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Pesto & Walnut Buns

We’ve taken this beautiful recipe from Melissa Sharp’s book which celebrates the wonder of sourdough, Modern Baker, because, who doesn’t love a bun?! A fun play on the traditional cinnamon bun, these are deeply savoury and just wonderful at any time of day (we love a savoury breakfast at Balance Plan – there’s something very satisfying about fresh veg, clutches of salty olives, fresh sourdough, a slice of halloumi – Turkish breakfasts don’t get much better!).

Before you get cracking with at-home sourdough, you’ll need our sourdough starter recipe, also taken from Modern Baker (or simply to invest in sourdough starter, which is readily available online). In Melissa’s words, these buns make ‘another great change from bread, and a delicious savoury treat. Pesto and walnuts are often paired and for good reason, they produce wonderful umami flavours that are further enhanced by the sourdough tang. We make our own pesto using seaweed flakes and walnuts, both high in nutritional value as well as giving a flavour boost. You could also add some crumbled feta to the filling. These are perfect for picnics or as a side with soup.’

Modern Baker: A New Way To Bake by Melissa Sharp with Lindsay Stark (Ebury Press, RRP £26).
Photography by Laura Edwards. Modern Baker’s range of healthy baked goods are also now available in Selfridges stores (London, Birmingham, Manchester Trafford and Manchester Exchange).


Makes: 8 rolls
Equipment: 26 x 20cm brownie tray

75g strong white flour
75g water, at hand warm temp (32–37°C)
Active wheat starter (see below)

Add the flour and water to the whole quantity of the starter and leave loosely covered overnight at room temperature.

Day 2
150g recipe starter made on Day 1
320g water, at hand warm temp (32–37°C)
500g sprouted wholemeal flour
6g salt
25g olive oil

For the Pesto
30g walnuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
80g fresh basil leaves
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp kombu seaweed flakes

Place the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Add the basil, oil, lemon juice and seaweed and pulse a few more times.


  • 1 In a large bowl combine the recipe starter with the water and mix gently.
  • 2 In another bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  • 3 Add the flour mix to the first bowl and combine well with your hands until it comes together in a dough. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or shower cap and leave it to rest.
  • 4 After 5–10 minutes, give the dough a fold in the bowl. Use slightly wet hands to prevent the dough sticking to them. Pull a section of the dough out to the side and fold it into the middle of the ball. Repeat this going around the ball of dough until you get back to the beginning (four or five folds). Use the scraper to turn the dough upside down, cover the bowl and leave for another 5–10 minutes.
    Repeat this another two times. Fold once again, this time adding the olive oil, folding well and making sure the oil is fully combined with the dough. If you add the oil before this point, it can stop the gluten developing. After the final fold, cover the bowl again and leave it to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
  • 5 After an hour give the dough another fold and leave for another hour, this time in the fridge.
  • 6 Line a brownie tray with baking parchment.
  • 7 Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out to about 32 x 24 cm. Spread the pesto over the top of the dough leaving a 2cm gap at the bottom. Spread the walnuts over the top of the pesto.
  • 8 Roll up the dough towards you. As you roll, push the dough back then pull it forward to get the roll as tight as possible. You will end up with a long log.
  • 9 Brush the top of the log with the olive oil. This will make the buns easier to divide when they are baked.
  • 10 Cut the log into eight equal pieces, each about 4cm wide. Place the buns swirl side up in the brownie tray and press down well on each one.
  • 11 At this point in the bakery we leave them in the retarder overnight. You can replicate this by putting them in the fridge, covered with a damp tea towel or shower cap.
  • 12 In the morning preheat the oven to 250oc/fan 230oc/ Gas mark 10. When the oven is up to temperature, take the buns out of the fridge and put them straight into the oven.
  • 13 Turn the temperature down to 230oc/fan 210oc/Gas mark 8 and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are an even golden colour
  • 14 As soon as the buns come out the oven, brush them with a thin layer of maple syrup. Allow them to cool on the tray for at least 30 minutes before eating.