I have a couple of weird things that always tug at my heart strings - one is people eating alone in restaurants. As a kid I always got really worried that they were lonely and that they had nobody to talk to - it’s still a running joke in my family now. As I’ve gotten older I have realised that eating alone is actually something that is great for everyone to do now and again - and that going to a coffee shop alone with a book is something that should happen often. Anyway, where this is taking me is that last weekend I went to Portland, Maine (alone! and it was amazing!), for the Harvest on the Harbor festival and to hang out with Filippo Berio. Portland is crazy cute - a little wee town on the coast about an hour’s flight from NYC. They have some super cute coffee shops and restaurants, and I had the best time pottering around by myself - I can’t wait to go back and spend more time there in the future.
It is always super inspiring to see the Filippo Berio booths at their events, and this Spinach, Feta, and Basil Pesto Pull-apart bread was the product of the most recent visit. Filippo Berio makes some of the best jarred pesto I have ever tasted, and the pesto flavour complimented the feta and spinach in the filling perfectly. I actually made this pull-apart bread for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and have been tweaking the rolling and filling directions to make it as easy as possible. Lots of pull-apart breads will have you roll out the bread and cut circles, which you then fold into half-moons and stack into the loaf pan, but I didn’t want to have the leftover waste, so opted for rolling out the dough, spreading the filling, and then cutting into rectangles which are folded and stacked in. This process is super easy, and results in a fancy looking loaf that is fun to eat - you literally pull it apart and eat it layer by layer.
A few wee tips:
- I used cooked spinach in this recipe - I just placed the spinach in a microwave safe bowl with a plate on top, then microwaved until it was wilted and reduced down. I then roughly chopped it, and set it over a sieve to drain out until I was ready to use it. Spinach contains loads of moisture, so you want to get most of this out before you use it so it doesn’t make your bread soggy.
- The first rise for the bread can easily be done overnight.
- I blended the filling using a stick blender - if you don’t want to do this step you can skip it, or you can use a food processor to do this too. It really helped to break down the spinach and make the filling easy to spread.
- You may have a wee bit of filling left over depending on how thick you spread it - I stirred it into a pasta sauce and it was perfect!
- I used a standard 1 pound loaf tin for this recipe - don’t worry if the pieces of dough look like they aren’t filling it up enough, as they rise they will take up the rest of the space.
- This is best eaten the day it is made, but if you have leftovers, pop them in the microwave just for 30 seconds or so to refresh before eating.
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Spinach, Feta, and Basil Pesto Pull-apart Bread
- 180g whole milk, lukewarm
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- 2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 400g all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 60g (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 200g baby spinach leaves, washed, then wilted down, roughly chopped and drained (see notes)
- 130g feta cheese
- 2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- ¼ cup Filippo Berio Original Basil Pesto
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
- Pretzel salt to finish (optional)
- Place the lukewarm milk, 1 Tbsp of the sugar, and the yeast in a medium sized bowl, and stir to combine. Leave for 10-15 minutes, or until foamy.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, place the flour, pepper, and salt, and mix briefly to combine.
- Add the milk mixture, butter, and the egg to the dry ingredients, and mix on low for 2-3 minutes to bring the dough together. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium, and mix for a further 10-15 minutes, until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 minutes to an hour.
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
- Place all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl, and, using a stick blender, blend until smooth and homogenous. Alternatively you can do this in a food processor.
- Heavily grease a loaf pan using butter. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 12”X15” rectangle. Spread with a layer of the filling using an offset spatula to get it right to the edges. You may have a little left over. You are going to cut the dough into 9 rectangles, each 4”x5” in size, so, using a ruler and a pizza cutter or sharp knife, measure and cut the 12” side into 3 strips each 4” wide, then measure the 15” side and, making 3 cuts, cut the 3 strips into 9 rectangles, each 4x5”.
- Starting with a short edge, fold each rectangle in half, and then line them up into your loaf tin, with the filling edge up and the folded edge down. Pack them loosely - do not worry too much about arranging them perfectly - as you can see from the photos, once it rises it sorts itself out!
- Loosely cover the loaf tin with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot to rise, 45 minutes to an hour, until the dough is puffy, and when pressed lightly with a finger, springs back slightly. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375˚f / 190˚c.
- Brush the loaf with egg wash, taking care not to drag the filling onto the dough, and sprinkle with pretzel salt if desired.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown, and the internal temperature registers at 200˚f / 95˚c. Cool in the pan slightly, then remove carefully (you may need to run a knife around the edge), and cool on a wire rack. Best served warm on the same day it is baked.
Thank you so much to Filippo Berio for sponsoring this post and for having me in Portland! All opinions are my own.