Braided Pesto Bread

In Yeast Breads on November 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm
From Summer 2013

My mother jokingly refers to herself as “The Dishwasher.” With my love of baking and my younger sister’s newfound love of cooking, washing dishes is the only kitchen chore left over. But my mother likes her new position, likes that her two children have developed such an intimate relationship with food.

It seems that just two months ago, my sister, C-, would venture into the kitchen only when in search of a handful of nuts or a spoonful of peanut butter—quests that were strictly snack-driven. But now, mere weeks after watching her first episode of Master Chef, she’s become as able and agile as I could ever wish to be.

From Summer 2013

Already she’s perfected Sunday morning scrambled eggs. Her bruschetta is representative of her knack for seasoning. She’s even tackled beef wellington, surprising my entire family when the knife cut through the crisp pastry to reveal meat cooked to perfection—pink, and tender with juices.

Though C- is only thirteen and takes up half as much space as my father, she has just as much presence in the kitchen. Usually, she wants to be completely independent in her cooking, just as I did. Sometimes she lets me help her nonetheless (with minor things, and ever so rarely). She hands me a spatula to stir a pot of beef stew, a knife to dice carrots. And on the occasions my help is requested, I feel special.

From Summer 2013

Because her love of cooking was sparked in much the same manner as my love of baking, I can picture how the next few months of C-‘s  hobby will unfold.

She’ll experiment with recipes of increasing difficulty, mastering the basics in the process. She’ll brainstorm recipe ideas in the margins of her notebook at school. She might even daydream about culinary school, sighing happily at the thought of spending entire days in the kitchen. Perhaps she’ll start a food blog of her own.

From Summer 2013

I’ve perfected the bread-making part of this recipe, but my pesto never comes out quite right. It’s always a little too oily, a little too lumpy. It’s in need of a confident hand to whir it into cohesion. The next time I make it, I’ll request C-‘s help.

This bread is moist and tender, and slightly crisp around the edges. It’s savory, garlicky, but fresh because of the basil. And it disappeared in under twenty minutes at my dinner table.

I suggest clicking on the link below to The Foodie Bride’s post for step-by-step photo instructions on how to shape the bread. Keep in mind that it’s rather tricky to transfer, so shaping the loaf on the sheet you intend to bake it on is safest.

From Summer 2013

Braided Pesto Bread

From Confections of a Foodie Bride Makes one loaf, or about 12 slices

For the pesto (Adapted from Encyclopedia of Pasta Sauce) Yields: 1 1/4 cup

2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
1 garlic clove J
uice of 1/2 a small lemon
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup olive oil (or more to reach desired consistency)

Add basil, garlic, and lemon juice  to the bowl of your food processor and run until smooth. Stream in the oil with the processor running until you reach desired consistency. Add the cheese and a pinch of salt, pulse 2 or 3 times to combine.

For the bread:

1 cup warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

For the loaf:

~1/2 cup pesto, purchased or homemade
2 Tbsp grated parmesan

Place warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and sprinkle yeast over top. Let sit 10 minutes – if the yeast doesn’t get frothy or swell, toss it and buy new yeast.

Add the flour, oil, and salt and turn the mixer to low. Knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic – after about 2 minutes, the dough should completely clean the bottom and sides of the bowl. If it does not, add additional flour, one spoonful at a time until it does.

Form the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly greased bowl and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour on the countertop, quicker in a slightly warmed oven).

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly flour your work surface. Gently stretch and elongate your dough round. Roll into a rectangle ~18×12 inches. Spoon pesto over top, spreading evenly, leaving a clean 1/2-inch border around the edges. Roll the long side of the dough to you and pinch the seam closed.

Transfer to your parchment-lined or cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Cut the dough in half down the length of the dough and pinch the top ends together. Working quickly, 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 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly and slice to serve.

From Summer 2013
  1. Adriana!
    Your comment gave me so much joy when I saw it! Every now and then I peak at you blog to see what you’re up to and it makes me happy to see you’re still baking! I actually got a job because of my blog a few months ago, so I felt like I should start blogging again. I really have missed it! I think it’s awesome that your little sister is getting into cooking, I’m sure your parents are very happy! This pesto bread looks great, when I have time I will give it a try. and Pesto is a tricky thing, at the bakery I use to work at we never had recipe so it’s just a process of learning what it should feel like and taste like. I hope school is going well, are you a senior now?!

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