Author Notes: This recipe came about because I had a batch of homemade pesto in the fridge that I needed to use up. I just experimented with the pinwheel shape, not expecting it to work, but was so pleased that it did! These won't win a beauty contest, but they're delicious and great for breakfast or maybe as a side with a lunch salad. If you've never made a bread dough before, this is a great one to start with because it's so easy and very small volume! The baking temperature is quite high here, but there's a lot of moisture in the filling of this dough so it needs it to really cook through and crisp on the outside. —Lily Applebaum
For the dough
cup all purpose flour
cup whole wheat flour
1 and 1/4
teaspoons instant yeast
teaspoon kosher salt
cup hottest water from your tap, or water boiled and cooled enough to handle
For the bun filling
cup pesto, homemade or store-bought (my method: blitz clean and fresh basil leaves, salt, raw garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and a small amount of sunflower seeds in a food processor until you've reached desired taste and consistency)
beefsteak or other (full size) tomato
cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, if your pesto doesn't have cheese in it already (or honestly, even if it does!)
For the dough
- Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir with a wooden spoon until it's too stiff to stir. You'll probably have to use your fingers or a rubber spatula to push down dough sticking to the spoon a few times.
- Knead by pushing the dough out with the heel of one hand and then rotating the dough with the other (in the mixing bowl, or out on a floured counter top) for about 5 minutes. While kneading, add flour slowly if the mix is so wet that it's sticking to your hands. The final dough should be tacky but not wet, smooth and elastic. Pat roughly into a ball shape.
- Oil a clean bowl that could contain at least twice the volume of your dough, place your dough ball at the bottom, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size.
For the bun filling
- Once your dough has risen, punch down gently to let the air out.
- Flour your counter and press (don't roll with a pin!) the dough out into a rectangle, roughly 14 x 10" with around a 1/4 inch thickness. Have patience because the dough may be sticky or not want to stretch, and you don't want to tear the dough!
- Spread the pesto out onto the surface of the rectangle, leaving about a 2 inch margin on all sides. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the pesto.
- Core and slice your tomato into rounds, as thin as you can possibly get them. It's OK if the rounds break, you won't notice in the final dough. The important thing is that they be thin enough to roll up easily in the next step.
- Lay the tomato slices out in one layer onto your dough rectangle, giving some space between slices (see the photos attached to this recipe for what mine looked like at this stage)
- Starting at the short side of the rectangle, very carefully and slowly use your hands to roll up the rectangle and fillings into a jelly roll as tight as you can. This might take you a few tries, and that's OK. It's a little bit unwieldy, but it should roll up nicely. I find it's helpful to move your hands from side to side as you roll forward to keep the ends in check, rolling at the same speed as the middle. If you lose some filling, just unroll, reassemble and try again! End the roll so that the seam isn't visible and touching the counter.
- Keeping that seem against the counter, and using a serrated knife if you can, trim the unfilled and probably kind of floppy edges of the roll. You can totally proof and bake these and they'll taste great!
- Using the serrated knife, with almost no pressure at all and a very gentle sawing motion cut the roll into 6 relatively equal sized slices. See my photo above for how these looked for me.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Coat an 8x8 baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil. Slide each slice of your roll into the dish. A large knife or spatula will make this much easier. Place them in the dish so that they're evenly spaced from one another. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot in the kitchen for 30 minutes or until roughly doubled in size and the buns are touching each other.
- There will probably be liquid at the bottom of the dish after the buns have proofed that came out of the tomatoes or pesto. That is OK! It's part of the reason why this dish has such a high baking temperature, and it helps the outsides of the buns get crisp.
- Remove plastic covering and bake for 35 minutes. If the tops are burning or browning but the bottoms aren't cooking, cover with foil. These are done when the top is brown and crisp; the interior will seem doughy, but it will continue to cook and set as it cools.
- Cool these completely in the pan on a rack or stovetop before eating; the interior of the buns will be very, very hot, and continue to cooking for as long as they're hot out of the oven.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Fresh Tomato Showstopper