I can't tell you how many times I've drooled over the thought of making pull-apart bread in my own kitchen. I've seen all different varieties - sweet and savory, lemony and cheesy- from my blog buddies and beyond. I've been itching to put a new spin on the recipe, and that's the only reason I've waited so long to make it.
Perhaps you remember the time I made Baklava Cheesecake. All that nutty goodness seemed to improve upon something that is hard-pressed to be made better (because, cheesecake alone is pretty darn good!). I felt in the same quandary with this bread. After some meditation, I dug out my baklava filling recipe.
Here's where I lose my modicum of correct grammar: YOU GUYS. This bread is all kinds of major. Those delicate layers of cinnamon-sugared bread? They hold pockets of nutty baklava filling. It all bakes up so perfectly together. And if that wasn't enough, it also gets a douse of honey syrup.
I have but one complaint with most yeast dough recipes, and that's yield size. If I'm going to spend the better part of a day babysitting dough, then I don't want a measly dozen buns, or just one loaf of bread. So, I've developed this recipe to yield two loaves - one for you, and one for a friend (or one for the freezer, if you're not feeling particularly charitable).
Here's a look at how to assemble the bread. It doesn't take long because it doesn't have to be perfect. This bread is a rustic beauty so it's really difficult to get wrong!
This recipe yields a large amount of dough, so break out your largest bowl for raising. The nut mixture is ground fine in a food processor, then zest and spices are added. Two to four pulses later, the mixture turns into a paste that clings together.
Divide the dough in half. Each half will make one loaf of pull-apart bread.
Gently flatten half of the dough with your fingers.
Roll the dough out to about 20x12-inches. As you can see, my dough is far from a perfect rectangle.
Cover the rolled out dough in an insane amount of butter. Feel weird about it for exactly zero seconds.
After a generous sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar, grab a handful of the nut mixture and crumble it over the dough evenly.
Cut the dough vertically into six even strips.
Stack the strips on top of each other. This can be a little tricky, because the dough will want to stretch as you pick it up, so I lift part of the dough with my bench scraper. You could also use a spatula.
Cut the stacked strips into 6 square-ish pieces, and layer them standing upright in a loaf pan.
Repeat the steps with the remaining dough half, and then let the dough rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. When the dough is puffed and fills the pan, then it's time for baking.
The bread needs to stand in the pan for a little while so all the layers will stay together when you remove it from the pan. This can feel like an eternity, especially when the toasty aroma of cinnamon and nuts is permeating ev-er-y-thing. But it's worth the wait!
This bread definitely satisfies my autumn frame of mind, but I think it would be great for gift-giving holidays. It's rich and dense with nutmeats and syrup, so it'd be a suitable (more delicate, more inspired) replacement for fruitcake. This bread is rich indeed, and I've been told by my taste-testers that a little goes a long way, but I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Baklava Pull-Apart Bread
[click for printable version]
Source: The bread base was adapted from more than a dozen sites around the web, all using a similar recipe.
Yields 2 loaves, 9x5-inches
Prep: about 4 hours from start to finish
Before you start, two things: 1. I love using black walnuts in this recipe. Use them if you can find them (and if you like them, they are an acquired taste.) And, 2. you may divide this recipe to make only 1 loaf of bread.
Activate the yeast
6 tablespoons warm water (between 105 to 115 degrees F)
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup/113 g unsalted butter
2/3 cup/160 ml milk
6 cups/750 g all-purpose flour
1/2 cup/100 g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups/390 g granulated sugar
5 teaspoons ground cinnamon (this will be divided, see instructions)
1 cup/100 g pistachios
1 cup/110 g black walnuts
1/2 cup/60 g almonds
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup/220 g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup/340 g wildflower honey
1 cup/240 ml water
Pinch of sea salt
Activate the yeast: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Stir gently and briefly. Let the mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Make the dough: In a small saucepan, combine the butter and milk. Place over medium heat and cook until the butter is just melted. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to 115 to 125 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar and salt. Pour the dry mixture into the bowl with the activated yeast. Add the milk mixture, eggs and vanilla; stir together on low speed for 2 minutes, and then increase the speed to medium and mix until the ingredients are well incorporated (this may take a few minutes, the eggs can be stubborn to join the party). Add the remaining 2 cups of flour a little at a time. After the flour is incorporated knead for 2-3 minutes.
Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest in a warm place (for me, that's usually in my kitchen on the stove-top). Since this dough make two loaves, raising time may take a little longer than usual. 50 minutes is the norm, but my dough doubled right at 1 hour 15 minutes.
While the dough is raising, prep the filling and honey syrup.
Stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor combine the pistachios, walnuts, almonds, lemon zest and sea salt. Process until the nuts are ground fine. Add the vanilla extract and process until the mixture forms large moist clumps. Set the mixture aside with the bowl of cinnamon sugar.
For the honey syrup, combine the honey, water and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture had reduced by 1/3. Let the syrup cool slightly then transfer it to a jar with a pour spout to cool further.
When the dough is raised, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide it in half. Each half will make one loaf of pull-apart bread. Gently flatten half of the dough with your fingers. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin to about 20x12-inches. Don't stress if it isn't perfect, remember, rustic. Cover the dough with half of the melted butter and sprinkle on half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Crumble half of the nut mixture over the surface of the dough, sprinkling it on as evenly as possible. Cut the dough vertically into six even strips. Stack the strips on top of each other. This can be a little tricky, because the dough will want to stretch as you pick it up, so I lift part of the dough with my bench scraper. You could also use a large spatula. Cut the stacked strips into 6 square-ish pieces, and layer them standing upright in a loaf pan. Repeat the steps with the remaining dough half. Cover the loaf pans with plastic wrap and let them rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two standard-size loaf pans and line them with parchment so that the paper overhangs two edges.
When the dough is puffed and fills the pan, then it's time for baking. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the bread is deep golden brown. Don't be tempted to remove the loaf too soon just because it looks done on top - it could be under cooked in the center. My loaves cooked perfectly at about 32 minutes.
Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Remove the bread by lifting it out by the two overhanging parchment edges. Drizzle honey syrup over each loaf, or serve the syrup on the side if you prefer.
Keep the bread in a container that seals air-tight.