A good time to make this Pesto, Bacon, and Mozzarella Bread would be when you’re planning to feed a crowd. Possibly you have a big family. Maybe you are inviting friends over. Perhaps you need to feed hungry work colleagues. In all of those instances, this bread would be an excellent thing to bake. A slightly insane time to bake this massive bread is when there are only two of you in the house. And you just kind of fancied a bit of bread. But, of course, that’s what I did.

To give you an idea of the scale of this bread: it only just about fit in my oven. I had to cut it up for the photos. If left whole, it didn’t fit on the board, or actually even into the shot when I was trying to take pictures.

In other words, it’s awesome. A ridiculously huge loaf of bread filled with pesto, bacon, and mozzarella? What’s not to like?

This is an ideal weekend project. Pop the dough on when you get up, and then gently potter around, finishing it off in time for a luxurious brunch. Yes, it takes quite a long time, but most of that time is just passive while you’re waiting for it to prove. And there is really nothing more satisfying that making your own bread for scratch. As this particular bread is stuffed with tasty fillings, you don’t even have to had anything with it. Although it would make some epic sandwiches.

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Notes:

I made the dough for this in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. You could do it by hand, but the dough is essentially a brioche. It’s very wet and a bit of a pain to get all the butter in by hand. They made us do brioche without a machine at culinary school, obviously, but… yeah. It’s not an experience I am massively keen to repeat.

Ingredients:

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g salt
10g dried yeast (from sachets is fine)
150ml warm milk (heat it for around 30 seconds in the microwave until it’s about skin temperature)
3 eggs
200g butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
300g bacon lardons
150g pesto, fresh if you can get it
2 x 150g balls mozzarella, drained
1 egg, beaten
handful of parmesan, grated
fresh chives to finish, optional

Method:

  1. Put your flour, salt, yeast, milk, and eggs into the bowl of your mixer. Beat with the dough hook on a medium speed until it’s smooth. Slowly – over about a five minute period – add your butter, bit by bit, letting each chunk get beaten in before adding the next. You should have a glossy dough. Pop it into an oiled bowl. Cover with cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (at least an hour). You can also do this step the night before you want your bread, and let it rise overnight in the fridge.
  2. While your dough rises, pop your bacon into a frying pan on a medium heat (no need for oil). Gently fry it until cooked but not too coloured – it will cook more in the oven and if you get it too dark now it will only burn later. Tip it onto kitchen roll to drain excess fat and let it cool.
  3. When your dough has risen, line your largest baking tray with baking parchment or a silicone mat. Sprinkle it with flour. Carefully tip your dough out onto it, then, with oiled hands, gently press it out into a rectangle about 1cm thick and roughly 45cm long, with the long side facing you. Spread the dough with your pesto, scatter it with your bacon, and tear up your mozzarella into strips and lay it over the top. Roll it all up from the long end like a sausage. This is the best way to make sure the filling is evenly distributed. Join the ends of the sausage together to make a ring. It’s a delicate dough with a lot of filling so inevitably bits will tear and spill out as you move it, but this is good, because those bits will be exposed to the heat of the oven and taste delicious. Put your baking tray into a plastic bag and leave your bread to prove for another hour.
  4. Heat your oven to 220C/ 200C fan/ gas 6. Brush your bread with beaten egg, scatter the whole things with grated Parmesan, and bake it for around 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye on it, because the enriched dough can catch and burn – if it’s starting to look too dark too early then cover it with foil.
  5. When your bread is baked, let it rest for ten minutes. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped chives, for colour, if you like. Enjoy warm or cold.

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