resulting bread is usually denser than your standard yeast loaf.  This density has its advantages and disadvantages; soda bread is good as a hunk alongside a bowl of soup, but it’s not so great sliced for sandwiches.  

Slice the top of the risen loaf in an X

I’m still picking off leaves from the huge bunch of sage I hung up to dry during the summer, and sage-infused soda bread sounded like a nice accompaniment to the Spicy Parsnip Soup I made recently.  The sage scent and flavor of the loaf was almost heady, but the texture was what really surprised me. Bearing in mind that my memories of my last soda bread attempt weren’t all that warm and fuzzy, I wasn’t expecting the almost silky quality of the bread in my mouth.  It was most certainly denser and more crumby than the yeast breads, but the change was a welcome one. 

Pretty top of the loaf

Comparing my two drastically different soda bread experiences, it would seem to me that the key to success with soda breads, much the same as with yeast breads, is making sure your leavening/baking soda is fresh and active.  I’ve acquired a few tricks since my first batch of soda bread and knew this time to test the soda out first by sprinkling a pinch of it over warm water.  It fizzed vigorously, indicating it had plenty of leavening action to offer my dough.  If it hadn’t fizzed so happily, I would have needed to get a new container of baking soda before proceeding.  You’d be wise to do the same. 

Sliced Sage Soda Bread

So which do I prefer, yeast or soda?  I have to say I’m fonder of the yeast breads on a whole, but I do really like the idea of being able to use baking soda should I be out of yeast sometime.  Or if I just want a loaf specifically for soup, I’d choose soda bread.  It’s nice to have options, isn’t it?   

Adapted from The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. white bread flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 t. dried rubbed sage
1 c. buttermilk*

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand or if you just want to use up some regular milk that’s nearing expiration, make your own buttermilk by mixing 1 cup of regular milk with 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes until it curdles and thickens slightly.

Preheat oven at 425 F.  Sift the flours, salt and baking soda together in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the sage and then add about half the buttermilk at first.  Mix and add small amounts of buttermilk until a soft dough forms.  One cup of buttermilk should be enough but add more if necessary. 

Scrape out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently work it into a round loaf. Do not knead the dough.  Place the loaf on a lightly oiled baking sheet or stone.  Using a large sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the loaf is risen and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.  Let cool on a wire rack prior to cutting. 

(makes 1 loaf)

Sage Soda Bread as grilled cheese for soup


Entry filed under: Bread, Recipes. Tags: , , , , , , .

Week 2 of Bread: Cheddar Pepper Week 2 of Bread: Rosemary Olive

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Disco Chic  |  February 7, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Sounds delicious!

  • 2. Jennie  |  February 7, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks, Disco Chic! 🙂

  • 3. Joel  |  February 7, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Soda bread is one of my favorite “Oh-man-I-need-a-quick-way-to-say-thanks-that-looks-impressive” dishes. Though, I definitely always use the lemon juice trick!

  • 4. Pann  |  February 7, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Gee that looks good! Everything you make looks so outrageously good!

    I am wondering this: do you ever make something (thinking you’d blog about it) and then it comes out really weird / bad / not what you’d expected, and so you just don’t blog about it?

    Because you seem to be making really nice stuff… constantly!

    I am really impressed….

  • 5. teapotter  |  February 7, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Your loaf looks soooo good! Sage is one of the few herbs I can get to survive the winter here so I generally have some in the garden but have never successfully got it to dry to anything but a leathery texture that couldn’t be crushed or crumbled. So mostly I use it just fresh during the summer and fall. I’ll bet this loaf would be fabulous with chopped fresh sage too. I notice the recipe says to bake it on an oiled sheet or baking stone. Which one did you use for that beautiful loaf?

  • 6. Jennie  |  February 8, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Joel – Tha’ts a good idea! 🙂

  • 7. Jennie  |  February 8, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Pann – First of all, thanks so much! You’re too kind. 🙂

    You really made me think with your question. Initially I laughed mentally and said to myself “of course things get messed up all the time” and then I tried to think of examples and found myself furrowing my brow and coming up with very little and then finally I remembered a few but am now as surprised as you are that so much of my stuff turns out just the way I’d hoped. Anyway, the straightforward answer to your question is that I plan all my blog recipes ahead and if I’ve planned a recipe for the blog, it eventually makes its way up here. So, no, I don’t cull the bad ones.

    A good example of a flop (visually, but tasted great) is the lemon rosemary cake recipe. https://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/lemon-rosemary-cake/

  • 8. Jennie  |  February 8, 2008 at 7:27 am

    Teapotter – I’m wildly jealous that you have fresh sage at hand! It would be wonderful in this bread!! As for the oiled sheet vs. baking stone question, I used the baking sheet as I don’t have a stone. As a general rule of thumb, I often bake my breads on parchment paper or a slipat to give their bottom crust more even color. If you try the recipe with the fresh sage, please let me know how it is! 🙂

  • 9. justfoodnow  |  July 8, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    I have been struggling to get a decent soda bread for ages now – in fact since my visit to Ireland, when I fell in love with it. Ireland was an unexpected culinary experience and I have been wanting to go back since then. Your recipe works well and is easy and simple – one for the home recipe book. Thanks so much – what an amazing blog.


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