This Russian Braided Bread is a beautiful yeast bread filled with savory pesto. Braiding creates a show-stopping loaf that looks impressive but is quite simple to put together!
Braided bread recipes come in all sorts of flavors and colors. They’re traditionally Eastern European, but you can find recipes with flavors from all over the world. While some loaves are straight and long, like Challah, others, like this recipe, are rolled into a neat circle.
I filled this braided loaf with classic basil pesto. When braided into the flakey layers of dough, pesto gives a beautiful color and delicious cheesy and herby flavor to our Russian Braided Bread.
Since I originally posted this braided pesto bread recipe, I received lots of positive feedback from all of you! I’ve updated the post and recipe to answer your most common questions.
Why Braid Bread?
Braiding brings this homemade pesto bread to the next level. Braiding creates delicate, crispy layers that turn golden brown in the oven. And under that crunchy crust are pillowy folds of flavorful dough.
While the end result is a dramatic loaf that’s sure to impress, it only looks complicated. The dough is easy to braid, and the delicious result is worth the effort.
How to Braid Russian Braided Bread?
Here’s a great video of Chef Ciril Hitz making a sweet version of Russian Braided Bread. She shows you how to easily braid your dough with step-by-step instructions.
Here’s how we do it:
First, form the quick yeast dough. We use a NutriMill stand mixer for mixing up bread doughs like this one. For this recipe, it’s best to start with the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook after adding the flour.
The dough is done when it’s smooth and satiny, but not sticky. You may need to add more or less flour, depending on how wet your dough is.
Next, roll the dough into a very thin rectangle. Then spread the dough with a thin layer of pesto or another favorite filling.
Now, roll the dough into a long, tight spiral. I find it’s easiest to get all of the dough off the counter without tearing it with a handy bench scraper. If you do a lot of home baking, this inexpensive tool is definitely worth the investment!
Finally, to braid, slice the spiral in half and arrange the two halves like an X. The ends get neatly braided, or twisted, together and wrapped into a circle to create an elegant rose shaped, pesto filled bread.
This wreath can go straight into a 9-inch springform pan for proofing. Once it’s doubled in size, the bread bakes for just 30 to 40 minutes. When it’s done, brush the crusty pesto braid with olive oil for shine and flavor.
Voila: a delicious, pesto braided bread that won’t last long! (At least, it doesn’t in my house!)
What Should I Fill my Russian Braided Bread with?
Pesto is always a crowd-pleaser at my house, especially for my grandson. He gobbled this bread up as fast as we could serve it to him and kept asking for more.
I filled my Russian Braided Bread with half an 8 oz jar of pesto. You can use more or less, depending on how strong you like the a pesto flavor.
It’s best to use a pesto that’s on the thicker side. Sauces with a lot of oil can make the dough difficult to roll and to seal closed.
Some of you had the wise idea of adding grated cheese on top of the pesto to absorb some of the liquid and give an extra cheesy flavor to your loaf.
And if you really want to amp up the cheesiness, why not sprinkle some grated parm on top of the loaf a few minutes before the bread finishes baking?
If pesto isn’t for you, there are countless other ways to fill your Russian Braided Bread. Here are some sweet and savory options to try:
- Cinnamon filling, which you can find in our Mardi Gras King Cake.
- Lemon filling, as we made for our Lemon Pull-Apart Bread.
- A savory garlic-herb braid from Taste of Home.
- A simple brushing of olive oil or melted butter and sprinkle of cheese and sea salt would also make a delicious filling!
Storing Braided Bread
This Russian Braided Bread is best eaten the day it’s baked while the crust is crispy and delicious. If your family is anything like mine, this shouldn’t be a problem!
Russian Braided Bread with Pesto Filling
- 3 – 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons 1 package instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ¼ – ½ cup pesto
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine 2 ½ 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-inch 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 of the long edge clear ½"). Start at the top of the long edge and slowly, tightly and gently roll the dough into a log. Pinch it closed.
- 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 it in the prepared springform. Cover; let rise in a 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.
If you’re looking for a meal to pair with your freshly baked pesto bread, Pressure Cooker Creamy Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup from Pressure Cooking Today is the perfect complement.