Continuing with a comfort food theme, we made this pull-apart bread for our company Dinner Series, which is a dense, yeasty bread bursting with flavor. If you've never made or tried any kind if pull-apart bread, I would definitely suggest it after trying this recipe! It's a fun thing to eat, in addition to being really tasty, and it's great fun for kids and adults alike. If you can remember back to your youth, when you'd eat string cheese that actually pulled apart like little pieces of string - well this is sort of like a grown-up, sophisticated version of that snack! With ample amounts of cheese, beer and spicy mustard, it has a sophisticated flair, while being a completely approachable and fun dish.
One of the best parts about making pull-apart bread is that you can customize the flavors you incorporate, either to a specific season (think apples, cinnamon and caramel for the fall), or to a specific taste. For this recipe, we used a local craft beer (Berkshire Brewing Co. Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale), which gets incorporated into the dough and the flavoring between the dough layers, and also spicy mustard and sharp cheddar cheese. All of the different ingredients are layered on top of each other, creating layers of flavor between each layer of chewy, moist bread.
Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Bread Ingredients 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup beer (use whatever you like to drink) 2 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast 1 teaspoon table salt 2 large eggs, at room temperature
Filling Ingredients 3 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or any kind of spicy mustard you like) 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce Dash of hot sauce (I used Tabasco) 1 teaspoon mustard powder 1 teaspoon paprika 1/2 teaspoon table salt Several grinds black pepper 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
Directions To make the dough: In a small saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup of beer, just until the butter has melted. Remove from heat and add the remaining 1/3 cup beer, stir to combine. Set aside to cool down slightly. The mixture should be warm (about 110 to 116 degrees), but not steaming hot.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast and table salt. With the mixer on low, pour in thewarm butter-beer mixture, mixing only until the flour is moistened. Add eggs one at a time, and mix until combined after each addition. The batter will look lumpy, but will become smooth soon. Add the remaining 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, mixing until just combined. Remove paddle and replace with a dough hook and let the machine knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes on low.
Oil a large bowl and transfer dough to it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (make sure to also oil the plastic wrap!) and set aside for 50 to 60 minutes, until doubled. Meanwhile, prepare the fillings.
(You can also let the dough rest in the fridge overnight -- wrapped tightly with plastic. The next day, let it sit at room temperature for an hour before rolling out and assembling.)
To make the fillings: In the same small saucepan you used for the butter and beer, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, Worcestershire and hot sauce until completely smooth. Set aside.
In the bottom of a medium bowl, stir together mustard powder, paprika, table salt and several grinds of black pepper. Add shredded cheddar and toss until grated strands are evenly coated with spices. Once cheese is evenly coated with spice mixture, place cheese bowl in the fridge. That keeps it from getting soft and clumpy, which makes it harder to work with.
To assemble the bread: Either coat a 9 x 5" loaf pan lightly with butter or a nonstick spray and set aside.
Turn dough out onto a well-floured counter and roll into a 20 x 12" rectangle, making sure it doesn’t stick to the counter by lifting sections and re-flouring the counter as needed. Brush the butter/mustard mixture evenly over the whole surface, right up to the edges. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips; each should be about 12 x 4". Sprinkle the first dough strip evenly with a heaping 1/4 cup of the grated cheese. Gently place another dough strip on top of it, coat it with another heaping 1/4 cup of cheese, and repeat with remaining strips until they are stacked 5-high and all of the cheese is used.
With your very sharpest knife, VERY gently cut your stack into 6 or 7 2-inch segments (each stacked segment should be 4 x 2"). Arrange stacks of dough down the length of your prepared loaf pan, one on top of the other. To make this step easier, I stand my loaf pan up on it's short end, and stack dough from bottom to top. If you end up with extra space, return pan to laying flat on the counter and give it a gentle shake to distribute the dough. If you have extra dough stacks, press down gently on the dough stacks already in the pan to make more space for the extra.
Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise for 30-45 more minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Bake loaf for 25 to 35 minutes, until puffed all over and the top is a deep golden brown. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let it cool for 5 minutes before flipping it out onto a serving plate. Serve warm!