Saturday, 15 September 2012

Pesto Bread Wreath and a Special Guest

I love baking bread. I love the process, the smell... and especially the outcome. But you know what I love even more? Baking bread with friends! Last weekend, my precious friend Becky came over to hang out for a while, and although she is a seriously good baker (I mean seriously good) she had never made bread before so asked if we could give it a go. At this point I should probably mention that Becky is 14 (she's a member of our youth group) and the photo above is the outcome of her first ever attempt at making bread! I told you she was seriously good- talk about natural talent!

That afternoon is such a happy memory, it makes me smile when I think about it. We both learned something new (although I've made bread before I had never tried this particular recipe and had been dying to!), the house smelled amazing (for me that's almost reason enough to make bread), we had lots of time to chat while working and waiting for the dough to rise, we got to sample the end result while fresh out of the oven (is there any better way to enjoy bread?) ... and we had lots of giggles. Stupid amounts of giggles. We had fun :)

But oh my, this bread. It's sooooo good. My mouth is watering right now just writing about it. Actually watering. The crust is crisp but without being rock hard, the inside is light and fluffy, and the pesto woven through it packs a whole lot of punch but without being overpowering. Oh, and you look like some sort of baking genius... but Becky and I can tell you first hand that you really don't need to be (although I think maybe she is)! It is a little fiddly when you're trying to plait it without letting all the pesto goodness ooze out... but that's all part of the fun! We also had great fun dreaming up all the different variations we'd like to try using this dough and method as the basis.... we were thinking a mozzarella and pepperoni one would be fun, or for those with a sweet tooth (Becky) we thought we might even try one with a chocolate filling! IF that works, we'll post it here soon.
For now though, here's how you make the truly scrummy Pesto Bread Wreath.
Pesto Bread Wreath

1 cup warm water
7g/ 2 tspns fast action yeast
2.5 cups bread flour
1 tblspn olive oil
1 tspn salt
150g pesto (2/3 cup)
1) To make the dough you can follow this bit whether you're using a mixer to combine the ingredients or your bread machine. Pour the warm water into your bread machine / mixer bowl. Cover it completely with the flour. Add the oil, salt and yeast in three separate areas on top of the flour, making little dips in the flour so they sit in it nicely.

2) The next few steps are easy peasy (yes, I did just say that) if you're using a bread machine- simply put it on the dough setting and let it do the all the kneading and rising for you! If you're making this in a mixer with a kneading hook, then put the mixer on a low setting and let it mix the dough for about 5 minutes until it's smooth and elastic. If you don't have a mixer with a kneading hook and are doing this traditionally (well done you!), then simply mix the ingredients together until they combine and the dough comes away from the walls of your bowl easily, remove to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand.

3) Once you have kneaded it and reached the desired consistency, then shape it into a smooth ball and transfer it to a greased surface (a tray, plate or bowl will do). Cover lightly with a cloth, then leave it somewhere warm until it has risen to about twice the size.

4) Tip out your dough onto a lightly floured surface, then gently knock it back (punch it a few times until it's a more workable consistency). Gently roll your dough into a rectangle (well, as close to a rectangle as you can get... we struggled with this part!), until the dough is about 1cm thick.

 5) Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving about a 2cm border.
6) At this point, we became quite glad there were two of us! Starting on the long side closest to you, roll the dough away from you until it's completely rolled, then pinch the opening to seal it shut.
7) Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, then transfer your dough to the tray.
8) Now the fun bit! Starting about one inch from the one end of the dough, cut straight down and through the dough to the end (so it looks a bit like a wishbone). Take the two strips and turn them so that the cut edge is facing up (you should be able to see the layers of pesto). Quickly and gently weave the two strips together. We found it easiest to move the right one over the top of the left constantly- it will start to curve, but that makes the next step easier!
9) When you reach the bottom pinch the two ends together, the loop it round into a wreath. Leave it in a warm place for 30 minutes. While it's resting, turn on the oven and let it preheat to 220c/ 200c fan/ 425f/ Gas 7.
10) Bake for 20-25 minutes, remove from the oven and try to resist it for about 5 minutes until it's cool enough for you to dig in. 

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