Whoever came up with the idea of swirl bread deserves a medal.
When you take something that’s already fantastic (homemade bread) and swirl it with something else that’s pretty fantastic itself, you just KNOW that the results are going to blow your mind. (Or your tastes buds? BOTH.) So I’ve done the cinnamon-swirl thing and a chocolate swirl, plus a bunch of different variations in the form of sweet rolls, but when you think about going savory? Woahhh there’s a whole new load of options.
For one, there’s pesto – heck yes. Considering that it can make just about any sandwich better, it’s basically a given that it takes this soft, fluffy bread to the next level of fantasticness. The bread itself – have I said this yet? – is incredible, like that pillowy type of homemade bread that should really just be described as FLUFFY over and over, but swirled with a good pesto, it’s almost like you have a sandwich right there. Annnnd I’m totally having daydreams of using this bread to make a chicken panini now. (Granted, the swirls might make it a bit of a clumsy panini, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t stop me.)
Plus, did I mention that the crust gets perfectly golden in the oven in all its flaky-sea-salt-sprinkled gloriousness? Oh yessss ➝ this is bread at it’s best.
A fluffy loaf swirled with savory basil pesto and topped with a sprinkle of sea salt.
- 15 7/8 ounces (3 3/4 cups, spoon and level) bread flour, divided
- one 1/4 ounce packet instant yeast (I like Red Star Platinum)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 4 1/4 ounces (1/2 cup) milk
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons) strained basil pesto*
- olive oil, for brushing
- flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
- In a large bowl, whisk together 13 3/4 ounces (3 1/4 cups, spoon and level) flour with the yeast, sugar, and salt.
- In a separate, microwave-safe container, heat the milk in the microwave for about a minute, until the temperature reaches 180ºF as registered on a reliable instant-read thermometer. Whisk in water and oil. Temperature of mixture should read between 120º-130ºF before adding to the dry mixture; let cool or reheat briefly as/if needed.
- Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and fold in with a spatula until a dough forms. Use your hands to continue kneading dough together, adding some of the remaining 2 1/8 ounces (1/2 cup, spoon and level) flour as needed if dough is too sticky to work with.
- Turn dough out onto counter and knead for about 8-10 minutes, until soft and elastic, adding more of the remaining flour as/if needed to prevent dough from getting stuck to your hands or the counter. Be careful not to add more flour than necessary!
- Shape dough into a smooth round, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to rest for about 20 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll or pat dough into a 9" long rectangle that's about 3/4" thick. Spread pesto evenly on top, leaving 1/2" of clear space on one of the 9" sides.
- Starting on the opposite 9" side, roll dough up into a tight log. Pinch together at end of roll to form a seam and roll seam under. Pinch sides of log in and tuck underneath to seal. Carefully transfer loaf to a greased 9"x5" loaf pan and cover with greased plastic wrap
- Leave to rise until dough is filling up most of the space in the pan and reaches the top of the pan at its highest point (about 30-45 minutes). Towards the end of this time, preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Just before baking, use a sharp serrated knife to make 3 diagonal slashes in the top of the loaf. Brush top with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, covering with foil if needed during baking to prevent excess browning, until internal temperature reaches about 205ºF, or until top is golden and loaf sounds hollow when tapped at base. Cool briefly, and then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Store airtight at room temperature.
*Use a cheesecloth (or similar) to strain as much of the liquid/oils out of your pesto as possible before measuring.