Pack up a picnic and go with this Pesto Twirl loaf
We’ve all gone baking mad here at Country Homes, what with our efforts for Bake It Yourself last week and the new series of Bake Off back on our screens. This necessitates daily updates on what’s sailing forth from our ovens and conundrums such as what exactly is ‘the windowpane test’ (see below for the uninitiated). Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, hot off the press the new bread book from last year’s finalist, tank top wearing James Morton, arrived in the office. There was lots of oohing and ahhing as we flicked through. As I’ve got not one but two picnics planned for this weekend, I’m going to try this recipe for the delightfully named Pesto Twirl loaf…
Makes 1 loaf, for a 1kg loaf tin
For the dough
500g strong white flour
1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast
350g tepid water
For the pesto
1 garlic clove
50g fresh basil leaves
25g pine nuts
25g Parmesan, grated
plenty of black pepper
75g extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1. In a large bowl, rub together the flour, yeast and salt, keeping the yeast and salt separate at either side of the bowl. Add the water and combine into a wet dough.
2. If you’ve got the time, knead for 10–15 minutes until it passes the windowpane test (see below). This will result in a lighter result than if you decide to use the no-knead method. Once kneaded, rest the dough in the fridge for 8–12 hours, if you can. This will result in a better flavour, but if you can’t then cover and rest for 1–1½hours, or until roughly doubled in size.
3. While the dough is resting, make your pesto. Using a food processor or blender, whizz together the garlic, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and pepper. Then, with the blender still running, drizzle in all the olive oil and keep blending into a smooth paste. Meanwhile grease your loaf tin.
4. Once the dough is rested, prepare a work surface with a sheet of baking paper dusted with flour. Turn your dough out on to this surface, and using floured hands, flatten into a large rectangle about 2cm thick (the shorter side of your rectangle should be the width of your loaf tin).
5. Leaving a 2cm seam at either of the short ends, smear the pesto over the entire bread. Then, gently fold the seam at one end over the pesto and press down to seal. Continue to roll the bread up from the same end until you get to the other end and have a thick sausage with a spiral of pesto in the middle. Press down the other seam to seal.
6. Seam-side down, transfer to your prepared loaf tin. Prove for a further 1 hour, or until nearly doubled in size again. Preheat your baking surface to 240°C/ gas 9 about 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake.
7. Instead of scoring the top, brush it liberally with oil to preserve the pattern inside. Turn the oven down to 210°C/gas 6½ and bake for approximately 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Throw a cup of water on to the bottom of the oven at the beginning of the bake for extra lightness and better crust. Cool completely before slicing.
What is The windowpane Test?
This is a quick test to make sure your dough is done. Simply pinch off a small piece of your kneaded mix and leave it to rest on your fingers for a few seconds. Then, gently stretch it out using your other hand into as flat and wide a piece of dough you can. If it easily tears, it’s not done. If you can stretch it into a flat sheet that lets light shine through when held up to the light, you’ve got a well-kneaded dough. Once you know your dough is properly developed, play around with it a bit; get a sense of what it feels like. You’ll very quickly recognise this feeling in future. If you’re ever unsure, just try the test again.
*Recipe taken from Brilliant Bread by James Morton, published by Ebury Press today, £20. Photograph by Andy Sewell.
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