BAKING breads

Pesto Bread Rolls

June 19, 2010

Pesto Bread Rolls

I’m thrilled with my second success of bread in a row, and that too with a new bread recipe instead of my go-to focaccia recipe. And I think I’d like to attribute the success to two things: Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday and instant yeast. You’ve heard me sing praises of this book when I made the chocolate cinnamon babka, so I won’t go down that road. But instant yeast? It’s magical.

So, what are the properties of yeast and which yeast should you use? When compared with fresh cake yeast and active dry yeast, instant yeast wins by far. Here’s how:

  • You only need to use a small quantity of instant yeast to get the job done(usually 1/3rd of the commonly used cake yeast).
  • Instant yeast has much longer a shelf life, about a year, compared to about two weeks in the refrigerator for fresh yeast. I’ve bought a block of fresh cake yeast several times only to throw away most of it after a few weeks, so the long shelf life really helps. This makes it one of the most important advantages of instant yeast.
  • Instant yeast is also very easy to use. You don’t have to wait with baited bread breath for the yeast to dissolve in water and froth up.
  • It isn’t as pungent (read: less stinky) as active dry.
  • It results in a bread with an amazing texture.

Pesto Bread Rolls

To make the pesto rolls, I first started out with a white bread recipe, using extra virgin olive oil instead of regular. I made the whole recipe and divided it into two batches – one for today’s pesto rolls and the other for another day (the dough can be refrigerated for upto 4 days). And boy, even half the batch made many rolls – 24 to be precise. I made them in 3 pans (a 9 inch square pan, an 8 inch circular pan and a 4 inch springform pan) just to see how they would look in each of them. You can make it in a 9 x 13 inch pan to have it all in one place.

The problem with photographs is that they don’t really bring out the softness within this moist bread. You can rip this dinner roll into two so easily, yet it still retains some stickiness and substance. And the smell. Mmmm, the smell. You can sense the beautifully sweet smell of freshly made bread throughout the house. I would go so far as to say that this is the perfect dinner roll. You must make this bread as soon as can – you’re going to love it!

Pesto Bread Rolls

Pesto Bread Roll Recipe

Yield: 48 rolls
Adapted from: Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday (USAUK | India)

1 tbsp /9g instant yeast
1 3/4th cup / 425g lukewarm milk (any kind)
6 1/4th cup / 794g unbleached bread flour (I used all-purpose)
2 tsp salt
5  1/2 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp / 85g extra virgin olive oil
1 egg for the dough
1 egg for the eggwash

Pesto sauce recipe

  1. To make the dough, dissolve the yeast into the milk and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, add all the other ingredients and mix it up as you pour in the milk. Once the ingredients are evenly distributed, start kneading for 4-5 minutes until the dough is soft and supple.
  3. If you’re kneading using a KitchenAid, knead by hand after you’ve turned the dough out for 2 minutes. Divide into two, make into balls and place it into two bowls greased with oil and covered with cling film. You can refrigerate one bowl for later use and let the other batch rise at room temperature for about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.
  4. Now roll out the dough into a 1/4th inch thick sheet and spread generously with pesto, making sure to stay away from the sides.
  5. Form a roll and cut with a sharp knife or a bench scraper and place the individual rolls into the baking tin. Make sure to leave some space between rolls, because they’re going to spread!
  6. Cover with a cloth or cling film so the bread doesn’t form a dry skin.
  7. Let the bread rise again for about an hour.
  8. A little before baking, brush the top of the bread with eggwash  (1 egg + 2 tbsp water or milk) to get a gorgeous golden hue.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 15-20 minutes.

I was hoping to have these dinner rolls for, well, dinner, along with some nice soup or pasta. But *somebody* polished off the entire 9 inch pan of the bread by mid-day. Lesson learnt: Do not ever keep pesto dinner rolls out in the open for anyone to see, smell, or touch before time; they won’t last.


  • Reply Summer June 19, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    Hi , i got u the ifo for the Jars SHaheen!
    they are imported by visuell creations with lods of other stuff and u can find it at Alfa or premsons.
    For more details contact Robert on 9322005985.

    And hey, bread is super , i have that book coming to me sooonnnnnnnnnnnnn too and well let me find yeast now:-)))
    Mission impossible [well not quite:-)]
    Am trying to find some imported baking powder and soda too!!!

  • Reply Prapti June 19, 2010 at 1:05 PM


    looks delicious!!!…Where will i find the fresh yeast..

  • Reply Arundathi June 19, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    Hey! Long time no hear! These look delicious. I’ve made something similar and loved it –

  • Reply Arch June 19, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    These rolls look super awesome…my little son who is sitting in front of the screen asked me if I could pull it out from the laptop !! Where did you get the instant yeast ? Is it available in Bombay ? Let me know, I have someone coming from Bombay next week and I’d love some of that !

  • Reply Pesto Bread Rolls | ClubEvoo June 19, 2010 at 7:19 PM

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  • Reply anushruti June 19, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    This looks soo good Shaheen. Will try this for sure.

  • Reply Tweets that mention Pesto Bread Rolls -- June 19, 2010 at 8:16 PM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shaheen, Madhuli Ajay. Madhuli Ajay said: RT @purplefoodie: New post! Pesto Bread Rolls – I’m thrilled with my second success of bread in a row, and that too with a new bread r… […]

  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 19, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    Arch and Prapti: You can find instant yeast at Arife or Crawford Market. Check the Baking in Bombay post for the map.

  • Reply Nick (Macheesmo) June 19, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    Wow. What a great idea! I made some savory breakfast rolls awhile ago that were filled with sausage… this made me want to revisit the savory roll idea!

  • Reply Maddie June 20, 2010 at 1:37 AM

    These look like green cinnamon rolls! I love the savory twist here, though, as I tend to descend into sugar comas far too easily. :) How creative of you!

  • Reply Memoria June 20, 2010 at 2:12 AM

    What a lovely bread! I love the color.

  • Reply Spandana June 22, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    Great recipe. Can you clarify if you used egg in the bread itself or if it is only for eggwash.


  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 22, 2010 at 12:32 AM

    I used 1 egg in the bread and an additional one for the eggwash. Edited it make it more clear.

  • Reply Shanti C June 22, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    I have never bought instant yeast. Is it the same as “Fresh Yeast”.
    And where does one lay hands on it? I will try the Godrej “Nature’s Basket” food store.
    But what if I just substitute it with dry yeast ?

  • Reply FOODESSA June 22, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    I have not had much chance to experiment on making my own bread. I do make a killer thin pizza crust…for now that’s where it stopped for me. Now, your Pesto sauce rolls look not only simple, even for me…they look absolutely devine. The next little supper party will have these gracing my table!
    BTW, Shaheen…it was such a nice surprise visit you gave me…nice to see you back ;o) I could only wonder if you ever had a chance to make those hazelnut cookie crisps?!? Hope to see you back soon.
    Flavourful wishes, Claudia

  • Reply Chocolate Freckles June 22, 2010 at 7:16 PM

    This sounds great I would never have thought of savoury rolls!… and they looks so cool!!

  • Reply Arch June 22, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    Thanks Shaheen ! I just realised for some strange reason, your posts are not getting updated in my blogroll…will see what the problem is !

  • Reply Spandana June 22, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Thanks for your response. Can you also tell me if there a substitute for egg in this recipe or will it come out fine if I omit egg?


  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 22, 2010 at 10:37 PM

    Claudia: No! I still haven’t had the chance to make those. Thanks for the nudge. :)

    Spandana: I stick to the recipe diligently for breads, because I don’t want to mess things up. As I get the hang of how the dough and yeast work in different conditions, I will be able to substitute or skip ingredients. If at all you do go the eggless route, please let me know how it turned out for you!

  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 22, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    Shanti C: The distinction for fresh and instant yeast has been made in the post above. To find specific ingredients, Baking in Bombay should be mighty helpful.

  • Reply Delishhh June 23, 2010 at 4:20 AM

    WOW these are very unusual. I really like them, i guess you can put anything in the filling. What a great idea.

  • Reply my little expat kitchen June 24, 2010 at 1:34 AM

    What an original recipe. Love the flavors of pesto! Looks delicious.

  • Reply Ann June 24, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    The rolls look scrumptious! What is the difference between instant and dry yeast?

  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 24, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Ann: Active Dry Yeast must be proved first – add it to the recipe’s lukrwarm water and let it sit a few minutes. Instant yeast does not need to be proved but us sually added to the flour (unless a recipe explicitly calls for mixing with liquid, like this one). Instant yeast is a lot more potent as well.

  • Reply liz June 26, 2010 at 2:07 AM

    These look great – I don’t blame the person who polished them off!

