Pull apart bread with a vegan pesto filling

My friend, Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen made many resolutions decisions this year, one of which was to bake a bread every month.  Now you know how easy it is to maintain resolu decisions when you have a group with you.  Aparna asked whether anyone would like to join her, and thus was formed a group – We knead to bake.   And as if it is not enough that my limbs are already paddling for separate boats, I thought I should try it too – to keep the resolution.

The first recipe we tried is very basic.  It is a pull apart bread.   The recipe was simple, and could be completed in a day, but I chose to divide it in two days.  I like breads that have strong fermented flavours, so I chose to make a pre-ferment the night before I would actually bake the bread.   I modified the recipe a little without deviating much from the original.  What you will see here is my version.

I made the bread twice.  The first time  I used a zaatar filling.  It was a weekend, and after setting the bread onto a wire rack I popped over to K’s house to see the new tupperware products she had brought in.  I did not realize but I apparently ‘popped off’ for quite a bit.  When I returned I saw remnants of the bread in the form of a few zaatar crumbs.  The son and the husband could not resist.  I made it again this morning, but this time I used my vegan basil pesto as the filling.  The recipe for that has to wait.  I felt today’s version was tastier, but then I could be prejudiced.  Pesto makes my knees weak and wobbly! 🙂


Recipe: Pull apart bread with vegan pesto
Contains gluten and nuts
Yield: One loaf measuring 7″ x 2″ inches 



The pre-ferment or poolish: (To be mixed the night before as this needs to be fermented for at least six to eight hours) ‘A’

Flour | Maida – 1/2 cup
Note: scoop flour into measuring cup and level off.  Do not tap the cup to hold more flour or scoop flour with cup
Warm water – 1/2 cupy
Active dry yeast – 1 tsp. (I use ‘prime’)

The main dough:  ‘B’

Flour | Maida – 2 cups + 1/2 cup for dusting and adding if needed
Powdered rock salt – 1/2 tsp.
Warmed coconut milk (second extract) – 1/2 cup
Raw sugar – 1/2 tsp.
Active dry yeast – 1 tsp.
(I will reduce this to 1/2 if I made it again)
Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tsp. + for greasing the container


Vegan basil pesto – 6 tbsps.  [Suggested substitutions – Cashew parsley dip / Arugula pesto]


Nutritional yeast – 2 tsps.
Sea salt – 1/4 tsp.


Prepare the pre-ferment / poolish using ingredients listed under ‘A’:

Mix yeast in warm water and stand till dissolved.
Place flour in a wide bowl.   Make a well and add the yeasted water.  Using a thin spoon mix the flour gently with water to form a lump free, soupy batter.
Place batter in an oiled air tight container, and let stay overnight or for 6-8 hours in a warm spot.
It should be riddled with holes and have a strong fermented smell after 6-8hrs.

Prepare the dough using ingredients listed under ‘B’:

Warm the milk and mix the sugar and yeast till dissolved.
Place 2 cups of flour and salt in  a wide mixing bowl.  Form a well and add the yeast solution and salt.
Mix gently to form a rough, quite sticky mixture, adding the poolish.  Turn onto a floured work surface and knead the dough, sprinkling some flour if you find it sticky.  I needed only about 2-3 tsps.  You will have to knead for about 10 minutes to form a smooth pliable dough that is not sticky. Check note at the s bottom of this page for tips on how to knead.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled container, turning the dough to coat it completely with oil. Cover and let rise for about an hour, or till doubled in volume.

Filling and assembling:

Dust your work surface lightly with flour.  Empty the dough from the container onto surface.  Gently deflate the dough, shaping it into a square about 12’ x 12” (or 10″ x 10″).  I did not roll  as this dough was very soft.  Instead I kept changing flipping between my arms till it was a square, as for a pizza.
Spread the surface of the square with the pesto liberally and evenly.  I ran out of pesto which is my my bread does not have an even distribution.
Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough from top to bottom into 6 long and even strips – they do not have to be perfect. Lay each strip on top of the next, with the topping facing upwards, until you have a stack of the strips.
You can put the 2 strips cut from the sides in the middle of the stack so it looks neater. Using a pastry scraper or a sharp knife, cut straight down through the stack dividing it into 6 equal pieces (6 square stacks).  Mine were rectangles!  I am not perfect.
Line a 7″ x 2″ loaf pan with parchment paper.  Grease lightly and sprinkle nutritional yeast.  Place the sliced stacks, cut sides down into the loaf tin.
Cover the tin with an oiled film loosely and let prove for 1/2 an hour till it fills the pan and puffs up slightly. Drizzle a little olive oil, preferably extra virgin, and dust nutritional yeast generously. Sprinkle sea salt.

