Twisted Double Pesto Bread

The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens. It’s a programme that’s always felt like a safe port in a storm. No matter how hard your day has been there’s great comfort to be found in watching a tent full of amateur bakers making cakes. Or biscuits. Or bread. In common with many workplaces up and down the country my office has decided to join in too. We’re in the middle of our own Bake Off.

Fortunately, it has a slightly different format to the TV show. We have more of a knockout tournament structure, with a series of heats and semi-finals leading up to the grand final in a few week’s time. Each heat has between 3 and 5 contestants, depending on their availability, and the top two scorers proceed to the next round. The competing bakes are scored on four factors: Presentation, Taste, Technical Difficulty and Originality. I like this method as it means you can try something unique complicated and be rewarded for that even if the final result doesn’t quite end up as intended.

There are no themes or challenges for each week. Every competitor can bake whatever they want to. The only real rule being that if you bake something sweet in your heat then you have to bake something savoury in the next round, and vice versa. It’s also worthwhile trying to make your entry vegan, if possible, as we have a few in the office and it will inevitably broaden the appeal.

I was drawn in Round 3, which gave me the slight bonus of seeing what sort of things my colleagues were making in Rounds 1 and 2. I expected most people would start with their sweet bakes (a prediction that turned out to be true) but had always planned for my first bake to be savoury. I wanted to start out doing something a little different. Mostly because I often bring cakes into the office and thought that by week 3 people would welcome a change.

As you will have no doubt worked out by now my entry was this rather delightful Twisted Double Pesto Bread. I knew it might not score that highly on originality, as pesto and bread are quite a common pairing. But I hoped that the difficulty and execution would count in its favour. Especially as I wanted it to be vegan and although bread is inherently vegan, pesto is not… I’d need to make my own pesto(s) as well as baking the bread. Never let it said I do things by half.

As you can see the end result is rather lovely. Impressively so considering I wasn’t pleased with the loaves I’d made the night before, and knocked these together between waking up and going to the office. I was a little worried about the short proving time, but needn’t have been concerned. The bread doubled in size within minutes of hitting the heat of the oven. For a plain loaf the lack of proving may have negatively affected the flavour. The addition of the pesto almost certainly helped in that regard.

Oh and I’m sure you’d agree it looks rather wonderful too. Getting this effect is surprisingly easy – it’s basically two half “swiss-rolls” of bread plaited together. It just requires a little bit of patience in preparing the bread. Oh and a little restraint in adding the pesto. Don’t be tempted to slather it onto the dough, as it will be impossible to roll up. Pesto has a punchy flavour, so this may be a case of less is more.

The end result was a triumph – and got me through to the next round. The texture of the bread is crisp on the outside, light and airy within. Every mouthful comes with a hit of pesto – be it basil or sun-dried tomato. Perfect with a little bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil alongside to dip it in. Or a nice bowl of soup. Or, who am I kidding, a bit of a quiet time on your own and a healthy appetite.



Twisted Double Pesto Bread

This Twisted Pesto bread is made by braiding together two strands of pesto filled dough, giving it both a wonderful appearance and ensuring that every mouthful is bursting with flavour.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Proving Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 55 mins
Course: Baking, Bread
Cuisine: Baking, Bread
Servings: 2 loaves (20 servings)

Ingredients

for the Basil Pesto

  • 35 g Fresh Basil leaves
  • 25 g Toasted Pine Nuts
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ Lemon juice and zest
  • 5 g Nutritional Yeast
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt Flakes
  • tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

for the Sundried Tomato Pesto

  • 50 g Sundried Tomatoes
  • tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 15 g Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 5 g Nutritional Yeast

for the Bread

  • 850 g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 14 g Fast Action Dried Yeast
  • 700 ml Hand Hot Water
  • 2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
  • 4 tbsp Caster Sugar

for the Balsamic Herb Dipping Oil

  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 tbsp Dried Herbs of your choice rosemary, thyme and oregano are recommended

Instructions

Make the Green Pesto

  • Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth texture. You may need to add a little more oil or a splash of cold water if the mixture looks too thick. Though remember you only need it to be spreadable and don’t want to add too much additional moisture to the bread.

Make the Sundried Tomato Pesto

  • Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth texture. You may need to add a little more oil or a splash of cold water if the mixture looks too thick. Though remember you only need it to be spreadable and don’t want to add too much additional moisture to the bread.

Make the Bread

  • Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle over the yeast and stir to distribute through the flour.
  • Dissolve the sugar and salt into the warm water, then pour into the flour mixture. Stir to mix until it starts to come together as a dough. Depending on your flour may not need all of the water, so use your judgement here.
  • When you’re happy with the consistency, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead for 5 minutes until it develops a smooth, elastic texture.
  • Wipe the mixing bowl clean then add a little olive oil to it and spread around inside. Return the dough to the bowl and turn it over so all sides are coated with a little bit of oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and put into a warm place to prove for 20 minutes. This is a quick dough, so you don’t need to wait for it to double in size.
  • When the dough has started to increase in size turn it out onto a floured surface and divide into two equal portions. Roll each out to a wide rectangular shape (almost square, but not quite). You want the dough to be around the thickness of a pound coin.
  • Spread one piece of dough with the green pesto and the other with the sundried tomato pesto. You may not need all of the pesto, as you only need to create a thin coating on the dough and want to leave a 2cm border around the edge, as shown in the photo above.
  • Roll each piece of dough up from the longer edge to form a tightly rolled sausage shape and tuck the loose ends of dough in and press to seal. Carefully cut each sausage in half lengthways, forming two halves each showing off multiple layers of dough and pesto.
  • Place one of the green pesto halves on your work surface with the open side facing up. Place one of the red pesto halves across it at the halfway point, also with the open side facing up. Twist the pieces over each other, a bit like a plait, making sure to keep the open sides facing up. This will give you a long, braided loaf. Coil the bread around one end to form a spiral shape, then tuck in the end underneath the loaf.
  • Repeat with the other two pieces of dough to give yourself two twisted loaves of bread.
  • Carefully transfer each loaf to a baking sheet lined with some greaseproof paper, then cover with a piece of oiled cling film. Put to one side to prove for a further 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  • Bake the bread in the hot oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on top and cooked through. The bread may look ready after 25 minutes, but it’s worth leaving it in for the extra few minutes to ensure the centre is fully cooked.
  • When baked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. When cool store in an airtight container for a day or two. This bread is best enjoyed fresh.

Make the Dipping Oil

  • Whilst the bread is cooling mix together the oil, balsamic vinegar, nutritional yeast and herbs. Cover and store at room temperature until needed.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

The recipe shown above makes 2 loaves of Twisted Pesto Bread. The nutritional information shown below assumes that each loaf provides 10 servings.

Estimated Values per Serving
Energy883kJ
211kcal
Fat8g
of which Saturates1g
Carbohydrates34g
of which Sugars5g
Fibre2g
Protein10g
Sodium487mg
Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.

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