Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread

I am a summer girl. I love the sun, warm weather, playing outside and being barefoot. As a result, the change from Summer to Fall is sometimes a little sad for me. I don't like cold weather. I don't like having to bundle up in layers. I don't like the little leaves that get tracked into my house... BUT, there are some things that I love about the Fall. And pumpkins are very, very high on that list. What makes the chill in the air exciting (okay, bearable...) to me is the thought of all the yummy treats I can make with the fresh harvest bounty.

This year, I decided to jump into pumpkin baking season with a new (to us) recipe that daddy found for pumpkin pull-apart bread. It just looked so good, I knew I had to start there.

There are so many delicious flavors at work in this recipe, and it takes a few steps to prepare, but it is so worth it.

It starts with brown butter. Basically, you put butter in a pan and let it cook until the milk solids begin to turn, well, brown. Then you rescue it before it burns. Because brown butter = tasty, burnt butter = nasty. Trust me.

Most of the dough ingredients, except for (most of...) the flour are mixed together by hand.

Then you can let your stand mixer knead in the flour. Or you can do it by hand if you enjoy that kind of thing. Or if you don't have kids who you may have to pick up quickly, without time to wash the sticky dough off of your hands first... whatever works for you. The end result is a lovely, smooth ball of dough that you cover in plastic wrap and allow to sit for an hour or so.

At some point during that hour, prepare the filling for the bread, which is simply a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, which looks pretty in a bowl and smells delicious in a kitchen.

After the hour, the dough should have doubled. Mine actually more than doubled. I think my yeast was as excited for pumpkin season as I was.

Here is where it gets fun. The dough is punched down (little miss, as usual, helped with that part), then rolled into a rectangle, and then brushed with more brown butter.


Then the butter is sprinkled liberally with the sugar and spice mixture.

Yum again.

There is a LOT of the sugar mixture. Just go with it. Don't think about it, just sprinkle away. Then use your hands to kind of pat it down to help it adhere to the dough and butter. Little miss loved helping with that part, too.

Next came the part that had me... nervous? Perplexed? A little of each, probably... I have read so many pull-apart bread recipes trying to get a better understanding of this process, but none really made it 100% clear, so here's my attempt at explaining what I did, based on my understanding of it...

Using a pizza cutter (it's easiest), cut the butter and sugar and spice covered dough rectangle into six equal strips. Or, as close to equal as you can manage.

Then each of those strips needs to be cut into six. Every recipe I read said to simply stack the six strips on top of one another and cut them all at once. I tried to make my life a little easier by stacking them into two shorter piles - I don't know that my pizza cutter could have gone through all six layers at once, and I wanted to minimize how far I was moving each sugar-coated layer. But you do what works for you.

You now have 36 little rectangles of delicious dough-y goodness. Now start to place the rectangles, one at a time, into a greased loaf pan, and kinda press them together as you go.

As you can see, I tried to be all nice and neat about it when I started. I filled up one side of the loaf pan all neat and fastidious like. Then, seeing that the other "half" of the pan was too narrow to do the same, I was much more haphazard in how I put them in. I'll have to figure out a better method next time, but, in all honesty, it really doesn't matter.

You'll also notice a pretty thick layer of the cinnamon-nutmeg sugar on top of mine. I rolled my dough out on wax paper, which wound up being much smarter than I'd anticipated. The wax paper caught all the spiced sugar that spilled off during the layering/cutting/picking up and moving rectangles parts of the process, and once I had the pieces in the pan, I simply (and carefully...) picked up the waxed paper and tipped the left-behind sugar right back onto the dough. It's like I did it on purpose or something...

All that was left was to let the bread rise once again, then bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Which makes the house smell amazing. Again.

And the results?

I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but this was delicious. De. Li. Shus. I would love to show you a picture or two of the slices of this bread, of the interior, of how cool it was to pull off another rectangle every time you walk by the pan... But we ate it all before I could remember to photograph that... So I may have to make it again. You know, just so I can take those pictures for you.

The recipe did call for a (delicious sounding) glaze that I didn't bother with, but I may just try it when I make this again.

Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread
source: Willow Bird Baking

For the bread dough:
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) yeast
2 1/2 cup bread flour (I actually needed about 3 cups, but that might be because I used fresh pumpkin puree, which was more liquidy than canned...)

For the filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

To make the bread dough:
In a medium saucepan over high heat, brown the two tablespoons of butter, stirring once it begins browning, so that it browns evenly. Once it is the color of dark honey, remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a large, heat-safe mixing bowl. In the same saucepan, over medium-low heat, warm the milk until it begins to bubble (not boil). Remove the pan from the heat and pour the milk into the same mixing bowl as the butter. Let the butter and milk mixture cool to about 100-110 degrees.

Once the butter and milk have cooled, stir in the sugar and yeast, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then stir in the pumpkin, salt and one cup of the flour. Using the dough hook attachment on the stand mixer, knead in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time. Once the dough has been incorporated, knead about four minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover it (with plastic wrap or a damp cloth). Let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about an hour.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by whisking together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toward the end of the rising time, brown the remaining two tablespoons of butter, the set it aside to cool.

Once the dough has risen, knead a sprinkling of flour (about one tablespoon) into the dough, then let it rest (covered) for another five minutes. On a floured work surface (or, a floured, wax-papered work surface), roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 20 inches by 12 inches, being careful that the dough does not stick to the work surface. If the dough resists being rolled (if it snaps back to its smaller shape when you roll it), cover it and let it rest for about five minutes. Patience is worth it for this.

Using a pastry brush, spread the reserved brown butter over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle it with the cinnamon-nutmeg sugar.

With the long edge of the rectangle towards you, cut the dough into six strips with a pizza cutter. Stack the strips on top of one another and cut this stack into 6 even portions. (It is easiest to accomplish these "cut into six" steps by first cutting each shape into half, then cutting each half into three - it makes it easier to visualize.) Place the cut portions, one at a time, into a greased loaf pan, pressing them up against each other to fit them all in. Cover the pan with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, until it (once again) doubles in size.

Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once rise, bake the loaf for 30-35 minutes until it is dark golden brown on top. Allow it to cook for 20-30 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.



  1. It came out just gorgeous, Shelley! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Congrats on a lovely pull-apart :D

  2. That looks beautiful! Brown butter, spices, pumpkin, mmm. I love autumn, but this is definitely the best part of it.

  3. If you don't manage to do it again for the photos, don't worry, Shelley, I'll do it for you.. haha.. It's on top of my list!! What a treat!

  4. I've had my eye on this recipe! You've pushed me over the edge, though, I'm going to make it tomorrow!!


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