Pre-heat oven to 180 deg. C, and bake the bread in the middle rack for about 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.


Once done, remove pan.  Let cool for ten minutes before turning out on a wire rack.  Cool completely.  Pull apart and serve with more pesto on the side and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


How to knead:   Place dough on liberally dusted (or oiled) work surface and holding the end close to you, fold the far end over the dough itself.  Now push the dough away from you to stretch it a little. Turn the dough from 12 O’ clock to 9 O’ clock (A quarter turn clockwise).  Hold the end close to you and fold the far end of the dough over itself.  Push it again to stretch a little.  Repeat turning, folding and stretching 8-10 times, dusting with flour, only if needed.  Be gentle.  Do not stretch the dough to breaking point. Stretch only as far as  the dough yields else the gluten will act up. After a few turns you will find that the dough will not be quite as sticky and easy to handle. Once soft do not knead any more. I like to rub a little extra virgin olive oil on my palm while kneading as the oil subtly flavours the dough – only once. Too much oil hinders the development of gluten.  I follow this method based on Dan Lepard’s book.  You can see him using this technique in this youtube video.  The video makes it clear as to how much you can stretch your dough.



Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • SITA

    Hi ! Can you tell from where can you get nutritional yeast in India

    • Admin

      Sita, stocks nutritional yeast in limited quantity. It’s an online shop. If you don’t find it you can email them about it and they will get back to you. A shop at Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry used to have it too, but am not sure about the current status.

  • arundati

    that looks pillow soft!

  • Aparna

    I’m happy you could bake this. I’d be spoiled for choice between basil pesto and za’atar! 🙂

  • Amrita

    This has to be the best looking pull apart…so loved it

  • Deepika

    I am sure it must be very de;icious with a different filling….Just loved ur pics….

  • sandhyaramakrishnans

    This is so different! Am I so glad that I joined this group where I the learning possibilities are endless. Love your slow slow fermented bread.Got to try this sometime.

  • Varsha

    Harini it looks yummy! Bread is my weakness anyways like your aunt :M. I hope I get a live demo when I come dr.

    • Harini

      Varsha, stay long enough for me to demonstrate. This has a poolish which means you must stay overnight. 🙂

  • anusha

    Beautiful bread harini. As always I draw inspiration from the pictures

  • Nandita Pai Shirali

    Wow!!! This bread looks so pretty! Loved the green colour and the texture of the bread is perfect!

  • Ujwal

    Gosh! This looks so so beautiful Harini. I have not tried baking bread yet! I have a packet of active dry yeast but some how working with yeast scares me the most! Loved your bread and the pics look so so inviting.

    • Harini

      Well, Ujwal. Time to use that packet and get it over with! 🙂 Thank you!

  • Vidya Murali

    OMG Harini! This looks absolutely gorgeous! I am looking at this early in the morning before breakfast, I am just drooling all over it!

  • Vimala Gopal

    maam found it is used while making “B ” dough. maam can we store the fermented /poolish dough if made in excess and use it later for breads.if so how can we store it?

  • Vimala Gopal

    maam would like to know where in this recipe hav u used the fermented dough???and in ingredients B u had mentioned “(I will reduce this to 1/2 if I made it again)” under yeast .what does that mean?is nutritional yeast the same as fermented yeast dough (“A” mixture)

    • Harini

      Hi Vimala, please address me as Harini. 🙂 Like you already noticed, the pre-ferment has been used along with the flour in ‘B’. I used 1 tsp. active dry yeast while making this recipe but I feel 1/2 tsp. will be enough since the poolish has very active yeast. Next time I will reduce the quantity. Yes, the poolish can be refrigerated upto thfree days in a plastic airtight container. But be sure to thaw it to room temperature before you use it.

