Today’s post features two of my favorite things in the foodie world- Baking & Pesto.
I am a huge fan of green basil pesto. It is so fragrant and delicious and pretty. As soon as I make a batch, I am worried about it getting finished. Yep, that’s me.
Baking, I absolutely love! Somehow, it soothes me. The day I have to bake, I wake up with a big smile. Even after so many years of baking, I find it as exciting as I did while making my first cake – a chocolate cake that a twelve-year-old-me attempted, that resulted in melting of half of the plastic container I was making it in!!! Oh, the scolding I got!!!
I love the process of measuring, whipping and kneading; waiting as the dough rises in the oven and the house fills with the buttery, aromatic scents. I love pulling the pans out of the oven and finding the dough (and all the effort put) transformed into something beautiful.
Long story short…..I love baking! 🙂
This pesto bread, therefore, is obviously my dream dish. It is extremely easy to make and insanely delicious to eat. It’s crazy how such an easy process can result in something that is stunning to serve, and is equally tasty too. The braid makes it look beautiful and pesto gives it its beautiful color and fantastic flavor.
So, give this recipe a go friends, and enjoy!!
For the Pesto-
– 2 cups fresh basil leaves
– 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 3 tbsn toasted pine nuts
– 2 garlic cloves
– 3 tbsn grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 tbsn lemon juice
For the Dough-
– 1 cup plain flour
– ¼ cup warm milk
– 1 tsp quick action dry yeast
– 1 tsp sugar
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp mixed Italian herb seasoning
– 2 tsp melted butter
– 2 tsp olive oil
– Extra flour for dusting
– 1 egg (optional but strongly recommended)
– Some chopped nuts of your choice
– 1-2 tbsn grated Parmesan
Let us make our dough first!
– Firstly, let us activate the yeast. In a large mixing bowl, take luke-warm milk, dry yeast and sugar. Mix well and keep to rest for 10 mins. Remember, milk should be strictly lukewarm. Not hot or cold. That will kill the yeast.
– When you see a foamy layer on top of your mixture, that indicates that your yeast has activated well!
– To it, add your flour, salt, melted butter, olive oil and mixed Italian herb seasoning. Combine it into a soft dough. If the dough is looking a bit dry, you can add 1-2 tbsn water to it.
– Dust some flour on the kitchen platform and knead your dough very well for 8-9 minutes. Look up ‘stretch-and-pull’ method on the internet. This step is very essential as we need to activate the gluten in the dough. Knead into a smooth ball.
– Grease a bowl with oil and place your dough in it. The bowl should be large and deep as the dough will rise and get doubled in size. Coat the dough well with some more oil and cover the top of the bowl tightly in a cling-wrap.
– Rest in the warm place for 1 – 1.5 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare your pesto.
– In a food processor- add the basil leaves, nuts, lemon juice and garlic. Start blending everything up while slowly adding the extra-virgin olive oil. Blend till you get a coarse mixture.
– Transfer the pesto mixture to the bowl and stir in the grated parmesan, along with salt and pepper. Add in more olive oil if your pesto looks dry. Your pesto is ready. Refrigerate.
– After 1-1.5 hours, take out the dough from the oven and dispose of the cling-wrap. Immerse your index finger right in the middle of the dough till the bottom of the bowl, to make a hole. If the hole stays prominent and in place, your dough has risen enough.
– Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.
– With a closed fist, gently punch the dough to release the air out of your dough.
– Knead the dough for 3-4 minutes more on the dusted kitchen platform and form into a smooth ball.
– With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangular, thin base.
– Leaving a ½ inch border on all sides, spread your pesto evenly on your dough surface. Do not use too much pesto or it will make the dough oily and unable to stick well. It should be a thin layer.
– Grate some more Parmesan cheese over the pesto layer.
– With one of the wider sides, start rolling the dough into a long tube, pinching the sides closed as you go along. In the end, it should resemble a long cylinder. Ensure that it is sealed well from all around.
– Using a sharp knife, slice your dough into two halves, along the length of the tube.
– Braid the two halves, such that the cut, green ends remain on top. This is what will make your bread pretty!
– Pinch both the ends well, so that the knots do not loosen up or come apart while baking.
– Transfer to a greased loaf tin. Cover with cling film and set aside for 30 minutes for the dough to rise again.
– Prepare your egg-wash. In a bowl, break an egg and whisk it till fluffy. Set aside.
– After 30 mins, using a pastry brush, brush your egg wash on the surface of your bread. This will give your bread a beautiful glaze! Do not use the entire egg-wash! You will only need a little to brush on top of your bread, preserve the rest for later use in other dishes.
– Top your bread with shredded Parmesan cheese and coarsely chopped nuts of your choice.
– Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool completely on a wire rack and slice. Enjoy with hot soup or as it is. Enjoy!
– Substitute the plain flour with the bread flour if you wish, but the former gives great results too!
– In case, pine nuts are unavailable, you can easily substitute them with cashews or even toasted peanuts!
– Egg wash is optional but I recommend it for a beautiful shiny glaze.
– Refrigerate the leftover pesto for use in other dishes, upto two days.
– Cooking time may vary according to the different oven brands. Keep a close eye on your bread while it is baking.