Among the homemade yeasted breads I’ve made thus far, I think the pull-apart bread is quickly making its way to the top of my heart. Fortunately, all the recipes I have tried for this particular type of bread have been nothing short of stellar. While my favourite remains to be Flo Braker’s heavenly Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake, this version is no less scrumptious.
This is basically the same bread recipe as Flo Braker’s, but instead of the sweet and tangy lemon filling, we switch it up in favour of the savory. Each bite is a warm explosion of garlic and herbs, intensified by the slight salty punch from the cheese. A little bit of salt and pepper rounds up this wonderful play of flavours. The herb I used was purely basil, but I sprinkled the bread with some Italian seasoning for good measure. The mouth-watering smell that emanated from the oven because of this combination of herbs is enough to drive a hungry man mad. I’m not even kidding.
Pull-apart breads are a genius invention. It’s constructed in such a way that facilitates gorging yourself with slices upon slices of bread. I guess with the thinness of the slices one may consider it daintier than, say, a slice of sandwich bread, but I do believe that the texture and crumb of the bread can only be attained by slicing and stacking the dough in this manner. The thin layers of bread are a marvel when pulled apart.
I absolutely love seeing the cotton-like sinews of the bread whenever I tear a square off the whole loaf. When the most food-critical of my younger brothers had a bite of this bread, he immediately talked about how perfect this would be as a side for pasta, especially pesto!
My favourite part was how super soft the bread actually was within, camouflaged by a crunchy golden crust. Absolutely gorgeous to look at, absolutely delightful in taste, and absolutely easy to devour. The only hard part here is practising restraint!
Makes one 9x5-inch loaf
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 cups bread flour
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup fresh herbs, any combination that suits you
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the water, sugar, and yeast. Add the 2 cups of flour, salt, and the butter then mix until a shaggy dough is formed.
- 2. Switch to the dough hook, and with the mixer on low speed, add the all-purpose flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough forms. Knead 6 to 9 minutes until soft and pliable, and dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
- 3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- 4. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the herbs and garlic, melt the butter, and grate the cheese.
- 5. Roll the dough out into a 12 x 20-inch rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, then sprinkle the dough with the garlic, herbs, and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- 6. Cut the dough into 6 equally-sized strips using a pizza cutter or knife. Stack the strips on top of each other and cut into 6 equally-sized squares.
- 7. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, and stack the squares on top of each other in the pan. An easy way to do this is to hold the pan on its side.* If you lose some of the filling as you stack, just sprinkle it on top once the dough has been stacked. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the top.
- 8. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for about 40 minutes.
- 9. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Bake the bread 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and the inside is cooked through. If the top browns too quickly, tent the bread with foil.
- 10. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and invert onto a serving platter to serve.**
- * Be careful not to stretch the dough too much when you stack them on top of one another. Use a gentle but quick hand when you get to this stage. If your squares look uneven, it's okay. If you ask me, the charm of a pull-apart bread is how perfect it looks even in what we would normally refer to as imperfections.
- ** You can either pull the bread layers apart to serve; or cut the bread into 1-inch thick slightly diagonal slices using a serrated knife. If planning to cut the bread, wait until almost completely cool before doing so. In short, just use your fingers and pull! Best served hot and toasty.
Pull-apart breads are awesome. The end.