This recipe was commissioned by Dairy Australia for their Australian Dairy Discovery cookbook.

A cheese alternative

If you google ‘star bread’ you will find a whole lot of sweet varieties of this fancy looking bread. And while the thought of a nutella, jam or nut filling sounds exciting to the sweet tooth, those of us who have a more savoury palette will appreciate a savoury alternative.

Being a recipe we developed for Dairy Australia, it naturally had to include lots of dairy. I went down the classic Italian route, with one layer being classic pizza flavours mozzarella and tomato, and the other layer a delicious pesto.


There seem to be as many varieties of dough for a star bread as there are stars in the sky. I liked the idea of creating a party bread, like a pull-apart, that could be eaten as a snack on the side, and brioche seemed like the best dough for this.

If making dough sounds scary, be assured, brioche is one of the simplest doughs out there. No need to use fresh yeast, sachets of dry yeast from the supermarket do the job just fine. Just one tip:

Yeast is sensitive to temperature. If the liquid you add to it is too hot, it will kill the yeast. If it is too cold, it slows down the fermentation process. Test the temperature of the liquid (in this case the milk) with your finger. It should feel no hotter than bath water.

Forming the star

Follow the steps in the recipe below to create the different layers. When spreading the filling on each layer, make sure they are evenly spread, all the way to the edge.

Once the final layer of dough is laid on top, place a shot glass in the centre. Cut 16 evenly spaced cuts from the glass to the edge.

Take two of the strands and twist them away from each other, two rotations, then tightly press the ends together and fold the seam down.

In the picture here you see me in the position just before the second twist.

Repeat with the next two strands until you have a star with 8 beautiful points.

Watch us in action

We were stoked to be asked by Dairy Australia to film a little lifestyle video including the making of this bread. Tim and I wrote and produced a little story of two friends getting together at a mountain hut, preparing the bread before going on a hike. Have a look here:

Filmed and edited by Kim Blanza (thekback).

Italian star bread with mozzarella, tomato and pesto

Author: Tim Hollands
A pull-apart bread? A pizza? We don’t care what you call it, but it certainly is the star of the party. Cheesy? Yes it is! It may look impressive, and you might think it’s tricky to make, but all you need is a bit of twisting action for the magic to happen.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Bread, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 serves
Calories 461 kcal



  • 240 ml full cream milk room temperature
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 2 tsp castor sugar
  • 500 g flour
  • 60 g unsalted butter softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

Pesto filling:

  • 40 g parmesan grated
  • 1 small bunch basil
  • 40 g salted and roasted macadamia or cashew nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 60-70 ml extra virgin olive oil

Mozzarella filling:

  • 125 g tomato paste
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp Italian herbs dried
  • 10 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 160 g mozzarella cheese finely grated
  • 1 egg for egg wash


To make the dough:

  • In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm milk until slightly frothy.
  • Sift in flour, then add salt, butter and the egg.
  • Bring together with your hands, then knead for 5 minutes into a smooth dough. The dough is ready when it slowly springs back when poked.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let the dough rest in a warm place until it has doubled in size, approximately 60 minutes.

To make the fillings:

  • Make the pesto by blending all ingredients in a food processor until a coarse paste is formed.
  • Add extra oil if the mixture is too stiff. The consistency should be spreadable, but not runny.
  • In a separate bowl, mix tomato paste with herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil.

To form the star:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan forced 180°C).
  • Knock down the dough, then divide it into four equal pieces and shape them into smooth balls. Roll each piece out into a 30cm circle.
  • Place one circle onto a lined baking paper. Spread with half the tomato paste mix, then evenly cover with half the mozzarella.
  • Cover with another dough circle then spread evenly with the pesto.
  • Repeat with another layer of dough and the tomato paste and mozzarella mix, then finish with the last layer of dough.
  • Press down slightly to stick the layers together.
  • To shape the star, place a small glass into the centre of the bread, then using a sharp knife, cut 16 evenly spaced cuts from the glass to the edge.
  • Grab two strips and twist them away from each other twice. Press the ends firmly together to seal and fold the seam down.
  • Repeat with the rest of the strips until you have a star with 8 points. Remove the glass.


  • Brush the bread with egg wash and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
  • Serve warm.


While working on each layer, cover the remaining dough with a clean towel to avoid it from drying out.
Keyword bread, Dairy, mozzarella, parmesan, pesto, starbread