I’ve already mentioned it, but every year we invite our dearest friends – our family – to a decadent, lengthy and delicious Easter brunch. And while there are a few dishes I make every year, there are some things I tend to experiment with. And two years ago, I brought in something new that quickly became one of my favourites: homemade braided pesto bread.
For a long time, I’ve been intimidated by the thought of baking with yeast. And sure enough I’ve experienced some epic failures, but over time I’ve grown more confident working with it. And, I won’t deny it, a new oven that could actually hold a certain temperature helped tremendously.
This braided pesto bread is made with a mixture of all purpose flour and rye flour. That means it’s heartier and even a little healthier and it makes it actually easy to prepare. While most yeast-based breads and pastries lose their specific flavour and consistency while freezing, you can make this bread in advance and store it in a freezer until you need it.
In this recipe, I will use metric measurements for the dough ingredients because they are more precise and will give you the best results.
braided pesto bread recipe
for the dough:
- 160 ml lukewarm milk
- 7 g (about 2 1/2 tsp) of active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 200g all purpose flour
- 100g wholegrain rye flour
- 3 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
for the basil-almond-pesto:
- 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese (parmesan works as well, but has a different flavour)
- 1/4 cup ground almonds
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- another 4 tbsp grated pecorino cheese to sprinkle (optional)
Mix the sugar, milk and dry active yeast until the yeast has dissolved and begins to foam. Then mix the all-purpose-flour, rye flour, salt and baking powder and add the salt and yeast mixture. Knead it thoroughly for at least 4 to 5 minutes using the dough hooks of your mixer or spend a little longer kneading it by hand. Form a ball, brush it with some olive oil (this step is optional) and cover it with a kitchen towel. Let it rise for about an hour at a warm place. Avoid draft.
In the meantime, mix all ingredients for your pesto – the basil, garlic cloves, pecorino cheese, ground almonds and olive oil – in your food processor until you have a smooth pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can use parmesan cheese if you don’t get pecorino, but it will change the taste. I personally prefer the salty flavour of pecorino over parmesan.
Of course you can also use any kind of store bought pesto as well, but trust me when I say that nothing beats homemade pesto.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and roll it out on a surface dusted with flour until you have a rectangle of about 40×20 cm (16×8 inches). Spread your homemade pesto on the rolled out dough. If you want to go all out, sprinkle with the left four tablespoons of pecorino.
Roll the dough from the longer side, then cut the roll lengthwise into two halves while leaving the top end attached. Now braid both strands by crossing one end over the other several times.
Now you can either put your bread into a loaf pan or directly onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Then cover your bread again with a kitchen towel and let it rise again at a warm place for about half an hour.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
After the bread has risen a second time, bake it in the oven for 25-30 minutes until it’s golden brown. Let cool and remove the bread from the loaf pan if you chose to bake it within a pan.
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