This is officially my favourite of the many types and flavours of breads that I make. It arose by wanting to flavour some of a batch of sourdough dough I had made and looking at ingredients I had in the kitchen for ideas. The result was a simple twist on pesto bread!
I make traditional pesto frequently (it is hands-down my favourite sauce!) and often spread it thinly over flattened bread dough before rolling it up, proving and baking, giving thin swirls of pesto through the bread. But this “deconstructed” version results in a bread that is much more of an event!
To be honest, my heart usually sinks whenever I see the word “deconstructed” on a menu: rarely do such dishes seem to add anything new after all that tinkering with a classic! But in a very tongue-in-cheek way I felt I had to flirt with this trend in this bread in at least the title of this recipe!
The flavours in the bread
I cannot urge you strongly enough to make this bread: it has such a wonderfully robust flavour and you get more defined pieces of each ingredient running through the bread.
The individual flavours of the Parmesan, fresh basil, roasted garlic and toasted pine nuts come through loud and clear and the overall effect is a fragrant, intensely savoury and insanely more-ish bread.
For this bread, only a little fresh basil is needed to flavour the dough, rather than the relatively larger quantities needed for a pesto.
This is one of my favourite ways to roast garlic and this gives the best flavour here than using raw garlic (great in pesto, less so in the bread!). Roasting the peeled cloves give a more intense flavour than roasting the bulbs whole and squeezing out the sweet pulp.
To roast the garlic, peel the cloves, add to a small oven-proof pot with some extra-virgin olive oil and a little salt and bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown and squidgy. Leave to cool before using.
The flavoured oil you get here is great worked into a dough, drizzled over focaccia or added to salad dressings.
“Deconstructed pesto” sourdough loaf: makes one loaf
- half of a portion of sourdough dough after its bulk fermentation (pre-shaping)
- one large bulb of garlic roasted in olive oil, and then roughly crushed
- a small handful of fresh basil, torn
- a generous handful of lightly toasted pine nuts
- a generous handful of small cubes of Parmesan
(1) Take the portion of risen sourdough and pat into a rough rectangle, about 15cm by 30cm.
(2) Scatter over the ingredients and gently pat them into the surface of the dough. Roll up, not too tightly, stretching the dough slightly as you go, sealing the seam by pinching together, before placing the shaped dough in a well-floured banneton, with the seam facing upwards.
(3) Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise at room temperature for several hours (roughly between 5-8 hours, depending on the warmth of the room) until the dough has risen to near the top of the banneton.
(4) Towards the end of this final prove, preheat the oven to its highest setting and place a solid roasting tray on bottom and a cast iron skillet (or baking stone or solid baking tray) on the top shelf. When the dough has risen, remove the skillet from the oven and turn the dough out of the banneton and onto the skillet.
(5) Slash the top of the dough a few times with a sharp blade, place in the the oven and pour some boiling water the roasting tray to create steam. Close the door and bake for 10 minutes at this high temperature before turning down the oven to 220C for a further 30 minutes or so, or until the bread is deep golden and the bottom sounds hollow. Cool before eating.
For a non-sourdough version:
Make up the initial dough using a total of 375g strong white flour, 7g salt, 4g easy-blend dried yeast and between 220-240ml water instead of the starter. Work in the rest of the ingredients as in the recipe above.