Twisted Pesto Crown Loaf
Flavour leaps out of this showstopper loaf, which is a fun addition to any meal.
1 package (1 tbsp) active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
¼ cup soft butter
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
¾ cup milk
1 egg, beaten
3-3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
About ¼ cup soft butter
4-6 heaping tbsp basil pesto, or pesto of your choice
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
¼ cup sliced pitted black olives
1-2 tsp dried oregano
About ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp melted butter, for brushing
Into the bowl of a stand mixer, place 2 cups flour.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the yeast and ¼ cup water. Let stand until foamy. Meanwhile, in a pot combine the butter, sugar, salt, and milk. Heat to lukewarm (not hotter than a baby’s bath temp). (Mixture can also be heated in the microwave being careful not to overheat the milk.) Stir well and add the beaten egg and the proofed yeast. Stir well. Add to the flour in the bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon. Insert the dough hook and add another cup of flour. Mix on low speed until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl, adding small amounts of flour as necessary. Knead on low speed for 5 minutes. (Alternatively, knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes.)
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ hours.
Gently transfer dough to a lightly floured board and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 12” x 18” rectangle. Using a spatula, spread the dough with the butter; then spread with the pesto. Sprinkle with tomatoes, olives, oregano and cheese.
Along the long side, roll the dough into a long log. Pinch the seams with your fingers and turn the log so the seam side is down. Using a pizza cutter or long sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise leaving about 1” of the log intact at one end. Twist each half open to expose the layers with filling. Starting at the end that is intact, twist the two halves together to make a long, twisted braid.
Starting at the bottom, coil the twisted braid into a round loaf, tucking the ends under the crown. Transfer to a parchment lined round pizza pan, or a cookie sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and then a tea towel. Let rise for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and brush the hot loaf with melted butter. Let rest 30 minutes before cutting.