Saturday, January 19, 2013
This is the first challenge of the monthly baking event started by Aparna Balasubramaniam of My Diverse Kitchen - she of the gorgeous photos and amazing baking ability in particular and lovely recipes in general. When I signed up to join the group, I happened to be in the States, visiting my family in Seattle. It was the perfect opportunity to try the recipe for pull-apart bread, especially as I'd kinda sorta earmarked it for making (at some unspecified point) when I'd seen the original photo on the Huffington Post's selection of photos of pull-apart breads.
The other point was, of course, that there were lots of people at home who would help demolish the bread... whereas at home in Shrewsbury, there's usually just me and Pete. It's difficult to invite people over when you can't be sure that you can provide something edible - I'm a million miles from being the world's best baker, that's the problem.
Happily, family don't fall into the worrisome category, so I was quite pleased to make them my guinea pigs as far as this bread was concerned. As it happened, the dough didn't rise as much as it should have, or as evenly. And since the oven was unfamiliar to me, I didn't really know anything thing about its particular quirks - its hot spots, or cold spots, etc.
But - and this is important - the bread turned out beautifully golden and really tasty with the mushroom-vegetable soup that I'd made.
The aroma as it was baking nearly drove us mad, and there was nothing to do but tear into it the moment it came out of the oven! Granted, the texture of the bread was a bit dense, but I don't think anybody cared.
I changed the original recipe just a tad - I used Pepperjack cheese on request from my sister, instead of cheddar, and I used an Italian herb mix, because that's what I had. I hope to make this bread again, with slightly different toppings. If I do, I'll definitely post it here. But for now, here's my tear-and-share bread.
Recipe for: Herby cheese pull-apart bread
For the Dough
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
2-3/4 - 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
25gm butter, soft at room temperature
3/4 to 1 tsp garlic paste
3/4 cup milk (+ a couple of tbsp to brush over the bread)
For the Filling:
15 to 20gm melted butter
2 tsp dried Italian-style herb mix
1 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1/2 cup grated Pepperjack cheese
1. In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm milk. Keep aside for about 5 minutes till the yeast mixture bubbles up.
2. Put 2 3/4 cup of flour, salt, softened butter, and garlic paste in a large bowl and mix. Then add the yeast mixture and the 3/4 cup of milk and knead till you have a soft, smooth and elastic/ pliable dough which is not sticky. Add a little extra flour if your dough is sticking, but only just as much as is necessary.
3. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it completely with oil. Cover and let it rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until almost doubled in volume.
4. Dust your work surface lightly with flour. Deflate the dough, shape it into a square and roll the dough out into a larger square that is about 12’ by 12”. Brush the surface of the square with the melted butter.
5. Evenly sprinkle the herbs and the cumin seeds and then the grated cheese. Use a rolling pin to very lightly press the topping into the dough to ensure the topping doesn’t fall off when you are stacking the strips.
6. Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough from top to bottom into 6 long and even strips – they do not have to be perfect. Lay each strip on top of the next, with the topping facing upwards, until you have a stack of the strips. You can put the 2 strips cut from the sides in the middle of the stack so it looks neater. Using a pastry scraper or a sharp knife, cut straight down through the stack dividing it into 6 equal pieces (6 square stacks).
7. Grease and lightly flour a 9” by 4” (or 5”) loaf tin. Layer the square slices, cut sides down into the loaf tin. Cover the loaf tin dough with a towel and allow the dough to rise for an hour. Lightly brush some milk over the top of the loaf.
8. Bake the dough at 180C (350F) for about 30 to 40 minutes until it is done and the top is golden brown.
This recipe bakes one 9” by 5” loaf.
9. Serve hot with any soup.