Russian Braided Bread with Pesto Filling to Celebrate World Bread Day

Russian Braided Bread with Pesto Filling | Barbara Bakes

A beautiful, braided yeast bread filled with pesto.The braiding creates thin layers with lots of edges that crisp up and get golden brown in the oven. It looks complicated but each step is easy and the results are well worth the extra effort. 

Did you know October 16 is World Bread Day? Every year since 2006, hundreds of bloggers from all around the world bake bread for this special day. This year I’ve joined with the Bread Baking Babes and Buddies to make a Russian Braid. Mine is filled with a basil pesto but many BBB made sweet versions as well.

There’s a great video of Chef Ciril Hitz making a sweet version of the bread and showing you step by step how to create this gorgeous bread. The yeast dough is rolled out into a rectangle, spread with pesto, rolled up, sliced in half, and then braided to create an elegant rose shaped bread.

I adapted the recipe to use instant yeast in a Kitchen Aid mixer. The BBB recipe includes vinegar, which is added to help the dough rise better and create a crunchy crust. All the cut edges combine with the olive oil in the pesto make the crust on this bread extraordinary.

I used half an 8 oz jar of pesto, use less if you want a more subtle pesto flavor. We all loved this bread, but my 1 year old grandson especially loved it. He gobbled it up as fast as we could tear it up for him and kept asking for more. I think it’s best eaten the day it’s baked while the crust is so crispy and delicious.

Russian Braided Bread with Pesto Filling to Celebrate World Bread Day

Russian Braided Bread with Pesto Filling to Celebrate World Bread Day


  • Russian Braid Bread

  • Ingredients:
  • 3 - 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup pesto


In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.

Heat water and canola oil until warm (120° – 130°F). Add to flour mixture. Add vinegar. Blend at low speed until well combined.

Switch to the dough hook and mix in the remaining flour a little at a time, to make a soft dough that’s not sticky to the touch, adding more or less flour as needed. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover; let rise in warm place until almost double.

Preheat oven to 400º F. Grease a 9? springform pan, and line bottom with parchment; grease paper. Place on top of a baking sheet. Set aside.

Punch down the dough. On a floured surface, roll the dough into very thin rectangle, as thin as you can (mine was 20” x 24”). Spread a thin layer of pesto on top of the dough (leave the bottom edge clear 1/2"). Start at the long edge and slowly, tightly and gently roll the dough into a log.

Use a bench scraper to cut the dough in half lengthwise. Cross the two halves (layers facing up) to create an X shape; braid top and bottom of dough by laying the left piece over the right keeping the cut side up, until pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch ends together.

Start at the thinner edge and slowly and very gently, roll the braid into a giant snail shell or a very large cinnamon bun. Be careful to keep all the layers facing up. Pinch the end delicately.

Carefully pick up the braid and place in the prepared springform. Cover; let rise in warm place until almost double.

Bake at 400º for 5-10 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350º and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes. When the bread is out of the oven lightly brush olive oil on top and sides. Let cool on a rack.

World Bread Day 2012 - 7th edition! width=

Visit World Bread Day to see all the beautiful breads bakers around the world baked for World Bread Day 2012.

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    Leave a Comment:

  1. moggy says

    Your loaf came out beautiful! I have this on its second rise now. My pesto must contain a lot more olive oil than yours did because man was that a mess trying to roll, cut and shape it. as I was gently rolling it up the pesto was squishing out ahead of the dough. If it ends up being any good I may try it again but add a layer of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to help soak up some of the oil, and even go with a much thinner layer of pesto. Even though I thought I had a really thin layer as it was.

  2. Peggy says

    Hello Barbara ,
    This was a project I did not think I could achieve. I had read some other websites but they did not give precise direction as you have, including the step by step pictures. I was able to bake my russian rose with pesto last night. It came out beautiful and tasted great. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. kristy says

    Oh my, bread with pesto spread sounds just perfect for me. I am a total big fan of pesto. I bet this bread smell awesome. Btw, I have missed out this year WBD event. I thought it was on November. Darn! I have waited for so long for this event to come. Well, there always next time…so waiting for the next event 2013. :o) Enjoy & have a great week ahead, Barbara.

  4. says

    Your rose looks absolutely perfect. I love the colour that it became with baking. When I first looked at it, I thought you had filled it with chocolate. (Ha! Suddenly I want to bake the bread again and use chocolate as the filling!)

  5. says

    Barbara, this is one of the most wonderful and delicious bread I’ve ever made and eaten.
    Like you, I’ve chosen a savory version; like you I’ve chosen Pesto (and Parmesan).
    You made such a beautiful twist and I love your step-by-step guide.

    See you next month ♥

  6. says

    that is probaby the most beautiful looking braided bread I’ve ever seen. WOWw….Now only if I could TASTE it. Xx

    I think I’d even use it as a center piece :))

  7. says

    I absolutely love this idea, Barbara–it’s rare that I go into a post with it bookmarked before I take a look at the recipe, but this is some absolutely gorgeous work. Thank you so much for sharing, I can’t wait to try making this with homemade pesto!

  8. says

    Like the caption on the pin I just added to my bread board, this looks gorgeous AND scrumptious! I love bread and pesto so the two would be heavenly together.

  9. says

    That looks so amazing. I got a jar of regular yeast opened. To use that, would I just let it rise longer? I have this yeast as I started last year making french bread using the Artisian French bread book and I make a bucket of dough and take out hand fulls when I need it. This one you made is art and my hubby loves pesto.

    • says

      Thanks Winnie! I love making Artisian bread in a bucket too. Traditionally with regular active dry yeast you dissolve the yeast in warm water and a bit of sugar to activate it until it foams and then add it to the flour with the remainder of the liquids. Your liquids should only be 110 – 115º. Although if your yeast is fresh, you can probably just use it the same as you would instant yeast. Have fun! Let me know how it goes.

  10. says

    This loaf is just beautiful Barbara. I made pesto rolls awhile back with the ABinFive group. Yours is so much more elegant. I’m going to have to try this one and use up some of my homemade pesto.

  11. Claire (UK) says

    Your pesto braid looks beautiful! I might use your cinnamon swirl brioche recipe to try a sweet version of this “Russian Rose”.

  12. says

    Did you laugh when you watched the video and could see how easy it was to do?
    Gadfry I’ve got at least 10 iterations for fillings racing in my brain for this one 😉 I just need to have more mouths to bake for.

  13. says

    This is so gorgeous! I am just stunned. The few times I’ve worked with braided bread, it didn’t turn out quite this beautiful. I’m loving that it’s savory…

  14. says

    This is a true work of art Barbara! It’s definitely cookbook cover worthy (to me at least). I must try and make it. I doubt however that mine would look as good as yours does. That’s ok with me, as long as it tastes good, I’ll be thrilled. I’m printing your recipe now.