Round Nineteen — Braided Pesto Bread
Sometimes, when my husband and I go for really long walks (especially on days like today when it’s 63 degrees and sunny outside, and we need to take advantage of it because, oddly enough, it will be SNOWING tomorrow… c’mon, really?), we like to point out houses or parts of houses that we want ours to look like when we have a home of our own. I’ll point out how I want a three-season room like that one over there, and he’ll mention how he likes the sage color of the siding on the one right here… you get the idea. It’s a fun little game we play, and though the actual house we’ll (hopefully) own in the future will probably look nothing like anything we’ve discovered over the past year, I do know the inside of it will house me, the people that I love… and this bread.
Let me tell you, this bread is to. die. for. It’s a subtle combination of heavy ingredients swirled in faint lines along a pillowy expanse of warm, airy fluff. It’s very pretty, too, and extremely simple to make. I found it while visiting another bread blog I quite enjoy reading. We didn’t have any leftover pesto sitting around in the fridge like the blogger did, but this recipe makes up for the trouble it took to grab a bottle of pesto and a chunk of parmesan from the grocery store. Back-breaking work, I tell you.
It does get a little dicey when you come across the words, “pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes.” At first, I stood there with my batter-y dough, wondering, “Now how is this liquid mass going to congeal into a kneadable shape once I POUR it onto my counter? This is silly.” But I took the plunge, and yes, it is very, very messy at first. But, as you can see from the pictures, with a little fearlessness and a lot of (constant) loving/maneuvering, the “pouring” becomes “kneading” indeed.
This recipe is not for the uber-clean, obsessive compulsive types. Or it is (because I am), but only after you think about how delicious a loaf will be when infused with crushed basil, olive oil, pine nuts and creamy grated parmesan cheese. Some suggest it goes well with tomato soup, but I found it just as tasty with, well, anything that was on my dinner plate that night. And I’m sure it will taste just as good when I make for my family, at my dinner table, in my house. Sigh… someday.
Debrief: The braiding technique takes some practice to perfect, but the nice thing about this loaf is a little imperfection adds only character and takes nothing away.
Courtesy of The Knead For Bread
Makes two loaves
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup skim milk powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
5 -5 1/2 cups bread flour
2/3 cup pesto
1 cup grated Parmesan
In a large bowl combine the water, olive oil, sugar, skim milk powder, salt and instant yeast. Mix till well blended. Add in a cup of flour and beat with a wooden spoon till smooth. Add in another cup of flour and do the same.
Now, sprinkle a half cup of flour onto a flat surface and pour out the dough on top. Begin to knead and slowly add in more flour till the dough no longer sticks to the table. Knead for about 8 – 10 minutes. Add a little olive oil into a large bowl ( about a tablespoon ). Place dough into the bowl and turn over a few times to lightly coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for an hour or till double in bulk.
Pour out the dough onto a very lightly floured surface. Cut in half. Using your fingers flatten out one of the pieces. Roll out to a 9 x 14 rectangle. Spread half the pesto and 1/4 of a cup Parmesan on top. Bring in the side by a half inch and then roll the dough like a jelly roll. Pinch the seam closed. Take a sharp knife and cut down the center length wise. Open the jelly roll exposing the inside of the roll.Take the two cut pieces and braid them together with the cut side always facing up.
Place the bread into a greased 4 1/2 X 8 inch loaf pan. Now, repeat this whole process with the second piece of dough. Then cover both loaves with plastic wrap and allow to rest for an hour or till double in bulk.
Sprinkle the tops with the remaining Parmesan cheese and place into a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Check the bread about 10 minutes before they are finished to see if you need to cover with tin foil if they are getting to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Extra punches: Make sure the yeast you have is at room temperature before using it (if you store it in the refrigerator). I make this mistake ALL the time and I think it’s why my dough takes almost twice as long to rise.