As the first purple candle of Advent is lit, excitement grows as we enter into a new liturgical season within the Church and in our homes. However, for those who seek them, there aren't many food traditions to be found for Advent.
Perhaps the context for this is historical. Advent throughout the ages was a period in which the faithful fasted from animal products (our Orthodox brothers and sisters still observe a Nativity Fast, however). Even though that observance has waned, there still isn't a great deal to be found except maybe Christmas traditions that have been moved forward into the season of Advent.
Inspiration for liturgical activities can be found in the simplest of places. The Advent Wreath is an important feature in our home during the four weeks preceding Christmas. This recipe is a nod to that wonderful tradition.
A pesto is used as the exposed filling to "green up" the loaf. The common summery basil-pine nut pesto is traded for the autumnal warmth of sage and walnuts. The addition of goat cheese into the pesto adds additional moisture (and flavor) to the loaf.
Though forming the dough into a wreath may appear complicated after its finished, the process is actually quite simple. After forming the dough, it is rolled into a rectangle, filled with the pesto, rolled into a log which is then split in half, and the two pieces are twisted around each other (with the filling exposed) to form a circle.
I hope this new recipe finds its way into your family's traditions to be loved for years to come!
Walnut-Sage Pesto Twisted Advent Wreath Loaf
Time: 2+ hours
Yields: 10-12 servings
For the dough--
3/4 cup warm milk (heated to 110*)
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar 2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled 2 eggs, separated (one for an egg wash)
3 tablespoons walnut-sage pesto from recipe below
For the filling--
1cupsage (fresh leaves, not dried)
1cupparsley (fresh leaves, not dried)
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cupwalnuts, toasted in a 400* oven for 10 minutes
2tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
cupextra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (but approximately 1/2 teaspoon of each)
1. To make the pesto: Combine all of the ingredients for the walnut-sage pesto in a food processor, except for the olive oil. After running the processor on low for a few minutes to mix the ingredients, drizzle in the olive oil while the machine is running. Blend until well-combined. Set aside.
2. To make the dough: proof the yeast by combining it with the sugar and warm milk. Let sit for 5 minutes until frothy.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the yeast-milk mixture, pesto, and one of the eggs. Mix until well-combined and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still wet, add flour by the tablespoon until it forms a soft, but workable dough. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes.
4. Place the dough into a large, greased bowl and cover it to let the dough rise for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
5. Preheat the oven to 350*F.
6. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough until it is a rectangle measuring about 12 inches by 18 inches. Spread the pesto mixture evenly over the dough.
7. Begin rolling the dough from the longest side of the dough until a log is formed. With a sharp knife, cut down the middle of the log to form two halves.
8. Transfer two halves onto a prepared baking sheet. Pinch one end of the dough together (dab the end with a little water, if you're having trouble getting the dough to stick together). Twist the two halves together with the pesto filling facing up, and pinch the end of the strands together. Bring the two ends together to form a circle.
9. Mix the remaining egg in a small bowl. Brush the dough evenly with the egg wash and bake for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned.