Braided Pesto Loaf

I’ll admit it.  I have an insane sweet tooth!  Most of the time my baking exploits result in cakes on the counter and overflowing cookie jars (yes, plural – I have 2 on the counter and more in the pantry should the need arise!)

But sometimes I have to break from the temptation to create sweet treats and bake up something savory.  Today was one of those days.  Well, sort of!  More on that later!

I love to make bread but only have the time about once a month.  I usually make several loaves of sandwich bread, brioche buns, and other yeasted breads all on the same day.  A day when I KNOW that I can be near the kitchen to watch the rise time of each dough and cycle them into and out of the oven.  I love the feeling of kneading dough by hand and I am so glad to say that, after MUCH practice, I have gotten to the point that I can usually tell when a dough is ready just by the feel of it in my hand.

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I also love to grow herbs in pots on my deck and pick off bits and pieces to use in my dinner recipes, omelets or whatever I’m whipping up.  So why not combine the two?  A freshly made pesto baked into a yummy bread.

The only short fall here is that I currently only have one oregano bush and one basil bush growing.  And they have been used quite often lately, especially the basil!  My original thought was to make a basil only pesto but since I was low on the fresh basil, I added some fresh oregano.  Oh, the fragrance of fresh herbs!  When I first picked them, I rubbed them together in my hands just to take a big whiff of them!

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This bread is so yummy with a big Italian dinner but you can also enjoy a slice of it alone. Bake up a loaf and let me know what you think!

Braided Basil/Oregano Pesto Loaf

Makes 1 10-inch loaf

Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus rise time

Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Total Time: I hour active

Braided Pesto Bread

Ingredients:

For the Loaf:

  • 1 1/4C warm water (about 115°)
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 C all purpose flour
  • 3/4C whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1 to 2 tsp olive oil

For the Pesto:

  • 1 1/2 C packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 C fresh oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2C Parmesan
  • 1/4 C olive oil

Directions:

  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and allow yeast to proof.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with dough attachment, add both flours and salt. With mixer on low, slowly add yeast mixture. Increase to medium high, mixing until dough comes together in a clean ball. In my mixer, this takes about 5 minutes.  If the dough is too sticky, add 1 Tbsp all purpose flour.  If dough is too dry, add 1 tsp olive oil.  Rub olive oil onto countertop and on hands.  Dump dough onto countertop and knead for a minute or two until it passes the windowpane test.  (see link below)  Shape the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly greased large bowl. Cover and allow to rise for one hour or doubled in size.
  3. While the dough rises, prepare the pesto sauce in a food processor. Blend together basil, oregano and garlic. Add cheese, blending quickly. With lid on and food processor running on low, slowly drizzle in olive oil.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°.  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface of silicone mat into approximately 10 x 18 inch rectangle. I start with a rolling pin and then use my hands to stretch it.  Then roll it with the rolling pin again.  (I prefer a French Rolling pin instead of the handled pins.)  Spread the pesto onto the dough up to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Starting at one of the short sides, tightly roll up dough, pinching edges as you go to seal. Using a sharp serrated knife, carefully slice completely through the dough, from end to end. Braid the 2 lengths of dough together. Carefully transfer to a lightly greased 10 inch loaf pan .  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Lightly cover and allow to rise for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Bake for 40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190°F. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

How to do the windowpane test : http://www.thekitchn.com/bakers-techniques-how-to-do-th-70784

 

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