I have been eyeing my friend Rhea Mitra-Dalal’s recipe for pesto pull-apart rolls for a long time. She makes them quite often, and the whole idea of tear and share rolls, flavoured with pesto has always appealed to me. I had even attempted something on similar lines a while ago, unfortunately with little success. But now, after having done a few different breads earlier on Aparna’s We Knead to Bake challenges in previous months, I felt more confident of being able to achieve the desired softness and texture that I was looking for. So, I thought of trying this again for this month’s challenge – which was to have a savoury, filled, decoratively shaped bread.
The end result was all I could have hoped for and more. The soft pillowy texture of the rolls, the goodness of the pesto and the sweetness of the homemade sun-dried tomatoes, all prefectly complemented by the rich umami of the parmesan cheese. These rolls were a massive hit at home. I have made two batches already, and they disappear almost as fast as I can make them.
Before you start, if you are new to bread baking, you may want to read some of these tips and techniques
- 300g strong white bread flour
- 1/2 cup milk (at room temperature)
- 5g salt
- 5g instant dried yeast
- 10g butter, melted
- 1 medium egg (optional, see Notes below)
- 3-4 tbsp Basil pesto
- 50g Grated Parmesan cheese
- Handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- Take your flour in a big mixing bowl. Add the salt to one side, and the yeast to the other, taking care they don’t touch each other, and just mix each into the flour.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the egg into it. With a fork, whisk the egg lightly until the yolk and whites have mixed up. Start kneading the dough.
- Add the melted butter to the flour and then the milk, a little at a time, and knead until you get a rough lump of dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly oiled platform and keep kneading until you have a soft dough. You may need to use a little less or more of the milk, depending on the size of the egg and how loose you keep the dough. It should not be too tight, keep it fairly loose and elastic and ensure you have worked it sufficiently for the gluten to form. The best way to check this is to do the ‘windowpane test’. Take a golf-ball sized lump in your hands and stretch it carefully. If you can get it thin enough to see the light through, you’re done kneading.
- Place the dough back in the cleaned mixing bowl, cover it with clingfilm or a damp tea-towel and allow it to rest and prove in a warm place. When the the dough has at least doubled in volume (this should take around an hour), the first proving is done.
- Turn the dough back out onto the oiled platform and knock out all the air. Carefully spread and stretch it until you have a thin large rectangle of dough. Spread the pesto evenly across the surface, then evenly scatter the sun-dried tomatoes, followed by the grated parmesan cheese.
- Roll the dough tightly along the long edge, until you have a long cylinder with the filling spiralling inside (like a swiss roll).
- Divide this roll in half, then half again, cutting it cleanly with a sharp knife. Each of the four pieces can then be cut into three equal pieces, so that you end up with 12 roughly equal sized rolls.
- Take a lightly oiled baking tray and place the rolls of dough in the tray, with the spiral pattern facing up. Be sure to leave enough space between the rolls so that they have room to expand. Cover the tray loosely with an oiled clingfilm or damp teatowel and keep it in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in volume.
- Bake your rolls in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 12-13 minutes. At around the halfway mark, you may need to turn the tray around, as most home ovens do not heat evenly and you dont want the rolls to be unevenly browned.
- They’re done when the tops of the rolls have turned an even light golden-brown. You should be able to hear a hollow sound if you lightly tap on them. At this point, take the tray out of the oven and brush the tops of the rolls lightly with some melted butter, to give them a nice sheen.
- Allow the rolls to cool on a wire rack for a while before serving.
- This same dough recipe can work with a variety of fillings, sweet and savoury. You could do only pesto, or add in some chilli flakes for an extra kick. Try a mix of different grated cheeses, like blue cheese, or brie or cheddar. Go sweet with cinnamon, sugar and melted butter, or spread some chopped hazelnuts and nutella. Get creative!
- The egg is optional. Skip it and subsitute with more milk, or even water if you wish.