Pesto Rolls


Oh my, I love basil. I love pesto. I love summer.

It’s only January and I’m already dreaming of summer. Caprese salad is my one of my favorite things to eat in the summer. Tomatoes are at their peak and fresh mozarella is always good. I love making caprese sandwich on good French bread or ciabatta. Love it, love it, love it.


This week, I made Pesto Rolls from the Art & Soul of Baking. These rolls scream summer. They scream summer so loud that I actually went to the grocery store to look for a good tomato.


As you know, January isn’t the best time to buy tomatoes–I was desperate! I ended up buying a yellow tomato, because the red ones did not look like they had any flavor.


In addition to the tomato and fresh mozarella, I added organic micro greens, a drizzle of olive oil, and fresh ground pepper. Heaven!


From the Art & Soul of Baking

Makes 8 (4-ounce) rolls

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup freshly grated
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon plus 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) warm water (110° to 115°F)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3¼ cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  1. Make the pesto: Combine the basil, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt in the bowl of the food processor and process until very finely chopped and paste-like.
  2. Mix, rest, and knead the dough: Place the warm water in the bowl of the stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top. By hand, whisk in ¼ cup of the flour. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and looks foamy. Add the pesto and whisk by hand until well blended. Add the remaining 3 cups flour and the 1½ teaspoons salt. Attach the dough hook and blend on low until the dough begins to come together and form a cohesive mass, about 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and turn the dough over so everything gets mixed evenly. Knead on low speed until the dough is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes.
  3. Rise the dough (first rise) : Lightly oil the tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub, and brush the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour (longer if the room is cold). If you are using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it’s easy to tell when the dough has doubled.
  4. Punch down, divide, and shape the rolls: Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don’t knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to give the gluten some time to relax). Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (about 3¾ ounces each) and shape each one into a taut, round ball according to the directions on page 69. Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheet about 3 inches apart.
  5. Proof the dough (second rise) : Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let rise until almost doubled in size, 35 to 45 minutes. They should look like they took a deep breath and should pass the thumb test (page 70).
  6. Prepare the oven: Place a baking or pizza stone in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Be sure to allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for the stone to fully heat.
  7. Bake the rolls: Remove the plastic wrap or towel and dust the top of the rolls lightly with a sprinkling of flour—don’t go crazy here or you’ll have a mouthful of flour. Use the lame, razor, or the tip of a pair of kitchen scissors to make a decorative slash or two in the top of each roll. Immediately place the pan in the oven on the baking stone or baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until cooked through and the internal temperature registers 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Ice Cream Flavor of the Week: Sweet Basil Ice Cream

Recipe #263

No figs at the farmers’ market again. That’s okay, I’ve discovered heaven on earth and it has come from the last place I expected it. I’ve been adding fresh basil to everything this summer. It’s only $1 for a big bunch at the farmers’ market. Sometimes I can use it all up before it spoils–usually when I make pesto. I needed to find a more creative way to use the fresh basil before it went bad.

Luckily, David Lebovitz has a recipe for Basil Ice Cream in his book The Perfect Scoop. I was apprehensive about making it, but I thought “what the heck” and made it anyway. I am so glad I did. I tasted it at every stage: when I made the custard, fresh out of the ice cream machine, and completely frozen. The taste is pure euphoria. Every stage tasted good, but it got better as it aged. The end result is an ice cream with a subtle basil taste that blends well the taste of the cream and sugar.

Pairing the ice cream with Strawberries in Lemon Syrup as suggested in the book is beyond euphoric: Words. Cannot. Explain. I urge you all to make this ice cream. This is now my favorite ice cream.

Basil Ice Cream

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop.
  • 1 cup (25 grams) packed basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream  (I use the not ultra-pasteurized heavy cream from Trader Joe’s; it’s the only place I’ve found that sells this type.)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 lemon, organic

Grind the basil leaves, sugar, and 1 cup of the cream in a blender until the leaves are as fine as possible. Pour half of the mixture into a large bowl and add the rest of the cream. Place a strainer above the bowl. Place the bowl in an ice bath.

Warm the rest of the mixture in a saucepan  with the milk and salt. In another bowl, whisk the the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warmed basil mixture into the egg yolks a little at a time while continously whisking. Pour the egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Constantly stir the mixture over medium heat. Scrape the bottom as you stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Zest the lemon directly into the mixture. Stir the custard until cool.

Pour the custard into a quart size container and place until the refrigerator overnight (preferably). Freeze according to your ice cream manufacturer’s instructions. Yummy! Do not eat in one sitting.  😛

Strawberries in Lemon Syrup

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered

Combine water, sugar, and zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool completely. Once cooled, pour syrup over strawberries and let the strawberries macerate for 1 to 3 hours.

Dish the strawberries into a bowl and scoop basil ice cream on top.