Adventures in Vegan Baking - Episode 1 - Roasted Garlic Pesto Plait
One of the things that I most enjoy doing when I have a bit of down time is baking. There's an incredible magic in the act of combining simple ingredients, with the help of heat and chemistry, into a whole that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Add to that the deep satisfaction that comes from creating something that will be shared with and enjoyed by people we love, and you've got a recipe for a great way to spend an afternoon! Now, I am by no means a professional-level baker. I am, rather, reasonably proficient when it comes to the basics and just brave (or crazy) enough to attempt bakes that outstrip my abilities every now and again. While I aspire to become a truly masterful baker at some point in my life, at this stage, I find that truly persnickety bakes lend themselves more to frustration than to relaxation (macarons, for example, are the bane of my baking explorations to date). So, for now, I've decided to focus on creating fantastic vegan versions of what I consider to be essential homemade treats: cookies, brownies, pies, basic cakes, and my personal favorite: bread.
Now, you might be thinking "hang on, Sam...bread is already vegan - there's nothing new about that!" While it is true that a basic bread requires only four ingredients (flour, water, salt, and yeast), and that none of those ingredients are sourced from animals, I've long taken particular pleasure in making breads that break the standard four-ingredient mold. Many of my pre-vegan go-to bread recipes included cheese or chocolate, and it's impossible to make a perfect challah without eggs or a beautiful brioche without milk and butter. Isn't it? I'm on a mission to find out! It's time to track down the best plant-based alternatives to the animal-based ingredients in my favorite recipes, without sacrificing the tastes and textures of the originals. I'm sure there will be ups and downs, successes and failures, but I'm looking forward to the challenge! I hope you'll enjoy it, too! The first recipe I'm sharing with you is my Roasted Garlic Pesto Plait. Credit where credit is due, this is a riff on the outstanding Roasted Garlic Herb Twist found on page 145 of the UK edition of The Great British Bake-Off: Perfect Cakes and Bakes To Make At Home. That recipe is, in fact, the one that sparked my obsession with bread-baking about four years ago (but that's a story for another time). What am I changing? Well, the original recipe uses only white bread flour. To give the bread a bit of added nutritional boost, I've substituted 50% of the white flour with whole wheat flour. Also, the base of the filling in the GBBO recipe is cheese (gorgonzola, to be exact, though I've found that mozzarella and feta work beautifully, too), which just can't make an appearance in a vegan loaf. So, the cheese has been replaced with a mixture of raw walnuts and pumpkin seeds to give the pesto the body it needs. Pretty simple! Ready to give it a shot? Here we go!
Compassion and Cucumbers' Roasted Garlic Pesto Plait
Stand Mixer w/Dough Hook
Rolling Pin & Dough Cutter
Large Baking Sheet
325g unbleached white bread flour
325g unbleached whole wheat flour
7g fast-acting dried yeast
3 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for kneading and brushing)
425 ml lukewarm water
1-2 large garlic bulbs
Fresh herbs to taste (parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary, and basil recommended)
65g raw, unsalted walnuts (halves & pieces)
65g pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or pine nuts (unsalted)
Juice of 1 medium lemon
Freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste (fine Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt recommended)
Trader Joe's Anything But The Bagel seasoning blend (optional)
Note: I choose to measure most dry ingredients by weight, rather than volume, as I find it to be a more consistent way of ensuring the right ratio of wet to dry ingredients. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can find conversions for these measurements at Online Conversion.
1. Heat your oven to 400F (200C, Gas 6). Cut each of the garlic bulbs in half, horizontally. Place the halves, cut side up, on a medium-sized sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold the foil over the garlic and seal the open sides to create a roasting pouch. Place the pouch in the heated oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until the garlic has softened and turned a pale golden brown. Turn off the oven, remove the roasting pouch, and leave the garlic to cool while you start the dough.
2. Put the flours, yeast, and salt in to the bowl of your stand mixer, keeping the yeast and salt separated. Use your hand to mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, then make a well in the center of the mixture. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil, then fill with lukewarm water to the top of the well. Using a dough hook on slow speed, make a soft dough, adding water or flour a tablespoon at a time, as needed (water if the dough is crumbly, flour if it sticks to the sides of the bowl).
3. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on your work surface and use your hands to coat your kneading area. Place the dough on the work surface and knead for 10 minutes. The "finished" dough should be firm, pliable, and no longer sticky. Place in a lidded bowl (plastic wrap will work if you don't have a bowl with a dedicated lid) and leave on the work surface to rise for approximately 1 hour, or until the dough has at least doubled in size.
4. While the dough is rising, make your pesto. Put the walnuts, seeds, herbs, roasted garlic (skin removed), lemon juice, and 1 tbsp of olive oil into the bowl of your food processor. Add salt & pepper to taste, then combine to make a smooth paste, scraping down the bowl as necessary. You may need to use additional lemon juice, olive oil, or water to achieve your desired texture. Set aside at room temperature until needed.
5. Once the dough has risen, remove the lid and punch it down with your knuckles to remove the air. Place the dough on a floured work surface and roll or pat it out to an 18-inch (45 cm) square of even thickness. Using your palette knife, spread the pesto evenly over the dough. With your dough cutter, divide the dough into three 6-inch (15 cm) wide sections. Roll each section from the long end, as you would a Swiss Roll, and pinch each seam to seal it.
6. Pinch one end of the three sections together, then braid them (left over center, right over new center, repeat) to create a solid three-strand plait. Lift the plait onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, placing it diagonally, if necessary. If you do not have a baking sheet large enough to accommodate the loaf, form a circle by joining the two ends of the plait and leaving space in the center (this will turn your plait into a plaited couronne, which sounds delightfully fancy)!
7. Loosely cover the loaf with plastic wrap, or place the baking sheet in a proving bag or large plastic bag (I use Hippo Sak plant-based kitchen bags). Leave to rise for an additional 45-60 minutes, or until the loaf has doubled in size.
8. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 425F (220C, Gas 7).
9. Remove the loaf from the bag, brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel Seasoning (this is optional - I'm just nuts about that particular seasoning blend). Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Then, transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool until barely warm. Slice and serve with the spread of your choice (though I think you'll find this bread doesn't need anything, at all)!
This loaf is best served with salads, soups, and pasta dishes, but will certainly complement any meal. It also makes amazing toast and reheats beautifully when placed in a 400F oven for about 12 minutes. Reheating by microwave is not recommended.
One of the best things about this bake is that the potential for variation is endless! Not crazy about walnuts? Try almonds or cashews! Don't like the subtle citrus tang of the lemon juice? Replace it with balsamic vinegar! This recipe would also work well with a bean-based pesto, though the added liquid from the beans might increase your baking time, somewhat. Finding your perfect combination is just a matter of curiosity and experimentation, so get in to that kitchen and start adventuring!
Roasted Garlic Pesto Plait
#VeganBaking #RealFood #oneveganatatime #RoastedGarlicPestoPlait #CompassionAndCucumbers