by Malia Kirby L.Ac.
I have a distinct memory from childhood. I’m at my Aunt Kathy’s house, she’s in the middle of cooking this huge breakfast for everyone, and I’m the first one awake, which was pretty typical. I remember everyone always wanting to sleep in, but I was always so excited to get up with the sun out at the farm. I don’t remember what it is that she’s doing exactly—I remember her standing between the sink and the stove, so logic would suggest to me that she’s working on her meez—but she turns to me and smiles before stopping what she’s working on to give me a hug. I then climb up on the table, still in my pajamas (I’m probably only around three at the time), and I notice that she’s heated up my mom’s pull apart bread (she called it something else, but I can’t for the life of me think of what it was) so I could have something to snack on while she cooked. Kathy was always spectacular about that—she knew I’d be up first, and she knew I’d be hungry. Even back then, I had an appetite, scrawny little monkey-armed girl that I was.
Fast forwarding a few years in my memory, I’m sitting on the countertop between the stove and the refrigerator in my mom’s kitchen, and there’s Kathy again, watching me while my mom works. She’s cutting dough into quarter-sized pieces and handing them to me to dip in melted butter, followed by rolling them in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. I’m surrounded by every bundt pan my mother owns and, before you know it, they’re filled with these balls of dough…and I’m covered in butter and sugar, licking my fingers. A few hours later, after every pan has been baked, the entire house smells like this gooey, cinnamon-rollish-like “bread” that will soon be wrapped in tinfoil and frozen for holidays and trips to see the family.
I remember loving that recipe as a child. Thinking about it now brings back memories of sunshine, catching frogs and turtles with the neighbor kids at the spring, of swinging in the tire swing beneath the giant cottonwood out in their pasture, and of jumping from hay bale to bale (which, coincidentally, smells exactly like pu-er tea), stacked in a pyramid behind the Quonset. Thinking about actually making the recipe, though…well…my stomach starts thinking about developing a wee bit of rebellious qi. It was fine as a kid, but I was fine with eating my weight in candy back then, too. Today, I’m more of a savory kind of gal.
Imagine my glee as I’m perusing the LSG discussion boards on Ravelry and one of the gals had whipped up a version with Dijon mustard, cheddar cheese, and beer. I immediately dragged Shawn into our home office crowing, “Honey, LOOK at THAT. I am SO making something like this with bacon and onion confit and herbs and…Ooh! Maybe that Barely Buzzed cheddar or that one chocolate stout cheddar from Rogue…dammit, why hadn’t I thought of this before? Hey, what about a caramelized onion-blue cheese-mushroom-steak saucy-thyme & rosemary-kind of bread? Ok? Yes! And beer! Yes! Pub bread! Or goat cheese and walnuts and honey…or…no, and figs! The possibilities are ENDLESS, I SAY!” By the time I hit “figs” Shawn had long left the office for the book he’s reading right now, but I was too caught up in my imagination to notice. So…yeah. This isn’t any healthier than the pull apart bread that I grew up with, but it’s definitely something I’ll happily snarf today.
Pull Apart Pub Bread
Makes 1 loaf
4 T butter
½ c dark or malty beer of your choice
2 ½ c all-purpose flour
1/3 c rye flour
2 T sugar
2 ¼ t yeast
1 t kosher salt
2 eggs, room temperature
3 slices bacon, chopped
8-10 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 T onion confit
3-4 cloves garlic confit, pureed
1 ½ t fresh thyme, minced
1 c dark or malty beer of your choice
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t paprika
1 t mustard seeds, ground
1 t black peppercorns, ground
¾ c swiss cheese, grated
¾ c cheddar cheese, grated
3 T oil from garlic confit
¼ c fresh parsley, minced
For the Dough:
Place the butter and ¼ c of the beer in a small saucepan and heat just until the butter melts. Remove from heat and add the remaining ¼ c beer. Set aside to cool.
Sift 2 c of the all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast, and salt into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the machine onto the lowest setting, pour the beer mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until only just combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the remaining all-purpose flour and the rye flour, mixing until combined. Stop the machine, then replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Turn the machine onto the lowest setting and knead for 3-4 minutes, then transfer the dough to a large, well-oiled mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the dough has doubled in size.
For the Filling:
Place the chopped bacon in a large sauté pan and heat over medium-low heat to render out the fat. Once the fat has been rendered, increase heat to medium to crisp the bacon pieces. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain, then drain off the bacon fat, keeping no more than 1 T in the pan. Return to sauté pan to the heat source. (If one should choose to omit the bacon, skip this step and heat 1 T butter or oil of your choice to brown the mushrooms with instead.)
Brown the mushrooms in the bacon fat, then transfer the mushrooms to the paper towel to drain with the bacon pieces. Remove the pan from the heat source, then wipe out the pan with a paper towel to remove the bacon fat.
Place the sauté pan back on the heat source, adding the browned mushrooms, onion confit, pureed garlic confit, minced thyme, beer, and Worcestershire sauce to the pan, stirring to combine. Once the mixture begins to bubble, lower heat and simmer until the liquids have reduced almost completely, leaving only the mushrooms and onions. The surfaces should be moist, but not dry. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Combine the paprika, cayenne, mustard, and black pepper in a small bowl, then toss with the grated cheeses. Cover the cheese in an air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to assemble the loaf.
Oil a bundt pan and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Flour a countertop, then turn the dough out onto the counter. Using a bread & pastry scraper or a large, sharp knife, cut the bread dough into 1 ½ - inch pieces, rolling each into a ball just under the size of a golf-ball.
Place the garlic confit oil into a small bowl. Dip one ball of dough into the oil, making sure the entire surface has been coated with the oil, then place the oiled ball of dough into the bundt pan. Repeat this process until the bottom of the pan has been covered with a single layer of dough balls. Sprinkle ¼ of the onion-mushroom mixture over this layer, followed by ¼ of the spiced cheese mixture, ¼ of the bacon, and 1 T parsley. Repeat the full layering process of dough, onion-mushroom, cheese, bacon, & parsley, finishing with a layer of dough.
Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30-40 minutes, then bake at 350°F for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a baking rack for 10 minutes before flipping it over onto a serving platter. Serve warm with cold beer.
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