Soft, fluffy layers of dough twist around savoury filling of herbs, nuts and cheese. This is my de-constructed pesto wreath. De-constructed because this family does not like pesto. At all. We love pesto’s ingredients in their own right, just don’t like them when they are turned into the green mush. But give us freshly baked, olive oil rich bread, hint of garlic, crunch of toasted pine nuts, freshness of basil and parsley sandwiched with melted cheese and you are onto a winner here.
This is one of my favourite ways with yeasted savoury dough. Easy to make, quick to assemble and it looks impressive every time. Big enough to feed a horde of visitors as part of buffet table, this bread never disappoints. Dare I say it keeps well to the next day if you are lucky enough to have some left over.
The dough itself is made with just plain flour, salt, yeast and water and enriched with olive oil. I am using fresh yeast here that has been activated before adding it to the dry ingredients but feel free to use dried yeast instead. The kneaded dough is soft and pliable, a real pleasure to work with as it doesn’t stick. The wreath might look tricky to assemble but trust me when I say, this really is one of the easiest things, both to make as well as to put together. Just make sure you use plenty of fresh herbs and a good quality olive oil. And don’t forget to toast your pine nuts. Serve the bread as is. When still warm it’s delicious with a cold glass of wine. Once cold, use it as part of a sharing platter and an accompaniment to cold meats, olives and pickles. Here is the recipe.
For the dough:
- 25 grams of fresh yeast
- 300 ml warm water
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 500 grams of plain flour
- 1 tsp of salt
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
For the filling:
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small bunch of fresh parsley
- 1 small bunch of fresh basil
- 100 grams of cheese (I am using 50/50 of strong cheddar and Gruyère )
- 75 grams of pinenuts
- extra olive oil for brushing and nigella seeds (optional)
Place the flour and salt into a large bowl and give it a mix. Pour the warm water into a jug, add the sugar and fresh yeast and whisk it together until both yeast and sugar have dissolved. Set it aside somewhere warm for about 15 minutes after which you should see lots of bubbles and froth on the surface of the murky liquid. This means the yeast has been activated and is ready to be used.
Add the activated yeast and olive oil to the flour and salt and knead the dough. It will take about 15 minutes of kneading upon which you will see the dough becoming more and more pliable and less sticky. Once the dough is nicely elastic and has a slight sheen to it, stop kneading. Shape the dough into a ball and leave it in the bowl to rise. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and set it somewhere warm until the dough has doubled in size. In a warm kitchen this will take around 30 minutes.
In the meantime, place the pinenuts into a dry frying pan. Toast the nuts until golden but be careful not to burn them. Set them aside to cool. Chop up the herbs finely, leaves and stalks too. You can either crush the garlic or finely mince it with a knife.
Once the dough has risen, lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough onto it. Roll it out into a rectangle, about 2.5 cm in thickness. Spread the olive oil on top of the dough and sprinkle the garlic, followed by the herbs and toasted pinenuts.
Grate the cheeses over the top. Press the filling gently into the dough. Starting from the longer side of the rectangle, roll the dough on itself toward the other edge. You want to create a fairly tight roll to stop the filling from falling out but not too tight. Once you have a long sausage shape, trim off the ends to make them neat.
Using a sharp knife, cut the sausage down the middle lengthways, thus creating two halves. Starting from one end, twist the halves around each other ensuring the filling stays face up. Continue twisting until you reach the end. Bring both ends and squeeze them together to create a wreath shape.
Transfer the wreath onto some baking parchment and place it onto a large baking sheet. Set aside somewhere warm again for approximately 15 minutes or until the wreath has risen slightly and looks puffed up.
In the meantime preheat the oven to 180°C.
Once the wreath has risen again, brush it lightly with more olive oil and sprinkle with some nigella seeds. I love these little black seeds in bread combos at the moment and think their onion, almost peppery like flavour complements the wreath well. But the are optional here so feel free to skip them. Place the bread in a preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes until well risen and golden brown all over.
If the top is browning too much, cover it with some foil and continue to bake . You might need to rotate the baking tray in the oven if one side is cooking quicker then the others – this is a large wreath so make sure you have enough space for it to rise whilst it bakes.
Once baked, remove it from the oven and transfer carefully onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.
Serve warm or cool, it tastes equally good both ways. Slice it as you wish although in this family, we all enjoy pulling the delicious layers apart. Enjoy x