  • Reply Joanne June 26, 2010 at 3:43 AM

    I found you via tastespotting and just wanted to let you know that I love your blog! These pesto rolls look delicious!

  • Reply Janine June 28, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    Hey, I am from Germany and I never have heard about unbleached bread flour. And I am not sure, whether I can find it in our stores here. Can I use “normal flour” ? Do I then have to adjust the recipe?


  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 28, 2010 at 8:23 PM

    Hey Janine! I used “normal flour” as well. I put unbleached flour in the post above, because that’s what Peter Reinhart calls for in the book. So if people do have access to it, they might as well use it. Given his authority on the subject, I’m nobody to question. :)

  • Reply GB June 28, 2010 at 8:47 PM

    I’m a sucker for pesto– you’re so going up on my blogroll! thanks for dropping by (and commenting-I wouldn’t have found you otherwise!)


  • Reply PreeOccupied June 29, 2010 at 3:47 AM

    Very pretty pesti sandwiches. Reminds me of my Mum’s Pin-wheel sandwich…

    Do you also make a sweet version of it, like a cinnabon maybe?

  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 29, 2010 at 9:43 AM

    Thank you!

    I have made Sticky Cinnamon Buns.

  • Reply Meenal July 5, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Woww .. anything to do with pesto & me & my hubby love it :-)
    But tell me something i dont understand the ingredients at all .. wat do you mean by 5/12 tbsp sugar ? 6 1/4th cup flour ?

  • Reply The Purple Foodie July 5, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Hi Meenal. Sorry about the type for the sugar measure. I’ve corrected it.

    It’s 5 1/2 (or 5.5) tbsp sugar. 6 1/4th (or 6.25) cups flour.

    For cup measures, I use standard American size measuring cups, since the recipes from the books use the same too.

  • Reply Shweta July 27, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    Hey…i tried ur recipe and it turned out great…did not look as pretty as urs but nobody seem to bother:)…next time when I make this I am thinking of using a combination of marinara, pesto and some parmesan…

  • Reply Katie August 22, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    oh YUM!
    we have leftover pesto sitting in the freezer just WAITING for this recipe
    these look delicious. how creative!

  • Reply Vrushali August 30, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    Hi… bumped into this site while searching for baking ingredients in Mumbai. Thanks for all the information, it is really very helpful.
    Just one more question though… These ‘Bread Talk’ people use wonderful covers made of thick paper for their muffins. Any clues for these cupcake liners?? Silicone ones are just perfect but I am bit hesitant to give them in lunch box, so thought of finding paper liners instead. Please help.

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  • Reply Beena February 9, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    Just tried these today.. They turned out AWESOME!!
    Had many setbacks — power went off when I left it for the first rise – so I stuck it in the fridge, where it kept rising, albeit slowly..
    Post the second proofing, when I stuck it into the preheated oven, power went off again :-( … So had to remove it and leave it rising outside for almost 2 hours the second time till power was restored.
    Have tried baking bread a few times, and this was THE BEST attempt.
    Thanks Shaheen!!

    • Reply The Purple Foodie February 9, 2011 at 11:22 PM

      Hi Beena, I’m thrilled to know they worked out so beautifully for you. =)

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  • Reply Aditi May 7, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    Hey shaheen,

    I simply love your recipes.n m crazy about pesto.A quick question though…for how long can i keep pesto in d fridge? Coz everytime i need basil i have to go all the way to hypercity n sumtimes its not available wen i need it. Mom’s coriander chutney keeps fr quite long, can i store pesto d same way?

    • Reply The Purple Foodie May 8, 2011 at 9:05 AM

      Yes, absolutely. In fact, once you make the pesto, pop some in the freezer and the use it whenever you like.

  • Reply Aditi May 13, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    I just cant thank you enough for this recipe…I have tried ‘n’ no of recipes but never got that feeling of satisfaction. I tried these today with a herb mix and minus the pesto and OHH MYY GODD… this is my new go to recipe for the basic bread…

  • Reply erica July 28, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Hi there. My dough came out much, much to tough. I could barely knead it. Should I have added more liquid?

  • Reply urmila August 12, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    hi ,
    I am making these today.. can u tell me how to store the remaining instant yeast after u ve opened the vaccum pack?
    Your blog is one of the best blog i have seen..!

    • Reply The Purple Foodie September 5, 2011 at 2:45 AM

      Store them in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container.

  • Reply tia October 5, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    This looks great! I am going to make this for our potluck tomorrow.

