An easy and beautiful pull-apart bread filled with pesto and parmesan, this star bread is the perfect appetizer or side dish for holiday gatherings!
My favorite star bread recipe consists of layers of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and pesto between an enriched dough. This shaped loaf is kneaded and assembled by hand for a beautiful centerpiece that tastes just as good as it looks. This star bread is even better with homemade pesto, but you can use whichever kind is your favorite.
What Is Star Bread?
Star bread is an enriched loaf of bread shaped like a star and can be layered with a large variety of fillings. The bread is typically sweet (top searches will result in a sweet enriched dough layered with cinnamon sugar), though savory versions can be just as—if not more—delicious!
Star bread is commonly eaten around the holidays, though it can be enjoyed year-round. This recipe uses a combination of pesto and Parmesan to get a cheesy, garlicky bread with a bit of added brightness from the basil and pine nuts in the pesto.
Quick Tips for Prepping Pesto Parmesan Star Bread
If you’d rather watch these tips than read them, see my video on YouTube!
My biggest recommendation for prepping star bread is having a large, flat workspace ready to go! This recipe can be made in any kitchen, as long as there is an oversized cutting board (or even just a long sheet of parchment paper on the counter).
I knead this dough by hand, but you can knead it in a stand mixer if you’d like. Kneading in a stand mixer will take less time than kneading by hand, so keep an eye on it! Kneading for 2-5 minutes in the stand mixer should be similar to kneading 6-8 minutes by hand. The dough is ready when it is stretchy and no longer sticky.
Use as much olive oil as you need to keep this bread from sticking! I probably use about extra two teaspoons on olive oil when rolling out and shaping my dough, just to make sure nothing rips. This dough is fairly forgiving, but it is even more forgiving when properly lubed with olive oil. I always have a bit of olive oil between my workspace (or my fingers!) and the dough to ensure an easy release.
When I make this pesto Parmesan star bread, I like to have a ruler or measuring tape nearby on the counter. This takes the guesswork out of rolling my dough to 9″ in diameter.
Quick Tips for Assembling Pesto Parmesan Star Bread
If you have a favorite pesto (whether from the grocery store or homemade), feel free to use it! I use my own pesto recipe because it is low in added olive oil. You wouldn’t think it, but having excess olive oil in the pesto can make shaping the dough a little tricky. The pesto is more slippery, and the layers don’t stick together when twisting quite as well because of it. It’s still very doable; however, be prepared to wrangle some dough if your favorite pesto is high in olive oil.
I have found it helpful to pinch together the edges of the layers of dough when assembling. This prevents the dough from shrinking quite as much and results in an even circle that doesn’t require cutting or trimming before baking. The pinch doesn’t stop all movement, but it does help hold everything together until the loaf goes in the oven.
Using a center guide is imperative for an evenly shaped loaf of star bread. I have a 2″ cutter from Ateco that makes it easy for me (affiliate link). Before I had them, though, I used a small prep bowl that wasn’t too heavy. Anything light and circular in the 2-3″ range will work; just make sure it isn’t pressing down heavily on the dough, as it may cause the dough to rip at the center.
Use a sharp knife! A dull knife may have a hard time cutting through four layers of raw dough. It is possible, but you may need to adopt a sawing motion to ensure the knife cuts through each layer.
Dish Cleanup: A Lil Messy
I rate my recipe cleanups on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is only a handful of dishes, and 5 is everything including the kitchen sink.
This pesto Parmesan star bread recipe is a 3. This bread recipe does have a few more bowls in cleanup than traditional enriched breads, but it’s not much. Plus, if all it takes to make an absolutely gorgeous and delicious loaf is an extra rolling pin and knife, I’m all for it.
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (8g)
- ½ cup hot water (120ml)
- ½ cup cold milk (120ml)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (420g)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil (27g)
- 1 teaspoon salt (6g)
- 2 large eggs, divided
- 1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated (50g)
- ¼ cup pesto (55g)
To Make the Dough:
- Combine the hot water and cold milk in a measuring cup to create a slightly warm liquid perfect for proofing yeast. Add the yeast to a large mixing bowl and pour the water-milk mixture on top. Let it sit for about five minutes until frothy.
- Once frothy, add the flour, olive oil, salt, and one egg to the bowl. Mix until well-combined, then turn out onto a counter.
- Knead for 6-8 minutes by hand or in a mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment until the dough is stretchy and no longer sticky. (You can watch my instructional video around 4 minutes and 45 seconds in for an example.)
- Place the dough back into the bowl (oiled, if desired) and proof for about an hour at room temperature, or until the dough has doubled in size.
To Assemble the Star Bread:
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl. To take the guesswork out of rolling the dough rounds to the appropriate size, place a ruler or tape measure on your counter as well.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, and divide it into four equal balls. Lightly coat the balls of dough with olive oil to prevent them from sticking to your workspace or rolling pin.
- Roll out one ball of dough until it's about 9-10" in diameter. Transfer the round to the center of the baking sheet, and brush lightly with the egg wash. Evenly sprinkle half of the Parmesan onto the dough round, leaving a border of about half an inch on the edges.
- Roll out another ball of dough to the same size. Line up the bottoms of the two dough rounds and place the newly rolled out round directly on top of the previous layer. Adjust the edges as needed to completely cover the layer and its filling. Press the edges lightly together.
- Brush with a light layer of egg wash, then spread the pesto evenly on top with the back of a spoon.
- Repeat Step 4, then brush with egg wash and evenly sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan.
- Repeat Step 4 once more. Leave the top layer bare; do not brush with the egg wash quite yet.
- Place a two-inch round cutter (a light glass or small prep bowl will work just as well) as a guide in the center of the star bread. Use a sharp knife to cut 16 slices through all four layers of dough and filling. To ensure even points, cut the bread into quarters first. Then halve those sections and halve once more for 16 total strips.
- Pick two adjacent strips. Use two hands to twist them towards each other three times. (If you're feeling adventurous, try twisting each strip four times!) Repeat the whole way around the loaf. Pinch the ends of the strips together at the center to form the point of a star. For a more dramatic point, tuck in the outer edges.
- Cover the loaf with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and prove for 20-30 minutes or until it is noticeably puffy. Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C.
- Brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash. To keep things neat and prevent the filling from being spread with the egg, brush the egg wash on at a diagonal, in the direction of the twists on each point.
- Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.
This bread can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to three days. For warm bread the next day, reheat in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350°F/175°C.
Serving Size:1 piece
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 152Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 262mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 6g
The nutrition facts are estimated and may vary based on specific ingredients used.
Thanks for trying out my pesto Parmesan star bread recipe! I’d love to see how it turns out: Take a photo and tag me on Instagram @floralapronblog to share with me, or use the hashtag #floralapronbakes.
Other Recipes You May Enjoy
Guaranteed to make the shaping process of this star bread easier, my homemade basil pesto is low in excess olive oil. Shaping your star bread has never been easier. And of course, you can always top off the remaining pesto with olive oil if you’d like!
If you liked this recipe, you’ll love my garlic French bread recipe! It’s even easier to make than this pesto Parmesan star bread, and it makes two loaves of fresh, homemade bread with a garlic swirl.