Polenta, pesto, tomato and onion seed bread

This recipe is an adaptation of a polenta and roasted tomato bread from World Breads by Paul Gayler (2006) – it’s a nice recipe but the flavour is very subtle, so I’ve pepped up and added to the ingredients for this version.

Polenta, pesto and onion seed bread


  • large loaf tin – 900g / 2 lb
  • two small bowls
  • one large bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • small whisk
  • scales
  • kettle/saucepan
  • measuring jug


  • 400ml water (250 ml of this is for the polenta at the start)
  • 100g polenta
  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 10g salt
  • 10g dry fast acting yeast
  • 1 tspn caster sugar
  • 60ml milk
  • 80g sundried tomatoes, very finely diced and rinsed (so most of the oil is gone)
  • 2 tbspn tomato puree
  • 3 tbspn red pesto
  • black onion seeds
  • a little extra polenta, flour and milk

Method for the polenta

  1. Boil a kettle and pour 250ml of the water into a bowl – immediately pour in the polenta and start stirring.
  2. You will need to bring the polenta together as it thickens and to keep stirring until it becomes smooth (this is the same process if you are making polenta for gnocchi etc). This is arm-aching and will take a good few minutes!
  3. Put the bowl somewhere to cool.

Method for the dough

  1. Put the milk and yeast and sugar in a small bowl and give it a bit of a whisk – leave for 10 mins to start.
  2. Measure out the flour and salt in a large bowl.
  3. When the polenta has cooled somewhat mix it into the flour with your fingertips, as if you were rubbing butter into flour for shortcrust pastry.
  4. Mix in the diced tomatoes and 1 tbspn of the tomato puree.
  5. Pour in the yeast mix and bring it all together with your hand – it’s quite a sticky dough.
  6. Start kneading – it will take around 10 mins and may or may not work in your mixer, if you have one. It didn’t go well in mine as it just clung to the sides, so every time I’ve made this I’ve done it by hand. You may be luckier with your mixer (mine’s a very basic thing).
  7. Pop it back in the bowl and leave to rise for around an hour until about doubled in size. Put some cling film or a plastic bag over it to stop a skin forming.
  8. Once risen, gently knock it back and spread the dough out into a fat rectangle, the same length as your tin.
  9. Spread out the pesto and (the rest of the) tomato puree over the top.
  10. Roll the dough like a Swiss roll, flatten it a little and then do a final ‘fold’ over on itself and tamp down the edges of the dough, including the ends, so that it ‘glues’ itself together.
  11. Scatter some extra polenta in the base of the in and pop your dough in.
  12. Leave to rise, covered,  for another 30 – 45 mins until well risen and it springs back when gently prodded.
  13. Just before it looks like it’s proved fully, pop your oven on to 190C fan/ 200C conventional
  14. Brush the top with a small amount of milk and scatter on a little of the polenta and the onion seeds.
  15. Bake for about 35 – 40 mins until warmly golden.

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