This Pesto Parmesan Star Bread is so gorgeous, and surprisingly simple to make! The bread bakes up soft and tender, with flaky layers of savory bread and cheesy pesto filling, with optional marinara for dipping. It’s guaranteed to be the “star” at your next party, perfect for holiday entertaining or any special occasion!
For a sweet version, make our cinnamon-sugar star bread, too!
Savory Star Bread Recipe
Want to make something for your next get together that is guaranteed to deliver ooohs and aaahs from everyone? Look no further than this Star Bread! With an absolutely stunning presentation, it’s perfect for all occasions from holidays to casual brunches. Even though it’s most commonly referred to as Christmas star bread, I think it deserves a place on the table year-round.
Made with pesto sauce and Parmesan cheese, this savory Star Bread is so flavorful, with a beautiful golden exterior. Enjoy warm by itself or with a simple marinara sauce for dunking.
Like any yeast bread recipe, you will want to dedicate a few hours to making this star bread. The dough needs to rise twice and the assembly of the star formation does take a few minutes. But don’t let that discourage you – no tools other than kitchen shears or a good knife are needed and no fancy baking skills either.
This Christmas star bread recipe is made with a handful of pantry staples, potato flakes, and yeast.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- All purpose flour – Spooned and leveled, not scooped, for accurate measuring.
- Potato flakes – You’ll want the flakes from plain instant mashed potatoes. These are sold in a box, typically near the breadcrumbs.
- Instant yeast – Instant yeast can be mixed right in with the other ingredients, no need to activate it first, making this an easier, one-bowl bread recipe.
- Warm milk – You’ll want the milk to be 100 to 110F. If it’s hotter, it can kill the yeast.
- Unsalted butter – Room temperature but not too soft.
- Sugar – For just a touch of sweetness.
- Salt – Elevates the other flavors.
- Egg – For the egg wash, so the baked dough is nice and golden.
- Pesto sauce – This is the filling, spread over each layer of rolled out dough. You can use our homemade pesto sauce or store-bought.
- Parmesan – Sprinkled on top of the pesto and also on the finished dough before baking. Use freshly grated for optimal flavor.
Can I Use Active Dry Yeast?
Yes! Before you begin, place the active dry yeast in a measuring cup with the warm milk, and a generous pinch of the sugar (about 1/4 teaspoon), allow it to foam for about 10 minutes before adding it to the mixing bowl with the other wet ingredients. Good active yeast will nearly double in size after about 10 minutes.
A Few Notes on the Milk
Here are a few tips for warming the milk used in this recipe. If the milk is too hot or too cold, the recipe won’t work properly.
- How to easily warm the milk. Place in a microwave safe glass measuring cup and microwave in 10 second increments until the milk is lukewarm (about 100-110F). Too cold and the yeast will not activate, too hot and the yeast will die. You can also gently warm the milk in a saucepan on the stove top but do not allow the milk to boil.
- Can I substitute the whole milk for another type of milk? You can use 2% but it won’t be as rich. You can also use half & half instead of whole milk, just remove 3 tablespoons full and replace with water.
How to Make Star Bread
Star bread may look complicated but as long as you have some patience, it’s far easier to make than you might think! No special tools or skills are required.
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements, and don’t miss the video below.)
Prepare the Dough
- Make the dough. Whisk the flour and potato flakes, then add the instant yeast, warm milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Mix on low with the paddle attachment until a loose dough forms. Switch to the hook attachment and mix for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is soft and slightly tacky.
- Allow to rise. Transfer the dough ball to a greased bowl. Cover with plastic and place in a warm area, until it doubles in size – usually about 45 minutes.
- Divide the dough. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll each one into a smooth, round ball.
Assemble the Bread
- Layer the dough. Roll one ball into a 10-inch round circle. Brush with egg wash and spread evenly with 2 tablespoons of pesto, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, leaving a 1/4-inch edge bare. Roll a second dough ball into a circle, place on the first layer, and press lightly to seal. Top with the egg wash, pesto, and Parmesan. Repeat with the third dough ball. Roll out the 4th dough ball and place on top of the others.
- Prepare the center. Lightly press a biscuit cutter into the center of the dough circle to make an impression but do not cut through it. Leave the glass in place as a guide while cutting, if needed.
- Cut the dough. Use a sharp knife to make 16 evenly spaced cuts up to the line of the impression made in the center.
- Twist the dough. Twist two adjacent strips of dough away from each other two to three times. Pinch the ends tightly together and tuck under a bit to create the points of a star.
- Allow to rise. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Bake. Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Brush the dough with the egg wash (and sprinkle with more Parmesan, if desired) and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake at 400F for about 22 minutes, until golden brown and the center is no longer doughy. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- Serve. Serve as is or with some marinara sauce on the side for dunking.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips for making star bread even easier.
- How to speed along the first rise. Cover the glass bowl with the dough and place on top of a heating pad (set to low) in a dry, draft free-area of your home.
