Do you have a brunch to go to tomorrow? I hope so. New Year’s Day is the perfect day for brunch.
And this is the perfect thing to bring to a brunch.
Especially if there are Old Bay bloody marys involved. Make the dough right now and let it rise in the fridge overnight. When you wake up tomorrow, you’ll have to get it out on the counter to rise for an hour, but then you can spend most of that time waking up the rest of the way until you actually have to do anything with it.
So, a lot of the pull-apart bread recipes out there are sweet rather than savory. It makes sense. This is basically a different shape for monkey bread, after all. But Deb over at Smitten Kitchen made a savory version inspired by Welsh rarebit and I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to give it the Baltimore treatment.
So obviously there’s a mess of Old Bay added to it.
Aside from the immediately obvious, I used one of my favorite local Baltimore brews in the dough — Heavy Seas. Loose Cannon, which is an IPA, worked beautifully in it — though I intended to make it with the Peg Leg, an imperial stout, which was out of stock when I stopped by the liquor store. I think it would also be delightful with Black Cannon, the seasonal black IPA which just became available. Go get some! Even if just to drink it. Man, it’s so good. I’m not even a huge IPA person.
If you can’t get Heavy Seas in your region, just go for something that you like to drink, preferably something a bit dark. Or, you know, take a road trip to get some beer.
Baltimore Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread by Smitten Kitchen
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup Heavy Seas beer
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1/3 cup flour, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant (active dry) yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon mustard (I used Dijon)
1 heaping tablespoon Old Bay (I used low sodium)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 heaping cups)
First off, dough time. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the 4 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup beer until butter is just barely melted. Remove from heat and add remaining beer, then set aside to cool. If you have one, pop a thermometer in there — you want the mixture to be between 110 and 116 degrees. If you don’t, you want it to be warm to the touch, not hot.
Drink the rest of the beer. You deserve it.
While the butter/beer cools, prep your dry ingredients. In the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast, and salt until combined. With the mixer on low, pour in the warm butter/beer mixture and let stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Add eggs, one at a time, and stir until just combined. Add the remaining all purpose flour and again stir until just combined.
Replace the paddle with the dough hook and turn the mixer on low. Let knead for 3-4 minutes, until dough is not quite as lumpy. It will still be wet and sticky.
Oil a medium bowl and transfer dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, until doubled in size. If you want to get this part over with before you’re battling a hangover, this is where you’d let the dough rest in the fridge overnight — wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. The next day, let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour while you prepare the filling.
Speaking of filling: using the large holes on a box grater or your food processor, grate your cheddar cheese. Put in a storage container, dump the Old Bay on top, close it up, and shakeshakeshake. Pop it in the fridge while you’re waiting.
In your same small saucepan from before (no need to wash it out if you’re doing this all at once), melt your 3 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Once melted, stir in mustard and set aside.
Now it’s time to put it all together. First, spray or butter a 9″x5″ loaf pan and set aside.
Turn risen dough onto a floured work area, then roll out into a 20″x12″ rectangle. It may try to stick here and there, so pull it up every once in a while and add more flour as needed. Brush butter/mustard over the entire surface of the dough, all the way to the very edges. Really glop it on there. Then cut the dough into 5 4″x12″ strips — a pizza cutter is very handy for this.
Evenly sprinkle one buttered dough strip with a generously heaping 1/4 cup of Old Bay coated cheddar. Gently pick up the next dough strip and place it on top of the cheese. Repeat with all of your strips, ending with more cheese on top.
With a serrated knife, very gently and slowly, as gently and slowly as you can possibly manage, cut your dough stack into 6 to 7 segments, 2″x4″ each. The dough may or may not have stretched a tad bit with all that lifting and such, but it’s fine either way. Really.
Prop your loaf pan up on one short end to make this next part a little easier. Lift each segment, using a spatula if that helps, and plop it in the “bottom” of the pan, that is, on the short end. A 4″ wide cut end should be facing out towards you. Stack the rest of the dough pieces on top in the same way until your loaf pan is filled. If it’s a little under-filled, just shake it a bit to distribute the pieces. If you have more than it seems will fit, just squeeze everything together to jam the last bits in there. Once again, cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
When appropriate, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pop the risen loaf in there and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until puffy and brown and the bits of cheese peeking out are bubbly and crisp.
Let cool in the pan for five minutes, then turn out to a cutting board. For the best pull-apart experience, enjoy warm and fresh. If it has cooled down and refuses to peel apart, use a serrated knife to cut thin slices. Or just continue to tear bits and pieces off like a pack of wolves, I won’t tell.