Pesto Croissant Rolls

Pesto Croissant Rolls

These croissant rolls are filled with pesto, which makes them a great addition to lunch.


For the dough:

  • 500gr strong bread flour
  • 8gr dry yeast
  • 10gr salt
  • 50gr sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 125ml cold milk
  • 125ml cold water
  • 250gr unsalted butter

For the filling:

  • 40gr basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 75gr pine nuts
  • 120gr olive oil (not ml, gram, about 135ml)
  • 50gr parmesan cheese, grated
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt/pepper

Makes 12 pesto croissant rolls


Make the croissant dough:
Mix the yeast with the flour. Add the egg, milk and water, mix quickly, then add the salt and sugar (adding salt directly to yeast will kill the yeast, which is a living organism, making bread dense and flat).
Knead the dough for a few minutes, 3-4 should do, until it becomes more elastic. You do not want to get the gluten developed much, as the rolling out later would overdevelop the gluten, making it rise less as the gluten strands will break quicker. Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and leave on a cold spot (or in the fridge) for 2 hours or overnight. Make sure the dough does not ferment, as this would cause your croissants to become doughy.
In the meantime, Place the butter between two sheets of cling film and roll it into a rectangular block that is about 1cm thick. You may want to peel off the plastic a few times and re-position it, or the plastic might rip and you could get little pieces of plastic stuck on the butter (speaking from experience). Set the butter in the fridge on a straight surface to keep it cold.

For the technique on rolling, folding and shaping croissants, more can be found in HOW TO MAKE PERFECT CROISSANTS.
Roll the cold dough out on a cold surface. In winter, I always have a window open, which works well, but you can also use a marble surface when temperatures are higher. If you do not have a stone or marble kitchen countertop, you can use a chocolate tempering block.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out – preferably with a French style, tapered rolling pin, which assists in creating a uniform thickness – into a rectangle that is the same width of the butter slab and half longer. See the sketch below. Click on the image for a larger size.
1-First turn Start with an English fold: Place the butter on the bottom part, peel off the plastic and fold the empty part of the dough over the butter, coming halfway of the butter slab. Now fold the bottom half over, with the butter. Seal the edges well to avoid butter leaking out later.
Now roll the dough out in one direction, not back and forth but only one way, then pick up the roller and start from the beginning again. Away from you tends to work best. Roll gently to form a rectangle. Too much pressure at once may cause the butter to melt into the dough, so don’t be too enthusiastic. However, don’t take forever either, especially in summer, as warmth from the outside can also make the butter melt.
Now do a book fold: When you made a rectangle, cut the edges off the top and bottom. Only a little, just to free the layers and to stop the dough from retarding the rise. Fold both cut ends to the middle, then folding one half over the other. You will have folded in 4 like this. Make two dents in the top of the dough, to remind you this was your second fold (the first was the English fold above). Place the dough on a plate or cutting board, slide it into a plastic bag and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out again lengthwise. Do another book turn, bringing the amount of butter layers to 2x4x4=32 (see the Techniques section on how to make croissants for details on the amount of layers), dent three times and then leave to rest again for 30 minutes.

Make the pesto:
Place the basil, roughly chopped garlic, pine nuts and two thirds of the oil in a kitchen machine. I use the small one that attaches to my immersion blender, as a regular kitchen machine is too big. Blend until smooth. Stir the parmesan cheese and lemon juice in, and if very thick, thin with more oil. You want it to be a bit thicker than regular pesto, as the oil has a tendency to run out of the croissant dough while proving. You can store leftovers in a jar in the fridge, with a thin layer of oil over the top.

Make the pesto croissant rolls:
Line two baking trays with baking paper. Divide the dough into three equal parts with a sharp knife. Cut instead of pushing, this will preserve the lamination that you worked so hard to achieve.
With a Fresh style rolling pin, roll a strip of dough on a well floured surface into a rectangle with a thickness of 3-4mm and a size of approximately 20-25cm by 30cm. Spread some pesto over the square, leaving 2cm on the top free. The filling will be pushed up a little while rolling.
Roll the long edge upwards gently and lightly to allow for expansion while rising, which will create a 30cm long log. Cut away a small bit from the uneven sides. Cut the log into four equal parts with a very sharp knife (again, cut instead of pushing). Place the rolls on the baking tray, making sure the end of the roll is not tucked in but hanging over the other side of the roll, which allows for the most expansion while rising and baking, without the roll unfolding. Do the same with the other two parts of the dough (if you have the room, you can of course roll everything in one go and then cut into three before filling and rolling).

Egg-wash the pesto croissant rolls on the top and avoid getting egg wash over the sides, which would stick the layers together and prevent them from puffing up well while baking. Cover with a plastic bag that does not touch the rolls, else the bag will end up sticking to the dough.
Leave to prove until doubled in size. This can take a while, 2 hours is normal, especially because you do not want to prove them in a very warm environment because of the butter. A slow prove will yield better pesto croissant rolls.
Underproofed croissants will not rise much, because the butter will leak out and cannot create the steam to puff the layers up. The croissants should be very soft, puffed up and jiggly. In a relatively cool spot they will not easily overproof. Anything leaking out is most likely oil from the pesto. Don’t worry about that.

Egg-wash again (not over the cut sides), then slide the pesto croissant rolls into an oven that has been pre-heated to 210°C. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 190°C and bake for 10 more minutes, or until dark brown and crisp.