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Pesto Twists

January 26, 2011
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.

  1. MaK permalink
    January 26, 2011 8:56 am

    Oh boy. These look AMAZING!!! :o)

    • SoupAddict permalink
      January 26, 2011 4:31 pm

      Awww, MaK – thanks, chica. I would’ve brought them into work, but I made them on Saturday … and they didn’t last to Monday. 😉

  2. Phyllis Ryan permalink
    January 26, 2011 9:10 am

    Every fall I make tons of Pesto and freeze for the cold months ahead. As for the overn, I have been drooling over the ovens at Forno Bravo for a long time. My husband just laughs, but someday he may find me baking pizza and bread in the back yard.

    • SoupAddict permalink
      January 26, 2011 4:30 pm

      I have an garden plot with nothing but basil in it – and my freezer’s full of pesto (so it was ironic that I had to buy basil for this post, for the purpose of showing how to make the pesto). Those ovens at Forno Bravo … I dream about them. The ones with the mosaics? Come to mama.

  3. January 26, 2011 11:24 am

    I’ve always been intimidated by bread, and by baking in general–and I’m excited to say I’m starting to get over it! I’ve now made Beer Bread 2 weekends in a row (this coming weekend will make it 3), and it’s so easy! And homey. And satisfying. There’s nothing like freshly baked bread.

    • SoupAddict permalink
      January 26, 2011 4:21 pm

      I really don’t understand why it seems so scary to everyone (including me) the first time out. In my case, I think it was the yeast – I had had it forever, stored improperly. And then I killed whatever had survived by using water that was far too hot. But once one becomes master of the yeast, there’s no stopping the baking!

  4. Susan permalink
    January 26, 2011 4:53 pm

    You make KAF proud. 🙂

    • SoupAddict permalink
      February 1, 2011 11:25 pm

      Aw, shucks. 😉

  5. January 26, 2011 5:25 pm

    Mmm. yup, im making these!!! Thanks for recipe and keep up the great work you do on this blog!

  6. January 26, 2011 6:37 pm

    I usually have tons and tons of frozen pesto in my freezer and this year is no exception.

    Great new idea for using it up…

    • SoupAddict permalink
      February 1, 2011 11:30 pm

      Ditto – I do love da pesto. And my freezer’s full. But by April, my new basil crop will be well under way, so I have to use what I’ve stored! I have a feeling I’ll be eating a lot of pasta topped with pesto in the coming months….

  7. ErikZ permalink
    January 27, 2011 11:19 am

    That beehive oven looks…really easy to make. The worst part being the door in front, and that looks mostly decorative.

    • SoupAddict permalink
      February 1, 2011 11:27 pm

      Yeah, that’s my thought, too. I think it’s doable. But it has to stop snowing!

  8. izzyford permalink
    January 27, 2011 12:30 pm

    Wow! These look amazing. I used to bake bread but got away from it. You have inspired me! Glad to discover your website.

  9. January 27, 2011 11:38 pm

    These twists look delicious and your photography is stunning. Thanks for sharing.

  10. January 28, 2011 9:00 am

    And you got your pesto in my cheese! What a wonderful collision. 🙂

    When I was reading this last night and remembering the old Reese’s commercial, it flashed into my mind that we could try a sweet version, with chocolate and peanut butter, for dipping in cocoa. Guess we’ll have to add it to the list.

    The tomato soup is on my list for the weekend, I didn’t get to it this week. Can’t wait!


    ~ MaryJane

    • SoupAddict permalink
      February 1, 2011 11:24 pm

      You caught that, eh? 😉

      Chocolate and peanut butter and pastry? See, this is why you peeps rock. The fantastic ideas just never stop.

  11. January 28, 2011 3:29 pm

    Lovely bread twists! I am a HUGE KAF fan–love to do the bread with them as my guide. And beehive backyard oven–I will be very jealous! I must add you to my blog roll to keep up with the goodies!

  12. January 28, 2011 10:57 pm

    Aren’t the peeps at KAF just the best! My pilgrimage to their store is the highlight of my year (I think I am due soon…) I made a buffalo chicken version of these and they were to die for. Loving the thought of pesto with them – and I am definietly trying out that roasted tomato soup.

    • January 29, 2011 6:25 pm

      BTW – I made the tomato soup for dinner tonight. Three thumbs up.

      • SoupAddict permalink
        February 1, 2011 11:08 pm

        Yay! Thanks for reporting back – I appreciate it!

    • SoupAddict permalink
      February 1, 2011 11:18 pm

      Someday before I die, I’m going to have to make it to their store. The problem is, I’m afraid I won’t want to leave. I’d be holding the employees by their ankles, “No! Don’t close!” And then I’d be banned from the store in perpetuity.

      But it’d probably be worth it anway. 😀

      • February 4, 2011 3:47 pm

        Oh, do it. Take the trip. In the summer or fall, though… It works out great, because The Dude orders food from their cafe and I get to stand there and stare and drool… Don’t worry – you probably wouldn’t be the first person they had to kick out at closing time.

  13. Izzy ford permalink
    February 1, 2011 1:27 pm

    Wondering what you used for the cheese filling? Can’t find the recipe! Help!

    • SoupAddict permalink
      February 1, 2011 11:04 pm

      The recipe is at the King Arthur Flour blog at the link above. Do check it out – you’ll love it!

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