- What if my dough doesn’t rise enough in 45 minutes? If your dough is rising slowly, just give it more time. Even yeast that’s past its prime will rise after a while! When baking bread, I usually allot 4 hours of time, just in case, but most simple breads will take around 3 hours.
- Use parchment paper under the dough. Preparing the bread on a sheet of parchment paper makes it much easier to transfer the dough to and from the baking sheet.
- Get the dough layers perfectly round. To achieve a perfect circle, stack all layers, place a 10-inch round plate (or circle of paper) over the bread and trim any excess with a sharp knife.
- How to secure the points. When forming the points, you can pinch/seal the ends together as written in the instructions, or you can flatten the ends of each twist and not join them together with the twist next to them at all. This will allow the ends to flare out into spiky layers, creating more of a fireworks look.
- Don’t burn the bread. Watch the bread closely toward the end of baking, if it’s getting brown too quickly, tent it loosely with foil until it’s baked through.
Video: Pesto Parmesan Star Bread
Serving and Storage
- Serving suggestions. Star bread is best when served warm. It’s delicious on its own, but also wonderful with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.
- Make the dough in advance. Make the dough through step 2. After it has risen, poke gently with your fingers to release the gas bubbles. Wrap loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 48 hours, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 1 month. Allow dough to come to room temperature and rise in a warm place before continuing with the recipe.
- Storing leftovers. Savory star bread is best enjoyed the same day it’s made but you can store leftovers at room temperature for up to 2 days, tightly covered. I do recommend reheating leftovers before serving. Wrap the bread in foil and reheat at 350F for about 10 minutes.
- Can star bread be frozen? Yes, this pesto star bread can be frozen. Freeze freshly baked and cooled bread for up to 1 month. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and again in foil to prevent freezer burn. Thaw at room temperature, then warm in the oven when ready to serve.
More Beautiful Bread Recipes:
I hope you love this delicious and easy recipe – be sure to give it a review below! Also don’t forget to follow Belly Full on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube!
Pesto Parmesan Star Bread
For the Dough
- 2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour , spooned and leveled
- 1/4 cup plain instant mashed potato flakes
- 2 & 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
- 3/4 cup warm whole milk (about 100-110F)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter , cubed, room temp
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg , beaten
- 6 ounces pesto sauce
- 1/2 cup finely shredded fresh parmesan
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, briefly whisk together the flour and potato flakes. Add the instant yeast, warm milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment just until a loose dough forms (or mix with a wooden spoon by hand if making in a mixing bowl). Switch to the hook attachment and mix on medium-low for 2-3 minutes (or knead on floured work surface for 3-5 minutes), the dough should be very soft and just slightly tacky. If it’s sticky, add a tablespoon of flour and mix with dough hook until combined.
- Lightly grease a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray or canola oil. Place the dough ball in the bowl, flip over so all sides get oiled. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm area of your kitchen to rise until nearly doubled in size, about 45 minutes. The dough will be tender, fragrant, and feel puffy when it’s ready.
- Lightly spray a 12-inch piece of parchment paper with non-stick spray, set aside.
- On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 4 equal portions, roll each portion into a smooth round ball.
- Roll one dough ball at a time into a 10-inch round circle. Place it on the greased parchment paper. Brush entire surface lightly edge to edge with egg wash. Spread 2 tablespoons of pesto evenly on the dough, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, leaving a 1/4-inch edge bare.
- Roll out the next dough ball, place it on top of the first layer and press lightly to seal, and repeat the egg wash, and pesto-parmesan step. Repeat these steps with the third dough ball.
- Roll out the fourth dough ball and place it on top of the others. Place a 3-inch drinking glass or biscuit cutter in the center of the dough circle, and press lightly just to make an impression (this is the center of your star and you will not cut through this. You can also leave the glass in place as a guide while you make the cuts.)
- Use a very sharp large knife or sharp kitchen shears to make 16 evenly spaced cuts up to the line of the impression made by the glass. (The easiest way to do this is by dividing the circle in half first, then halve the half circles to create wedges, and halve wedges until you’ve made 16 evenly spaced cuts.)
- Grasp two adjacent strips of dough and twist away from each other two or three times (do not try to twist more than three times.) Pinch the ends together tightly and tuck under a bit to create the points of the star. You should have 8 points.
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about 20-30 minutes. It will be noticeably puffy, but will not grow in size like the first rise. (Do not do the second rise in a proofing box or low temperature oven, this will cause the sugar to melt out of your bread too much, and it will stick to the parchment paper.)
- Preheat oven with rack positioned in the middle of the oven to 400F. Brush dough lightly with egg wash. Sprinkle with any remaining parmesan.
- Transfer parchment paper and dough to a large baking sheet; bake for about 2o to 25 minutes, or until golden brown, and center is cooked through and no longer doughy. Cool for 10 minutes, serve warm with marinara sauce on the side for dipping.