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broccoli cheese braid

I’m just going to say it: this recipe was a little weird. I’ve never made broccoli pesto before, and it’s still on my “iffy” list. However, the combination of soft bread with broccoli and cheese tasted fantastic. It was gooey and melty and delicious. I made the huge loaf, thinking it would last us for maybe 2-3 meals, and 2/3 of it was gone within a few minutes. I was surprised how easy it was to braid the bread, and it looked super fancy! The whole thing was a little out of my cooking comfort zone, but it was fun to try something new. I followed the recipe with the exception of adding some grated cheddar cheese on top of the broccoli pesto. I actually made the recipe again about a week later, except that I filled it with pizza toppings (marinara, mozzarella, olives, mushrooms, and green peppers) and it was perfect!

Broccoli Cheese Braid
adapted from The Baker Chick

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white sugar

broccoli pesto:
1 head of broccoli chopped into florets (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves- peeled
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup blanched toasted almond
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour, olive oil, salt, white sugar and the yeast mixture; stir well to combine. Knead well until a stiff dough has formed. If dough is too sticky- gradually add the extra half cup of flour. Cover and rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make the broccoli pesto by steaming the broccoli, then draining to remove excess water. Add to food processor with remaining pesto ingredients (except cheddar cheese) and process until desired consistency.

When the dough is proofed, turn it out onto a well floured surface, form dough into an oval shape and roll out. Spread the pesto into the middle of the dough, top with cheese, and cut inch-thick strips onto either side. To “braid” the bread- overlap one over the other- stretching each piece to seal the the beneath it. Once the loaf is braided- brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sea salt. Slide the loaf onto a cookie sheet or pizza stone, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into slices and serve warm dipped into your favorite sauce.

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