Pesto Bread

I love my bread maker. Now, I don't actually use it to bake bread, but that dough setting is the difference between store-bought loaves forever and everything from sandwich bread to pizza crust happening in my warm little kitchen! When I don't have to worry about mixing, kneading, and a perfect rise, bread making becomes a piece of cake, er, the best thing since sliced bread!

This pretty pesto bread was born out of days upon days of cold, dreary weather and a desire to eat all the soup and smell baking bread throughout my home. I also happened to have a little jar of roasted vegetable pesto I'd picked up from Aldi and thought I might slather some onto warm bread and then thought, "Wait - I can put it in the bread!" It was definitely the right choice!

By preheating the oven to a very high temperature and tossing a few ice cubes into the bottom of it when baking the bread, you get the simultaneous extra lift encouraged by the hot oven and a crust that is crisp without being dry. A bit of kitchen magic you can apply to your other bread baking adventures if you see fit.

By the way, this bread smells amazing while it bakes. It offers the best combination of aromas: baking bread and roasted vegetables. I would make this every day if my family could eat it fast enough! Our favorite way to enjoy it so far? As part of a grilled cheese sandwich with smoked gouda dipped into roasted tomato soup. This becomes especially magical if you time things right to be served after a bit of time outside shoveling, making a snowman, or walking the dog through a winter wonderland.

Pesto Bread

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 1 tsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan and brushing on the finished bread
  • 4 ½ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • ⅓ c. pesto — I used a roasted vegetable pesto, but any kind will work
  • 1 tsp. mixed coarse spices — I used garlic, red pepper flake, and dried basil

In the pan of your bread maker, place the first six ingredients (water through sugar) in that order. Choose the dough setting, close the lid, and start the bread machine.

After the cycle has run (it should take about an hour and a half), carefully remove the dough and set it on a lightly floured surface (or a large silicone baking mat). Carefully press it out into a 12" x 16" rectangle and spread the pesto of your choice evenly over the top of the dough, leaving about 1" on all sides uncovered. Carefully roll up the dough along the longest part of the rectangle. It doesn't matter if you pinch or twist the bread while you do this.

Oil a large loaf pan and set the rolled dough into the pan and sprinkle with your coarse spice mixture. Preheat the oven to 500° F, allowing the loaf to rise while the oven preheats.

Place the loaf pan in the preheated oven and toss 3-4 ice cubes in the bottom of the oven before closing the door. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the bread is golden and puffed. Remove and cool slightly before brushing with more olive oil and removing from the pan to fully cool.

  • Yields: 1 large loaf of bread
  • Preparation Time: About 2 hours

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