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As a baker, I find savory pull-apart bread one of the most magical things to create. Once you master the basic technique, you can use any fillings you like (bacon and shallots, blue cheese and fig, cheddar and herbs...). I love the way the warm cheese pulls into long, gooey ribbons as you rip off a piece of warm bread. This is the ideal style of bread to serve at a party and watch as people tear off chunks to nibble.
I call this a savory babka, as the dough is a less sugary version of my master babka dough recipe, and you need to use a babka-shaping technique for this loaf: Roll it into a long log, slice it in half, twist the two pieces together. However, if you get picky about the historic details (or you’re Jerry Seinfeld), you might take issue with calling this babka as it isn’t sweet or filled with chocolate.
But rather than argue semantics, let’s all eat some warm bread, shall we?
Start with a simple dough as your blank canvas. This dough is a dream to work with. It’s soft and elastic and buttery enough that you don’t need to flour your work surface when you roll it out. (If you end up wanting to use the dough for a sweet recipe, just up the sugar to 3 tablespoons.)
For this recipe, I’ve added in some cheddar cheese powder and garlic powder to give the dough an extra savory kick. You can absolutely leave those out if you don’t have them, or don’t want them. The filling will provide more than enough flavor.
I was inspired by a monkey bread recipe from the ever-so-wonderful Alexandra Stafford, in which she pairs Dijon mustard with Gruyere and scallions. Whole-grain mustard is a fantastic flavor enhancer for cheese and savory breads, and a little goes a long way. If you’re not a mustard lover, I recommend still using it. It’s a small amount, and rather than adding pronounced mustard flavor, it just boosts the umami element of the bread.
Enamel Loaf Pan
If you want, you can shape this bread in many ways. Instead of slicing the log lengthwise in a babka-style, you could slice it into pieces like a cinnamon roll and bake it in a round cake pan. You could twist the log into a wreath, or cut off slices and bake them individually in a muffin tin.
Any way you bake it, you’ll find it cheesy and addictive and a new favorite in your repertoire.
- 7 ounces milk (2% or whole)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
- 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons Vermont cheddar cheese powder (optional, for more flavor)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional, for more flavor)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing the dough
- 1/4 cup sliced scallions
- 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
- 3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup toasted black or white sesame seeds
How do you like to eat your babka? Let us know in the comments!