      Nutritional yeast is a variety of deactivated yeast, and is not the same as active dry yeast used for making breads. It is used in vegan cooking to impart a cheesy flavour to dishes. It is flaky and yellow in colour. It is known as ‘brufax’ in NZ, and colloquially as ‘nooch’ in US. It is optional.

      • Vimala Gopal

        thnks for the reply will try this soon and let u know the result.:)

        • Harini

          Looking forward to your feedback, Vimala!

  • Jayasri

    oh! I forgot to mention, this is what makes me come here most of the time, and how could i forget..,, as always beautiful clicks and the last one is very tempting..

  • Jayasri

    you made it with poolish, it would be awesome I love that as your bread turn very soft, Now I remember I have some in my fridge, the coconut milk would have had a divine smell i suppose, I made a sun dried tomato pesto with cashews just for a change, should try out cashew and parsely next time.., oh!, I have to try out so many fillings now from WKTB.., posts..,, I could go on baking twice a week in smaller loaves :))

  • chatkhor

    was waiting for ur pics harini… loveeeee them… 🙂

  • Kavi | Foodomania

    I’ve made the poolish when I made fougasse.. Besides the flavor, do you think it affects the texture in any way?

    Love the pics!

    • Harini

      Thanks. A pre-ferment is more runny than a regular dough, making the whole thing a sticky affair, and it does make your bread have better holes, esp. in a focaccia.

  • Divya Kudua

    First things first-the bread looks gorgeous!Love the idea of a pre-ferment.Never tried that yet.

    • Harini

      Thanks! You should try it once. If you like bhatura type of flavours you will love baking with a pre-ferment. 🙂

  • theholykale

    Instantly shared!! This looks amazing 🙂

  • justagirlfromaamchimumbai

    What a lovely looking bread and what wonderful pictures Harini. Love it 🙂

  • Spiceroots

    I love the fact that you made a poolish and then made the bread. I can only imagine how delicious it must have tasted with the pesto. Perfect combination of soft on the inside, crunchy on top.

  • poornima

    Ooh yum! i am making it right away. looks delicious. Never tried it with poolish before.

    • Harini

      If you do, let me know whether you liked it. 🙂

      • Poornima krishnan

        Made it and its all gone. Delicious,easy too.

  • sangeetha

    your bread looks so soft n delicious, will try pre-ferment method next time…checked your vegan cashew parsley dip, sounds flavorful n yummy too…love your pics!
    try to find nutritional yeast flakes…

  • Reshmi Mahesh

    Wow..The bread looks wonderful and loved the filling..Poolish idea is totally new to me…on google searching about it..:) May be next time when I bake will try it out..

    • Harini

      Poolish is only a pre-ferment, that uses water and flour in equal proportions. It reminds me of the smell you get in ‘Mangalore’s goli bajje’.

  • dershanaershana

    That looks really soft. My no butter version had a rustic texture.

    • Harini

      I think there might be some fats from the coconut milk.

  • lataraja

    i was really looking forward to your bread. i thought hard to come up with a vegan version, but could not really think of a good filling. My list of ‘to try from TT’ grows really long.But I am surely trying this slow fermentation bread soon.

  • Richa

    You are after my bread heart!:)) hubbs is not home during weekdays so i can leave things ont he kitchen counter, but anything within 1 foot of the floor( on a short table say for photographs) can be detected by my pom and if i am not looking, and if it is bread, it will disappear:)

    • Harini

      Don’t take snaps then. Just gobble! 😀

  • Finla

    SO you made them again, i love the poolish idea each time i have used that method the bread was really soft and yummy. Your pull a part looks good and happy thatyou got a chance to take a pic the second time.

    • Harini

      Yes! I baked it early this morning, having kept the poolish ready last night. I didn’t want to miss out on the first group bake. 🙂 And I allowed the son and husband only one pull each before I photographed! And that is exactly why I like pre-ferments. They are a little softer than the regular breads.

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