As I promised last week, I am taking you (food-wise) places. First off it’s this recipe: a sweet(-ish) bread with a Caribbean feel to it, made up of coconut milk and lime zest and with just enough rum in it to tingle your nostrils while you knead the dough and when you seem to be unable to stop your hand from reaching for another layer of bread once it’s been baked. Because this is not your average loaf of bread. This is pull-apart, melt-in-your-mouth, I-can’t-seem-to-stop-pulling bread. The gist of it is in the shaping of the loaf. Instead of just rolling it up like a big sausage and slapping it into the loaf tin, this recipe demands a good twenty minutes of precise, measured use of rolling pin and pizza cutter and careful balancing of neat stacks of dough into the waiting loaf tin in order to build your tower of flat squares of dough slathered in butter and flavoured sugar. This engineered process, beautifully described in pictures by Joy (may I just suggest you take a look if you’re going to bake this?) also entails handling a fairly sticky dough, which takes no more time to prepare than your average bread dough but requires a lot more ingredients.
If you’re anything like my mum, at this point you’ll have already lost your will to live and reached for your go-to recipe, muttering something along the lines of “just too much hassle…can’t be bothered…what’s the point…”. Let me just stop you right there, then, and listen to this: pull-apart bread is the best sweet thing to have come out of my oven in a long, long time. It’s the queen of sweet breads. It’s the apotheosis of yeasted concoctions. It will finish within an hour of you taking it out of the oven, your hand reaching for the loaf without your brain wanting it to (or at least that’s what you’ll think). Taste aside, this bread actually is the perfect example to show the great benefit of being part of the food blogging community. I first spotted pull-apart bread filled with cinnamon sugar over at Joy the Baker and then traced the original recipe at Leite’s Culinaria, where this very recipe comes from (link below). After drooling over the mushed up blueberries squeezed in between layers of sweet bread over at Kitchen Corners, I couldn’t help but appreciate the savoury irony of Deb of Smitten Kitchen fame. One recipe suddenly gaining a lot of attention, many re-interpretations of it coming from bloggers all over the world: such is the greatness of food blogs.
For the dough, stir together about 3/4 of the flour with sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl and set aside. In a small pan, melt the butter in the coconut milk. As soon as the butter is melted, take off the heat, add the water and let cool for about a minute or so, then add the rum. Pour the liquids into the flour mixture and mix until evenly incorporated. Add the eggs and keep mixing with a silicone or wooden spatula. Add the remaining flour and tip the mixture on to the kitchen counter. Start kneading it until it becomes a smooth, sticky and springy dough, about 5 minutes. Then place the dough in a clean bowl, wrap in cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour. For the lime sugar, mix the sugar and zest from limes and lemon in a bowl and set aside until needed. Melt the butter if you haven’t already. When the dough is ready, roll it out with the rolling pin until you have a (kind of) rectangle about 0.5 cm thick. With a pastry brush, spread the melted butter evenly on thr surface of the dough. Spread the lime sugar evenly all over the dough and cut it in 4 long strips. Gently lift each strip and place it on top of another one, so that you have a pile of 5 long strips. Now cut the pile crosswise, ending up with 6 stacks of dough, each with a square-like base. Grease and flour your loaf tin, or line it in baking parchment paper like I did (saves on the washing). Start filling the tin with the stacks of dough. To do this, I lifted the tin vertically and gently piled the stacks in it. When you finish, cover the loaf tin with cling film and preheat the oven to 175°C. Leave the bread to prove for about 30 minutes, then bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let it cool down for at least 15 minutes before pulling the pull-apart bread apart.