  • Reply megha December 12, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    Hi Shaheen,

    Like i had blogged on firday i did make the pesto sauce and it was brilliant…i was also facing the issue of it turning bitter hence as suggested i did all the grinding after which i added the oil. The texure was smooth. I used it to make my pesto rolls on satuday morning…..and my pesto sauce pasta for sunday dinner..yum..
    I made these rolls cutting down everything by 1/4th and i found i needed more seasoning in mine….however i had fresh yeast and wanted to check with you….i used 7.5 gms and it rose up quite well but the bread was a little dry…what is the reason for the dryness of the bread?
    Also while i did the egg wash my did’nt exactly turned the colour yours are?? should i use the fan for the last 5 minutes of cooking??

  • Reply mary March 27, 2012 at 2:02 AM

    had a really bad day again….. wanted some comfort food. made this, and this is all we ate for dinner.. …… sooo good, great instructions, thank you so much!

  • Reply Avnee April 24, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    Could u pls tell me where I can find the pesto recipe? Thanks Wanna try them asap.

  • Reply becky @ veghotpot May 1, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    Hi, I was going to make these and blog about how they went as I am currently focusing on learning more about bread rolls. I will not post your recipe, method or photos and will link to your recipe. Would this be ok? Great recipe by the way I’m excited to try it!

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  • Reply angela October 2, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    The only problem I would say here is that I there is not a printer friendly version, its nice if you had one here. Thank you.

  • Reply HealthyFoodQuest November 24, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    Hi Shaheen,

    Firstly, your blog is great! I’ve learnt a lot from it already and there’s still more to go! Your post on Baking goods/equipment in Mumbai is unique and simply uncomparable to anything else for Mumbai on the web. I’ve got some sort of an OCD towards good healthy food and was looking up on what the heck is ‘unbleached’ vs ‘bleached’ flour and what I found was, well, quite shocking. Have a peek:

    That said, where in Mumbai do you get your unbleached flour from ??
    I know that from now onwards, I’m going to avoid anything and everything made from bleached flour!!!

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  • Reply M August 29, 2013 at 1:23 AM

    I’m rather late to this party, so you might not see this, but do you have any tips for slicing the rolled up dough into individual rolls? I’ve tried that technique with a couple recipes in the past and had a terrible time–filling squirting out, rolls coming out squished-looking, and so on.

    • Reply Shaheen September 24, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      Maybe you’ve got too much filling in it? There were a few stray green stains here and there, but no major squirts.

  • Reply Priya@MyKitchenOdyssey November 10, 2013 at 6:48 AM

    These rolls look colorful and awesome.Dry yeast smells bad ofcourse.I dont know there is instant yeast in stores.Let me try to get it next time when i bake these.

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  • Reply Krishna March 29, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Well I remember your 5th grade bread exmeripents. I’m in Florida without all my bread cookbooks, but I’ll bring the best of them to you next month. It’s important to have enough sugar in the recipe, so that the yeast will have enough “food” to work on; too much salt keeps that reaction from happening. Timing the rising and controling the temperature are also vital-o-if the dough rises too fast or too far, then it falls flat. Good luck nothing’s better than home-made bread.

  • Reply Preethi Venkatramani December 8, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    It was great! I changed up the recipe a bit since I didn't have parmesan. Used feta instead. And to tone down the bitterness, I added dried cranberries. It was amazing!!! Thanks so much!

  • Reply Monisha January 16, 2016 at 8:01 PM

    Just made these, they’re awesome!! The bread is gorgeously pillowy and moist…this is going to be my default bread recipe for a while :)

  • Reply Meenal March 7, 2016 at 4:10 PM


    My bread just doesn’t turn out moist .. its way too hard from inside. Using dry active yeast & it works fine. The rise of the dough is perfect. But the quality of the bread is very disappointing :-(

    Have tried the foccacia and other breads too ! This has happened a couple of times.

    Dunno where its getting wrong. I use the usual maida we get in Mumbai kirana stores. Yeast used is dry active yeast.

    What i have observed is while the dough rises just perfect ! there is no elasticity in the dough, it kind of tears apart … baaaaaahhhh !

    Can you please help me ?

    Thanks !

  • Reply Meenal March 7, 2016 at 4:20 PM

    Just to add to my previous note .. I have been baking this in the convection mode of the microwave cum oven !
    Does that have anything to do with the hard quality of bread ?

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