Tonight, apparently, we are due for a hard freeze. If that is actually the case, I figured it was time I share this recipe so you can use your basil before it gets frozen! I have made this bread many times over the past few years, but I just haven't gotten a chance to photograph it.
This bread really highlights fresh basil, making the taste out of this world. I have also, in the past, put other things in the bread, on top of the pesto. So, feel free to throw in some sautéd onions and/or peppers. Even bacon would be delicious. Ohhh, that is actually a really good idea. I may have to try to that next time!
Let me break this recipe down for you. First, you make a simple dough that rises for a short while. While the dough is rising, you make fresh basil pesto (or you can cheat and get the store-bought stuff). Once the dough has risen, you roll it out, smear the pesto on, cut it in half, then "braid" the two pieces together to form a wreath. Sprinkle with cheese, pop in the oven, then devour. See? Simple! It makes a great light dinner served with salad, a great appetizer, or a fabulous side dish.
Braided Pesto Bread
For the bread
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the loaf
- 1/2 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
For the pesto
- 2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 Tablespoons walnuts
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
Sprinkle the yeast over the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let sit until bubbly.
Place warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and sprinkle yeast over top. With the mixer on medium-low speed, stir in the flour, oil and salt. Continue to knead the dough on medium-low speed until the dough cleans the side of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead until smooth. Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the pesto. Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until the garlic is minced. Then, place the basil leaves, lemon juice, walnuts, parmesan cheese, and salt in with the garlic. Process until smooth. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil until combined. Scrape into a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough out into a rough rectangle. Then roll out to a 18x12-inch rectangle. Spoon pesto over top, spreading evenly, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Roll the dough starting at the long side and pinch the seam closed.
Transfer to your prepared baking sheet. Then, cut the dough in half lengthwise and pinch the top ends together.
Carefully, braid the two pieces, trying to keep the pieces twisted so the cut ends remain on top. When you get to the bottom, pinch the ends together and wrap into a wreath. Transfer to your baking sheet and let rest for 30 minutes.
Top with shredded parmesan and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Let cool slightly before serving.
Source: The Brewer and the Baker