There is just something about a loaf of bread that offers a sense of tranquility. That sounds really corny, I realize, but bread as a symbol carries with it so many connotations of warmth, comfort, and love. Even the process of making bread is therapeutic. First, you must precisely measure and sift, really focusing on the task at hand. Then comes the kneading and beating of the dough, an activity that is almost primal it’s so basic. After that comes patience and mindfulness. You cannot rush the rise of the dough but you certainly have to keep an eye on progress. Your patience is then rewarded with a soft and billowy orb almost too beautiful to destroy, but then like a toddler with a tower of blocks you plunge your fist into the middle and begin to mold and shape your creation into something that fits your vision, your imagination. One more quick dose of waiting and then all of your effort and hard work is baked into a fragrant, chewy, and delicious accomplishment.
When you think of it that way, making a loaf of bread is a shortened version of life. It can certainly represent the creation and the growth, the struggle and the success, and then the realization of self and the product of a life well lived. To that life you can add your own flavor, your own ingredients and techniques, but there are many things that cannot change in order for it to be successful. You have to have the time, the patience, and the fortitude to get a delicious result.
This Italian Pull Apart Bread is not difficult to make, but it does take a little time. Most of the time is in the waiting so its a perfect project for a dreary Sunday at home. The basic yeast dough can be used in lots of different ways and it is the same basic recipe that I use for my Walnut Chocolate Chip Rolls. The seasoning I used for this recipe comes from Penzey’s Spices (not an affiliate link), a place that is near and dear to my heart. Their spice and herb blends are expertly crafted and I relish getting to try new blends whenever they come out. I used a blend called Fox Point for this recipe and it’s savory and floral notes have just the right amount of each to make this pull-apart bread really sing.
- 1 recipe of the Basic Yeast Bread
- 1/4 cup of Italian Herbes de Provence, or other savory herb seasoning ( I used Fox Point seasoning from Penzey's Spices)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 2 T olive oil
Basic Yeast Dough
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup softened butter
- 7 cups all purpose flour, divided
- 2 pkgs active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
For the Basic Dough
- For the dough: Heat the milk and butter over low heat in a small saucepan until butter is melted. Set aside and let cool to about 120 degrees.
- Meanwhile, combine 4 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a bowl and whisk. Beat in the milk mixture and then the eggs (do the milk before the eggs so that the eggs won't cook). Continue to beat for another 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
For the Pull Apart Bread
- Prepare the Yeast dough through the first rise. Punch down the dough and then cut the dough in half. Using one half, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball, cover and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Combine the cheese and seasoning together in a small bowl.Flatten each ball into a 4x3 inch oval. Brush each side with olive oil, and sprinkle one side with the seasoning and cheese. Stand a loaf pan on it's short end and lay the oval shaped dough into the pan herb covered side down. Repeat with the remaining balls, making sure that the herb covered sides of the dough balls touch the non-herb covered sides.
- When finished, gently place the loaf pan right side up and cover with a towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Repeat with remaining half of dough.
- Tip: Don't worry if the dough doesn't fill up the whole loaf pan. As it rises it will fill in any space.
- Preheat the oven to 375. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack.