I'm calling this post "Adventures in Pesto Bread" because the although the recipe for pesto is ready to go, the recipe for the bread aspect of it needs some tweaking. It's mostly because I don't have an enriched white bread recipe that I'm 100% happy with. I have basic white recipes and a whole slew of oatmeal and whole wheat recipes that I bake on a weekly rotation, but the enriched white still eludes me.
Maybe I'm too picky but I want the bread to be soft and almost peel-able but still have structure for add-ins (such as pesto) and I want it to be flavorful but not too sweet. This version is soft and strong but a little bit too sweet and a little bit rich/heavy on the butter/oil.
Overall the bread was delicious..really really delicious. It's pesto swirled inside homemade bread how could it not be tasty? But something was not exactly what I was looking for and I know that it was because I haven't paired it up with the right bread dough yet. Guess I better make a few more batches (not exactly a terrible fate)
The pesto itself was amazing in the way that only homemade pesto can be. In fact, out of the container that I made for bread recipe experiments over 3/4s of it made it's way into my lunches and dinners and even on my eggs in the morning. Looks like I will also have to make more pesto
Good thing it's ridiculously easy to make. Just need fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest, garlic, and olive oil and a handy-dandy food processor (is it wrong to be in love with a piece of kitchen equipment??)
For this version I toasted the pine nuts until slightly golden to bring out more of their flavor.
It's tasty the day that you make it, but I prefer the flavor on the second day after the garlic and cheese and basil have had time to all meld together.
Then I promised myself to not eat it all (and managed to salvage about 1/4 of this batch for bread)
The oil in pesto makes it too heavy to just do a regular swirl with in a loaf of bread. As it bakes the swirl will sag and you'll end up with a big empty shell at the top and a squished looking swirl at the bottom. To avoid that I rolled out the dough relatively thinly and then spread a layer of the pesto over the entire thing.
I used those two pieces to make a twist (like you do with babka or coconut swirl bread) and left it in the pan to rise.
It smelled amazing in the oven. Fresh bread, garlic, basil, and cheese all making my kitchen smell like some sort of Italian restaurant. They came out golden brown with a great rise.
It was torturous waiting for it to cool for an hour before slicing into it to see what pattern the pesto had made. I had my fingers crossed that it wasn't just a beautiful golden shell with a mush of squished bread and pesto inside.
Voila! Twisting the two spirals not only makes a pretty pattern but also helps the bread get a little bit more structure.
If you already have an enriched white bread recipe that you love then I suggest filling it with some pesto and enjoying this delicious bread. Meanwhile, I'll be in my kitchen happy to have an excuse to bake an absurd amount of bread.
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil
2 large cloves of garlic
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Lay the pine nuts on a cookie sheet and roast in oven until lightly browned (takes a few minutes. Keep checking the nuts and shaking the sheet to roll them over)
2. In a food processor place the roasted pine nuts, basil, lemon zest, and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped. Use a spatula to scrape down the bowl.
3. Turn the food processor on and pour the olive oil in a steady thin stream down the feed tube. Continue until all of the oil has been added.
4. Pulse in the Parmesan cheese until combined. Store in the fridge.
If the rolling and shaping technique for the bread isn't clear enough in this post I also do step by step photos in this post. It is the same but you don't slice the rolled dough in half before twisting it