Last time around, when most blogs had beautiful breads served up for World bread day, I really drooled over them and wished I could bake like that. Its not that I hadn't baked bread, but it never looked good enough. I hate that it didn't brown enough in the convection mode of my microwave oven.
I have been contemplating buying an OTG for a really long time now, but kept telling myself I didn't need it. My microwave worked just fine and I don't really bake that much. I am a member in two very active foodie groups on fb and read a lot about the ovens everyone recommended there. I am not really impulsive with my buying, but one day, under the pretext of retail therapy or such, I went and picked up the Morphy Richards 40L OTG. And with a lot of inputs from SJ, I finally made my first nicely browned bread in my new oven.
This braiding of bread is simple and fun and it makes the bread look so pretty. I followed the recipe from here and it started out as a wreath, but I didn't have enough pesto to fill up all the dough, so used half the dough and left it as a braided bread
The aroma with that pesto in the bread filled up the kitchen and that's when all those wonderful descriptions of how baking can be so addictive and so therapeutic start making so much sense. When it turns out right, baking is truly something that can lift your spirits and make you feel good about everything around you.
The swirls of pesto when I cut the bread in half
Instant yeast has been like a wonder find for me. It hasn't failed me once in the last few baking attempts. Thank you Suma and Sayantani for helping me discover this really user-friendly yeast. The bread was really soft and aromatic and the crust had browned really well. The slices looked nice with the swirls of pesto and tasted awesome with some hot soup.
I didn't get to take step-by-step pics of how you get this braid, since my hungry family was waiting for lunch, and pulling out a camera at this stage was not a great idea. Check this beautiful blog for the detailed steps
Sending this to Susan's Yeastspotting
Braided pesto bread
Adapted from 'Confessions of a Foodie Bride'
What you need -
For the bread -
2.5 cups flour (I used maida / APF)
1 cup warm water
1.5 tsp instant yeast (I used gloripan) / 2 tsp active dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
For the pesto -
1 cup cleaned basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp grated cheese (I used regular Amul processed cheese)
1/4 cup walnut kernels (Use pine nuts or almonds if you like)
1 tbsp olive oil
a pinch of salt
What you do with it -
For the pesto - Grind all the ingredients along with the olive oil to a coarse paste and store. I made this a week in advance. It keeps well when refrigerated
For the bread -
If using active dried yeast, sprinkle the yeast with the sugar into the lukewarm water and keep in a warm place for about 10 mins. If it gets all frothy, proceed with adding the flour, oil and salt. If not, please don't use this yeast, it will not work
If using instant yeast, just sprinkle the yeast over the flour, add the oil, water, sugar and salt and knead well for about 5-6 mins to form an elastic dough, that's not too sticky. Roll into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover with a moist cloth or cling wrap and allow it to rise, till it doubles. Mine took about 45 mins
Preheat the oven to 200 C
Punch down the dough and roll it out on a floured surface to a rectangle of about 8" x 12"
Spread the pesto over this, leaving about 1/2" along the sides
Start rolling the longer side, towards you, folding the edges in
Use a little water and seal the ends
Cut it lengthwise into 2 and then braid it with the filling showing upwards. Transfer to a loaf pan
Pinch the ends together and allow it to rise for another 20-25 mins
Bake for 20-25 mins (This depends on the oven you have)
Allow to cool slightly before you cut it
Enjoy with some hot soup