Braided pesto bread is everything that is right in the world. It’s cheese, pesto, and bread. I KNOW. I’m not sure what else it could do to win you over short of baking itself, but if you too are longing for summer to never ever ever end, this one’s for you.
And I’m not saying that this bread is better with an extra smear of pesto on top, but like, I’m not saying it’s worse. Take that as you will.
What’s in this pesto bread?
The bread dough itself is made of all-purpose flour, yeast, whole milk, an egg, oil, and a little kosher salt and sugar. Running throughout the bread is homemade pesto, and the bread is sprinkled with additional shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
What is pesto made of? It’s a simple combination of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Pine nuts are fairly pricey, and if you don’t want to drop the cash on them I’ve seen pesto recipes made with walnuts and almonds as well. Just be aware that if you decide to substitute another nut for pine nuts you need to use one that’s mild in flavor. Something like cashews or peanuts would totally overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fresh basil.
How to make pesto bread
If you just looked at the total time needed to make this cheesy pesto bread, don’t freak. Most of the time required for this homemade bread is spent letting it rise. Easy, right?
You first need to make the bread dough and let it sit for a good 20 minutes in an oiled bowl (after being worked into a dough, the flour needs some time to relax before being braided). While the dough rests, make the homemade pesto by pulsing all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
Then, roll out the dough and smear the pesto over it in an even layer. Roll the dough into a long log and then cut it in the center. From here, you’ll be able to braid the dough in a loaf pan. Let the braided dough rise in a warm part of your kitchen for two hours.
When ready to bake the bread, brush the beaten egg over top and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and additional Parmesan cheese. This pesto bread will need to bake for around 45 minutes — your house will smell amazing by the time it’s ready to come out of the oven.
Can I make this with store-bought pesto?
Technically, yes. But homemade pesto is so much better than the store-bought stuff. You make the pesto while the bread dough is being mixed together, so you should have plenty of time to blitz together a quick batch of pesto!
Can I freeze pesto bread?
Yes, simply wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap and a final layer of aluminum foil. When you’re ready to enjoy the frozen bread, place it on your counter to thaw overnight.
Tips for making pesto bread
I know it’s a small detail, but make sure to cover the pesto bread with plastic wrap when you set it aside to rise for two hours. If you skip the plastic wrap, your pesto loaf won’t rise properly. The plastic wrap really makes a big difference!
I don’t recommend substituting a different type of milk in the bread dough. Whole milk contains a lot of fat, which adds moisture and flavor to the dough. Whatever you do, don’t use skim milk in this recipe.
Also note that your bread may need longer than two hours to rise. If you’re making this pesto bread in the middle of winter, your kitchen is likely cooler. Cooler temps mean it’s harder for dough to rise, so just be patient!
If you make my cheesy pesto bread, please let me know by leaving a review below!
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For additional baked goods, check out the following:
Cheesy pesto bread
For the dough:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 (¼ oz) packet instant yeast
- ⅔ cups whole milk
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
For the pesto:
- 2 cups basil (packed)
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cups pine nuts (toasted)
- ¼ – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup Parmesan (grated)
- 1 egg whisked
To make the dough:
- Add the flour and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with hook attachment and mix on low speed until blended. Add all remaining dough ingredients, then mix on low speed for 30 minutes. Check after a few minutes to make sure all ingredients have been incorporated. If not, stop mixer, scrape down sides, then continue mixing. Meanwhile, make the pesto.
To make the pesto:
- Place garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor with blade attached. Pulse until finely chopped. Add basil and pulse until well blended.
- With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until a smooth sauce forms. Stir in Parmesan and set aside.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, pushing down on the down to release any bubbles. Gently pull the top of the dough down onto the bottom. Next, pull the right side of the dough over towards the left side. Pull the bottom of the dough up over to the top. Finally, stretch the left side of the dough over towards the right.
- Turn the dough over so the seams are underneath. Smooth out the dough into a round ball, then transfer to a bowl sprayed with nonstick oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll dough out into a roughly 16″ x 10″ rectangle. Spread the pesto into a thin layer across the dough, leaving only a ½” border along the bottom.
- Dip your finger in water, then run it along the bottom exposed part of the dough. Roll the rectangle from top to bottom lengthwise.
- Leaving about 1-2″ in tact at the top, take a sharp knife and cut the dough in half lengthwise. Turn the dough cut side up, then twist to form a braided pattern. Place rolled dough into a loaf pan (10 ½” x 5 ½” x 3″) lined with parchment paper. If the dough is too large, tuck the ends underneath. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 2 – 2 ½ hours.
- When ready, preheat oven to 375 F. Brush loaf with egg wash. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until dough is browned and slightly crispy on the outside and fully cooked on the inside.