I’ve had a recipe pinned for a pesto bread for ages. You can see the original recipe here.
In the end I didn’t use the recipe at all, rather just the method to achieve the braid.
Instead I used the bread dough recipe from the Craftsy class I purchased, as well as using the Pesto recipe from the Perfect Pizza at Home class. The Perfect Pizza at Home class is free! If you like pizza then I thoroughly recommend enrolling. It wont cost a cent, and you get to see some of the different techniques used to knead the dough. That’s the Stretch and Fold technique I’ve previously mentioned and shared a YouTube video of Peter Reinhart demonstrating it.
The pesto recipe is in the class materials and it was my first time making pesto. I only made half the recipe because I didn’t have enough basil, but then the half recipe was more than ample and I ended up dividing the left over into two small freezer bags. One of which I used for the braided pesto bread.
I wasn’t 100% sure about the bread recipe I chose. It was to make baguettes not a filled bread, but I felt that most bread doughs can be adapted easily enough and when compared to the dough recipe in the original Braided Pesto Bread, I didn’t think there was a huge difference that it would matter.
I love the simplicity of the bread doughs in the Artisan Bread Craftsy class. I used the Marbled Rye bread recipe before, a type of bread I’ve never made but it tuned out great. Other than the fact I learnt I don’t like caraway seeds and it put me off eating the bread.
But this braided pesto bread? Fabulous. Loved it. Will make it again. So simple but full of great flavours, and the bread itself was lovely and soft in the centre with a crunchy outer shell.
Basil Pesto (full recipe)
- 8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped and tossed in 2 tablespoons (30 g) of olive oil
- 2 cups (437 g) fresh basil leaves, washed and stemmed, and tightly packed into a measuring cup
- 3⁄4 cup (177 g) grated Parmesan or other dry aged cheese
- 1 cup (237 g) pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toast- ed
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup (237 g) extra virgin olive oil
- Heat a frypan or skillet over medium heat.
- When the frypan is hot, add the chopped garlic/olive oil mixture. Stir for 15 seconds and then remove the pan from the heat. (You only want to heat and “sweat” the garlic, not brown it.)
- Place the remaining ingredients into a food processor and add the heated garlic/oil mixture.
- Pulse the mixture until all the basil is broken down and the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Run the food processor for an additional 5 to 10 seconds to make a bright green, pebbly-textured sauce, thin enough to spread easily but not so thin as to be runny.
- Add more olive oil if it’s too thick, or more grated cheese if it’s too thin.
- Transfer the pesto to a container that can be covered with a lid to minimise oxidation.
- Keep the pesto refrigerated for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to three months.
White bread (full recipe)
- 567gm bread flour (I used High Grade flour)
- 11g (1.5tsp) salt
- 3.5gm (1tsp) instant yeast (I used the prepackaged sachets of Edmonds yeast)
- 385gm water at room temperature
- In mixer mix all ingredients on slow speed with the paddle for 1 minute.
- Increase to medium slow (no. 2 on the KitchenAid) and mix for 1 more minute. The dough will be soft and sticky.
- Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
- Mix on medium low (no. 3 on the KitchenAid) for an additional 30 seconds. The dough will form a soft, slightly sticky ball.
- Lightly oil the surface of your bench. Use your fingers to spread the oil around the surface where you’ll tip the dough onto.
- Tip the dough onto the oiled bench and complete the first stretch and fold.
- Cover the dough with a large bowl and wait 20 minutes before proceeding with the 2nd (of 4) stretch and folds.
- Re-oil the bench as needed.
- Once 4 stretch and folds have been completed (with 20 minutes rest before the next stretch and fold) the dough is ready to rest until it doubles in size, this will take around 60-90 minutes depending on how warm or cold the room is. Remember to cover the dough with a large upturned bowl.
To make the braided bread
- Re-oil the surface of the bench ready to roll the dough into a rectangle.
- Press the dough into a rectangle and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out until is roughly 9 x 13” in size.
- Spread the pesto over the surface leaving a 1cm gap all the way around.
- Grate some Parmesan cheese over the pesto, I’m not saying how much you need, just as much or as little as you want, but generally if you’ve covered the pesto you’re good to go.
- Starting with the long end of the dough, roll the dough, tightly, toward you.
- Pinch the end to seal it then roll the dough so the sealed end is underneath.
- Get a large baking sheet around 9 x 13” in size and line it with baking paper.
- Transfer your rolled up dough to the baking sheet and using a sharp knife cut the dough from top to bottom. Now you have two separate pieces.
- Pinch the top two ends together and begin to braid by placing one side over the other. I started with the left side over the right meaning the right was on the left side. Keep repeating until you’ve braided the length of the bread.
- You want to work the braid so the cut side is facing up where you can see all the bright green pesto peeking out.
- Pinch the bottom ends together and then join the two ends (top and bottom pinched ends) together so you’ve formed a circle of dough.
- Lightly cover the circle of dough with Gladwrap and let it rest for 30 minutes while the oven is heating.
- Heat the oven to 240deg Celsius and if you’ve got one, place a pizza stone on the lowest shelf.
- Remove the Gladwrap and grate a bit more Parmesan cheese over the top of the dough.
- Bake the bread for 20-25 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped underneath.
Sometimes when I write up a baking experience several days after I’ve made the recipe (and this was made Sunday last week) it makes me really hunger for more of the same.
I enjoyed making the bread. I had plenty of time in between the stretch and folds and resting times to get stuck into other things (I was making gumpaste from the left over ombre pink fondant from Mum’s birthday cake). The bread was easy to make, I don’t know why people have a fear of baking bread. This recipe and method is so straight forward, and since you don’t have to knead for long periods in your mixer, or by hand, there’s nothing stopping a bread-baking novice giving this recipe a go. You’ll be glad you did.