I want to start by saying that even if you don’t want to make a braided pesto bread, still try the dough.
It is a great bread recipe (adapted from The Pioneer Woman )for your repertoire, and it asks of you nothing but simple steps. No mixer, no kneading, no technique, and positively no long waiting periods.
From start to finish, the bread is done in 3 hours, almost lightning fast in the bread world.
And for the skeptics out there, I promise you by the time you reach the end of the blog; you’ll be one hundred percent sold on the bread.
It’s simple. It’s delicious. And it’s most definitely a keeper!
How to Make Braided Pesto Bread?
Beginning with a bit of background – Pesto Alla Genovese, or as we call it, pesto is a sauce originating from the soils of Italy. It’s added as the finishing touch to meats, pasta, and even vegetables.
Conventionally, the ingredients for pesto were crushed using mortar and pestle. Since no one has the time or strength for it anymore, the food processor is considered a very acceptable alternative.
Making the pesto filling
To make pesto, pulse pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil along with salt and pepper till you get a thick paste. Taste and then adjust the seasoning.
The pesto I whipped up veered from the traditional. I opted to leave the cheese out in order to bake a vegan braided pesto bread. But if your heart’s set on some clingy, stretchy gooeyness, use a good-quality parmesan.
Getting the dough ready
Heat oil, plant-based milk, and sugar just about till the sugar dissolves. You won’t need to boil it.
Let it cool, and when it’s a touch below lukewarm, toss in yeast. When the mixture becomes frothy and bubbly (in five-ish minutes), whisk in all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour.
Mix till all the ingredients form a dough. Cover your bowl and let it rest. My dough doubled in less than an hour because it’s still fairly hot here. It may take more time for you.
In the doubled dough, add baking powder, baking soda, salt, and a tad more of flour.
At this point, I like to chill the dough for some time. Letting it rest again makes it easier to handle. You can start on rolling the dough immediately, in case you’re short on time.
Braiding the bread
Before you roll the dough, knead it on a well-floured surface. Not for long. 30 seconds should do the trick. Because the pesto bread dough is so firm, the kneading helps soften it a bit.
Roll the dough in a rough rectangle. Spread the pesto and add any toppings of your choice. I kept it simple with just the pesto.
Once done, start rolling along the length of the rectangle tightly. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together.
Flip the roll (in case needed) so that the seam faces downwards. With a sharp knife cut the roll in half, lengthwise. Pinch the top. Then braid the two lengths, while keeping the cut side faces the top (that’s how you get the characteristic swirls).
Baking the braided pesto bread
Place the braided dough carefully in the baking tin. I brushed the top with some olive oil and dusted with some sea salt to get a hint of its savor, but you can as easily leave it out.
Let the dough rest for another 15 minutes and then slide it in the oven.
You’ll see the gorgeous ribbons of green pesto running through the golden-brown swirls of freshly baked bread in no time.
I used two kinds of flour, but the bread works with either all-purpose or whole wheat. You will have to adjust the liquid component if you use only one. For all-purpose flour, add less liquid. For whole wheat, you’ll need more as it’s more absorbent.
For the oil, I prefer coconut oil, but any neutral tasting alternative works like a charm. Because I wanted to make a vegan braided pesto bread, I used plant-based milk. You can stick to regular milk if that’s your cup of tea.
Regular white sugar is a perfect replacement for raw sugar, which I used in this recipe. But please don’t utilize brown sugar.
If you’re short on time, I recommend making the dough beforehand. It keeps well in the refrigerator for a good 2 to 3 days.
Variations of pesto bread recipe:
What makes the bread really special is that you can move it from sweet to savory anytime! It is that versatile.
For those who have kitchen gardens, with eyes closed, use fresh herbs. Finely chopped basil, parsley, or even refreshing mint – pick your poison.
Crushed garlic with shredded cheese is another option. Brush the dough with olive oil and then sprinkle.
If you do use pesto, you can add more filling to the dough :
– Shredded cheese
– Roasted bell peppers
-Chopped olives or capers
For the pesto, if you don’t have access to pine nuts, almonds and walnuts will do. Or you can substitute the nuts with seeds to give the pesto needed heft.
If those weren’t enough variations to prove just how multi-talented this bread is, you can even vary its shape. Braid it and bake it in a rectangular loaf or as rolls or even as a wreath.
Go nuts! It’ll be easy on the eyes and nirvanic on the palate, no matter how you make the braided pesto bread.
Serving the braided pesto bread
We tore into the braided bread as-is. We didn’t care if there was olive oil on the side to dip or a pool of melted cheese on top.
But if you don’t want to have it as a snack, please go ahead and turn into a full meal. The pesto bread is the perfect pair for pasta, soups, or salads. I even used to pack it as pesto rolls, back when the little man still went to school!
The braided pesto bread is so soft, fluffy, and light that the whole loaf will disappear in a matter of minutes.
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Braided Pesto Bread
- 1 cup Almond milk You can use any milk of your choice
- 1/4 cup Coconut oil You can use any neutral tasting oil of your choice
- 1/4 cup Raw sugar You can use white sugar
- 1.5 tsp Dried active yeast
- 1 cup All-purpose flour
- 1 cup Wholewheat flour
- 1/4 cup All-purpose flour, extra
- 1/4 tsp Baking powder
- 1/4 tsp Baking soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1.5 cup Fresh basil leaves
- 2-3 cloves Garlic
- 1/4 cup Pinenuts
- 2-3 tbsp Extra virgin Olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Olive oil and sea salt for topping Optional
- Heat milk, oil, and sugar in a small saucepan. Don't let it come to a boil. Take off the heat and cool.
- When this mixture is just warm, sprinkle over the yeast. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until the mixture is bubbly.
- Whisk in both the flours – 2 cups. Cover and place in a draft-free place for 1 hour or until the dough is doubled in size.
- Now add in the extra 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Mix well. The dough is now ready for use immediately. You can refrigerate it for 30 minutes or up to 2 days. I always prefer to refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 200 C. Keep a greased 8"*4" loaf pan handy.
- Sprinkle flour on your work surface. Knead the dough very briefly for 30 seconds. Roll out the dough into a rectangle, approximately 15" x 9". I like to keep the thickness around 1/8".
- Spread 3 tbsp of pesto evenly on the surface. Try to leave a 1/4" border around the edges. It will help you make a neater roll. I forgot to do that!
- Starting with a long side of the rectangle, start rolling the dough tightly. Pinch the seam together and make sure the seam is facing down.
- Using a sharp knife, cut it in half lengthways.
- Braid the two pieces. Make sure the filling side is facing the top.
- Pinch the two ends of the braid together and carefully place it in the prepared pan.
- Let this rest for 15 minutes.
- Brush with olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt on top. This step is completely optional.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Mine was done in 25 minutes.
- Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack.
- Cool for 30 minutes or until barely warm. Slice and serve. Enjoy!
- Combine all the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor and blitz until you get a smooth paste. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- You will get more pesto than you will need for the recipe.