Pesto Twists

Bread recipes make SoupAddict extremely happy. Let me just get that out there right now. All things being equal, at any given moment, SoupAddict would rather be baking bread. Unless she’s already baking bread. In which case she’d be wishing that she were baking even more bread.

Seriously. I’m thinking about building a wood-burning oven in my backyard for the express purpose of producing perfect, crusty loaves. I haven’t allowed that thought to seep out of my brain until this very moment, but, it’s true. If I could afford it, I’d buy a beehive oven right now.

Today’s bread recipe doesn’t, however, require such a wondrous appliance: a regular ole kitchen oven will do just fine. These bread twists are a direct steal from my lovelies at King Arthur Flour. Their yummy version fills the twists with cheese; SoupAddict puts a, uh, twist on it with some pesto. Both turned out super delicious, so you can’t lose with either version (in the photo above, the pesto-filled twist is on top; the cheese filled twist on the bottom. But you already figured that out, right? With the green and the orange?).

MaryJane at King Arthur has a lovely step-by-step to make the twists, so I’ll be focusing on the pesto. But I wanted to show this pic because breadmaking has an unfair reputation of being difficult. How can a one-bowl dish be difficult, I ask?

Psst. It’s not. Bread baking, more than anything, simply requires the bravery to make that first loaf. You’ll quickly pick up the “feel” of bread dough, and the characteristics of the different breads. Here, you toss everything in a bowl, stir until mixed, and then knead. The resulting dough will be smooth and slightly wet, but not stick-to-your-fingers sticky.

Making pesto at home is even easier than making fresh salsa. A few simple ingredients and a food processor is all you need.

SoupAddict has the odd problem of her food processor not chopping up leafy greens very well. The basil leaves shown in the previous photo would end up plastered to the side of the bowl, if left in their whole state. So SoupAddict does a quick chiffonade to ensure even chopping and thorough mixing.

Everything goes into the bowl for a spin.

Slowly add olive oil until a nice paste is formed. And try not to eat it right out of the bowl. You’ll need it all for the twists.

SoupAddict really wanted to make the cheese version, too, so she’s doing a half-and-half thing. Evenly spread the pesto and cheese on their halves, and then sprinkle both sides with your favorite grated cheese. Asiago is especially nice.

A rolling mat greatly helps folding the dough over on itself. This mat also has a ruler printed along the sides, to make easy work of measuring your dough formations (invaluable for pie crusts)

Twist-twist-twist. This is why bread baking is so much fun: you get to play with your food.

Serve these stacked like logs on a platter, or upright in a large cup. For a really colorful presentation, add a sundried tomato-filled version.

The best twist, I have to say, though, was the one cut from the very center that had both pesto and cheese fillings inside. Your cheese got in my pesto, MaryJane … and it was delicious!

Pesto Twists

Adapted with love from (same bread recipe, with pesto filling instead of cheese)

3/4 cup lukewarm water (about 110°F)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor, optional
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
1/3 cup Hi-maize Natural Fiber or 1/3 cup Italian 00 flour or 1/3 cup additional all-purpose flour
olive oil or garlic oil for brushing

Pesto filling
2 cups basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thickly
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or asiago cheese.

Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer using the paddle attachment), then knead the dough by hand (or in your stand mixer with the dough hook) to make a smooth, elastic dough, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, make the pesto. Add basil, nuts, cheese, garlic and salt to the bowl of a food processor and process until very fine and very well mixed (and very green!). With the blade moving, add olive oil in a very slow stream until the mixture is a spreadable paste. You could need anywhere from 1 to 3 tablespoons.

Grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface* or rolling mat. Pat, then roll it into a 20″ x 10″ rectangle.

Spread the dough with the pesto, leaving 1/2″ free of filling along the long edges. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.

Fold the dough in half so the long sides meet. Press together by rolling over the dough with a rolling pin. Cut into twenty 1″ slices.

Place the slices about 1″ apart on the prepared pan, twisting them as you lay them down, about five twists. Brush with olive oil or garlic oil.

Cover and let rise for about 1 hour, or until puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Bake the twists for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they’re light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm.

Yield: 20 twists.

*Why grease the work surface and not flour it? Because you want the dough to adhere to the surface without sticking to it and pulling apart. This will help you form the rectangle without having to fight the dough into shape. Flouring the surface would simply allow the dough to retreat back into the ball it wants to be.

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