Braided Pesto Bread
Despite what you may think from looking at the photo, we are utterly hopeless at baking. In fact, this is one of the only bread recipes we can share in good faith because we know it works.
Whilst professional bakers can rustle up a pesto focaccia or sourdough loaf with little more than intuition, the only way we can do things is by relying on our digital scales and thermometer.
For ultimate accuracy, we place a temperature probe into the bread as it bakes and remove from the oven as soon as it hits 90°C.
Thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the centre and gradually pour in the tepid water. For belt and braces, we ensure the water is 30-35°C, the ideal temperature to activate the yeast.
Stir the dough with a spoon to roughly incorporate everything and then knead by hand for 10 minutes, or 5 minutes if cheating and using a stand mixer.
Grease a large bowl with the olive oil, place the dough in it, cover with a tea towel and allow to proof in the warmest part of your kitchen until it has doubled in size. That should take about 60-90 minutes.
"Knock back" (as they call it in the trade) the dough by kneading for a minute on a flour-dusted surface and roll into a rectangle as thin as you can manage.
Generously spread the pesto onto the sheet of dough, leaving a few centimetres gap around the edges. From one of the longest edges, gently roll the dough as tightly as possible into a sausage shape.
Cut the sausage in half lengthways and arrange the two slices in parallel, cut sides up so you can see the pesto. Braid the two together and secure the ends by pinching firmly.
Heat a 180°C oven and place a baking tray filled with boiling water on the bottom shelf to generate steam as the bread cooks.
Bake your soon-to-be masterpiece for 15-18 minutes or until the thickest part of the bread reaches 90°C. Slice and serve immediately with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.