Pull-apart breads are mood-boosting, buttered-up beauties that achieve the impossible at dinner—they make sharing fun. Plus, they are simple to make and can be done up with a variety of savory fillings, making them perfect for an Easter dinner or a casual weeknight occasion. Libbie Summers, baker extraordinaire and author of new cookbook Sweet and Vicious (Rizzoli, 2014), can testify to that. And testify, she does.
In this excerpt from Sweet and Vicious, Summers offers a visual step-by-step for five pull-apart bread variations that use just one dough recipe. All five recipes, in the spirit of her signature bitingly-funny and not-too-serious approach, are named after boys. Why?
“I’m an expert on boys. They are my thing. Most of my friends are boys. In the past, I’ve dated boys from six continents (it would be seven, but no one dates anyone from Antarctica). I am married to a boy, and my only child is a boy. In my life-study of boys, I’ve found that most boys have the same basic make-up. It’s when you pull apart the layers that their true personality shines. Much like this bread,” says Summers.
Pull-Apart Bread Recipe: Boy Bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter, cubed, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup buttermilk 1 recipe Boy Filling (See Fillings Below)
To Make the Dough:
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the flour mixture forms pea-size pieces. Add the buttermilk and pulse just until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead it gently three times.
To Make the Fillings:
1. Bourgeois Boy Filling
Cut 1 Vidalia or other sweet yellow onion into thin strips and cook with 2 tablespoons butter and 1⁄4 teaspoon beef base in a medium skillet over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the onion is soft and caramel-colored. Let cool. Stir together the caramelized onion and 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese.
2. Cute Greek Boy Filling
Stir together 1 cup chopped Kalamata olives, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, and 1 cup crumbled feta cheese.
3. Eagle Scout Boy Filling
Stir together 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, 1⁄3 cup sunflower seeds, and 1⁄3 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds).
4. Pretty Boy Filling
Stir together 2 tablespoons honey, 1⁄2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, 1⁄4 cup chopped dried pears, and 3 ounces blue cheese.
5. Stinky Italian Boy
Cook 12 garlic cloves over medium-low heat in 1⁄4 cup olive oil for about 30 minutes, until golden brown, then let cool and mash the garlic. Combine with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian herbs (your choice) and 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
To Assemble Pull-Apart Bread Recipe:
Roll the dough out into a long thin rectangle (about 8 by 24 inches).
Brush the top of the dough with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
Spread with your choice of toppings and press the toppings into the dough slightly.
Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise.
Cut the dough widthwise into nine equal-size strips. You will have 18 equal pieces of dough.
Stack all but one piece of the dough on top of each other with the toppings facing up. Place the final piece on the top with the toppings facing down. The dough is sticky enough that the stack will hold together when pressed a little. Don’t worry: This is going to get messy, and that’s okay.
Carefully lay the stack on its side in the prepared loaf pan (the filling of the two ends will not touch the pan). Sprinkle any of the contents that may have fallen out onto the top of the dough once it’s in the pan. Separate the slices a little with your fingertips once they are in the pan, and brush the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, until it has risen and is golden brown. Let the bread cool slightly before removing from the pan and serving.
Want to see more from Sweet and Vicious? Check out the book’s trailer…
Aside from their work on Sweet and Vicious, Libbie Summers and Chia Chong are the creative minds behind the blog, Salted and Styled. Their commercial and editorial work has been featured in publications north and south of the equator.