So, here’s the thing, peeps, I love being invited to collaborate with other bloggers, all of us developing recipes and posting them on the same day, because it usually forces me to bake with an ingredient to which I don’t usually turn. In this instance, I was invited to create a recipe calling for leeks and asked to post said recipe – umh – today, along with a whole gaggle of other food folks who are also posting leek inspired recipes (check out the hashtag #leeksonfleek to see all the awesome leek content).
Truth be told, when I first learned that the ingredient we’d all be working with was leeks, I almost decided to opt out. But then I got to thinking about savory baked goods – like ham and extra cheesy muffins ( a recipe I’ll be developing for my first newspaper feature – more on that coming soon!) or everything biscuits with cream cheese and roasted tomatoes and I got kind of – dare I say – inspired.
At first I thought I would make a caramelized leek no-knead bread, as no-knead is my kind of bread-making process. But then I remembered the flake-apart bread (the old-fashioned, dare I say “vintage,” name for pull-apart bread) from The Vintage Baker, and one of my fave recipes from the book (and Oprah’s too!) and I knew I’d be making a leeky loaf of yeasty yumminess.
Flake-apart or pull-apart bread, for the uninitiated, is almost like a monkey bread, except instead of rolling dough into small balls and baking them all together in a bundt or tube pan, you stack small squares of rolled-out dough, one upon another, in a loaf pan, vertically, like a row of dominos standing up straight. After it is baked, you pull each piece off of the loaf with your fingers, as opposed to cutting it into slices. For this pull-apart bread, I added copious amounts of black pepper and cheese, as leeks are nice and all, but leeks accompanied by cheese and pepper are even better.
If yeast intimidates you, never fear. This recipe calls for instant yeast which I find much easier to work with than regular yeast, as you do not need to proof it and if your ingredients are a bit cooler than you’d like, your yeast will not be negatively effected.The assembly is a little funny, as you must roll out the dough, cover it in cheese and pepper and leeks, cut it into squares, and then carefully pile them up, before setting them vertically in the pan. But I lead you through it, I promise. Finally, if you are wondering how or when you should eat this leeky cheesy peppery loaf, I suggest coordinating its baking with the arrival of dinner guests and setting it out warm for all your pals to pull from while sipping pre-meal cocktails, with some salted butter on the side, if you are feeling frisky. Or, do what I did: bake off the loaf in the late afternoon and eat it straight from the oven, while leaning against the counter. spreading at least a pad of butter on every bite, and call it dinner.
Cheesy Caramelized Leek Black Pepper Pull-Apart Bread
Cheesy Caramelized Leek Black Pepper Pull-Apart Bread
- 2 cups 280 grams all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- 1 cup 140 grams bread flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 1/4 cup 45 grams potato starch
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup 240 milliliters whole milk, at room temperature, plus more if needed
- 1 egg at room temperature
- Cheesy Filling with Leeks
- 2 large leeks about one pound, white and light green parts only
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter divided, or more
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Grease a medium bowl with vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray. Grease a 9-in-by-5-in (23-cm-by-12-cm) loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or softened butter. Line the bottom and two short sides with parchment paper and grease again.
- To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the all-purpose and bread flours, yeast, sugar, salt, and potato starch and mix until incorporated. Add butter, milk, and egg and mix in medium-low speed until a shaggy dough forms, and all of the dry bits at the bottom of the bowl are incorporated.
- Replace the paddle with the dough hook attachment. On medium to medium-high speed, knead the dough until a smooth mass forms that comes off the sides of the bowl and sticks only a bit to the bottom, if at all, 5 to 7 minutes. If the dough is very sticky, add a little extra flour. Alternatively, if it’s too dry, add a bit of milk, until it sticks just a bit.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it has practically doubled in size.
- To make the filling, coarsely chop the leeks. Melt the butter with the olive oil over medium high heat in a cast-iron skillet or medium pot, like a Creuset. Once melted, add the leeks and the salt and stir with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and cover, cooking until the leeks soften, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the cover, increase the heat or medium-high, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks are quite soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and bring to room temp.
- In the dough feels too sticky to work with, lightly flour the counter before turning the dough out onto it. Using your hands, shape the dough into a rectangle, with the longest side closest to you. With a rolling pin or your hands, form a rectangle roughly 20 in by 15 in.
- Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and generously brush the dough with the it. Evenly sprinkle the black pepper, cheese and leeks over the dough, pressing them in with your fingers.
- Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the rectangle the long way into 6 equal strips. Stack the 6 strips on top of each other and cut the layered strips the short way into 6 equal pieces. Stack the 36 pieces upright in the prepared pan, like you would slices of bread, or dominoes. The leeks and cheese may fall off as you do this, just stick them back into the dough or sprinkle them on top of the loaf.
- Tightly wrap the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, let the bread sit at room temperature for about 30 to 45 minutes before removing the plastic and baking.
- Or, if you want to bake right away, loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the bread rises to about 1 1/2 times its original size.
- Preheat the oven to 375-degrees F.
- Bake the bread until nicely browned, 40 to 45 minutes. Tent the loaf with aluminum foil at the 35-minute mark, to keep the top of the loaf from getting too brown. The bread is done with its internal temperature is 200-degrees F. If you do not have a thermometer, stick a paring knife in between the “flakes” to confirm that the dough is cooked through.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and brush the top with the extra melted butter, melting more if need be. Let cool until the pan is easy to handle, remove the load, and let cool, right-side-up, on a wire rack. Serve warm.
- The bread is best the day it is made, but can be stored, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, on the counter for up to 3 days. Toasting the day-old bread is awfully nice, too.