Home Baked Pesto Wreath Loaf
I love buying artisan bread. There are so many brilliant bakeries and such a wide selection of bread available in stores nationwide, it makes you wonder why you should ever bake your own. But I have three reasons: Firstly, it is cheaper to make than to buy, secondly, it is a lot simpler than you might think and thirdly, it smells and tastes amazing.
When I first baked this loaf, I thought it would test and challenge my baking skills; but it turned out to be remarkably simple and effective. Just make sure you have plenty of clear counter space to work with the dough and pesto, and a good-sized tray to bake the loaf on.
Home Baked Pesto Wreath Loaf
- 400g strong white bread flour
- 7g (1 satchet) fast-action yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 275ml lukewarm water
- 185g classic green pesto
- Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast to one side and the salt and sugar to the other. (This prevents the salt and yeast coming directly into contact, which kills the yeast).
- Make a well in the centre and add the olive oil and 2/3 of the water. Mix together to form a rough dough. Then add the water a little at a time until it forms a smooth, sticky dough. (You may not need all the water).
- On a lightly oiled surface (do not use flour), knead the dough for 15 minutes until nice and elastic.
- Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it, covering with cling film and setting aside for 1-2 hours; until the dough has doubled in size.
- Knock the dough back by punching it sharply with a fisted hand. Lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough out using a rolling pin to form a 30x45cm rectangle. (You may need to stretch the dough out a little further as it often retracts in size when elastic).
- Cover the dough evenly with the pesto, spreading it right to the edges.
- With the long side of the rectangle facing towards you, roll the dough up as tightly as possible into a long log shape. (Try not to squash dough unevenly as you do so).
- Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment and lift the log onto it. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half length ways. Pull the dough lengthways with your hands to stretch it out slightly. (This will help create more twists in the braid).
- Lay each half curve-side down next to each other and gently fold one over the other, keeping the cut side up to make a circular braid.
- Press the two ends of the braid together and fold them under to create a smooth finish.
- Lay a piece of cling film over the braid and leave it for another 1 hour to rise.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan). Then place the tray in the centre of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. (If the pesto starts to colour too quickly, loosely lay a sheet of tin foil over the top).
- The bake should make a crisp knocking sound when tapped on the bottom, as well as being golden in colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.