Pull-apart ham and cheese loaf with wasabi mayo



Hello!
Nothing like a warm crusty bread to start the new year with, particularly one that involves a bit of pulling and sharing.

Isn't it amazing what you can do with bread dough - other that shaping it into a loaf of bread? Pull-apart breads, also called tear and share breads, are undergoing a revival of sorts these days. They make great conversation topics when you have a bunch of people over for a meal or are just the thing to serve with soup at a quiet family dinner. That's how versatile they are.

Cheese & chives

It was a day when I had some chives on hand. Usually I have no chives on hand. In fact, I've never had chives in the house. Never ever. Tried to grow them too but no luck. Anyway, the previous day, I had gone to the veggie store and seen this huge bunch of chives that had been grown somewhere in western India. It must have come to Chennai by air in business class as it was priced at some astronomical amount. Still, it looked fresh and green and the cashier was willing to sell me a small handful for 20 bucks.

A pull-apart loaf, or two, was what I had in mind; one with ham and cheese the other with just cheese and chives. Classic combinations, right? And wasabi mayo from scratch to dip it in. The dough for the loaf is simple to make, and it just so happens to be a no-egg one. Just bung all the ingredients into the bowl of your planetary mixer, food processor or on the countertop and mix and knead into a smooth dough. While it is rising, chop up the ham, the chives and grate the cheese. And oh... make the mayo (recipe here). The tools you will need are a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, a rolling pin, a brush, pair of scissors (or a pizza cutter) and a 3" round cutter.

When you've made your dough and the first proofing is over, divide it into 2 and roll out each into a 12" circle. It doesn't really matter if your circle is not really a circle, aim to have both somewhat the same shape and size.

There's mayo, ham, chives and cheese on this half

On one of the circles, spread a thin layer of mayo, leaving 1/2" of the rim plain. Sprinkle over the ham, cheese and chives, brush a little water over the uncovered rim and place the other circle over.

Ensure that the circles are more or less in position and stick the edges together. Transfer the roll onto the parchment-lined baking tray. Place the round cutter in the middle and mark a circle. Use the scissors or the pizza cutter and cut the dough into quarters and each quarter into half. You are now looking at 8 sections. Don't cut into the centre of the dough.

Mark off sections before slicing


Cut each of the 8 sections into 3, making a total of 24 sections. (In case your oven is too small to hold this size of loaf, make 2 smaller loaves and slice each into 16 sections.) Hold each section and twist it twice and place it down. Just make sure all the sections are twisted in the same direction.

...and twist into shape

This is how the finished loaf should look like. Brush a beaten egg all over and scatter a few black sesame seeds over the centre and leave it to rise for about 45 minutes or till doubled in size. Pop it into a hot oven and bake for about 25 minutes or till golden brown, whichever happens first.


Ta-da!!!
No wonder it's called a sunflower loaf.

You could stuff it with anything from nutella to brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, chopped nuts, cheese and chillies or pesto with minced meat, finely diced and cooked veggies or even garlic butter. Do remember that if you're doing a sweet version, skip the mayo.


Pull apart ham and cheese loaf

Ingredients (for 1 loaf)
350 gm plain flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon milk powder
1 teaspoon gluten
50 gm soft butter
About 200 ml water

Filling
1/2 bunch chives or spring onions, chopped
3 slices ham, chopped
100 gm cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
Black sesame seeds

Method
Place all the ingredients for the bread, except for the butter and water, into the bowl of a planetary mixer.
Add in half the water and turn on the motor.
Add in the butter and enough water to form a soft dough. This should take about 10 minutes.
If you prefer to knead by hand, you could follow the instructions here.
Cover the bowl with a lid, leave to rise for about an hour or till the dough is double in size.
While the dough is rising, chop the chives and ham and grate the cheese.
When the dough has proofed, push down to expel the air and briefly knead it.
Divide into 2 and place one half on a worktop dusted with flour.

Almost the same shape and size

Roll out the dough into a fairly thin 12-inch circle, repeat with the other half of the dough.
Spread a thin layer of mayo all over one circle, leave 1/2 inch of the rim plain.

Chop the filling fine

Scatter chives (or spring onions), ham and cheese evenly over the circle.
Wet the rim and place the second circle over it, tug lightly to align the edges.
Press the edges together and place on the lined baking sheet.
Transfer the roll onto the parchment-lined baking tray.
Place the round cutter in the middle and mark a circle.
Use the scissors or the pizza cutter and cut the dough into quarters and each quarter into half.
You should now have 8 sections. Don't cut into the centre of the dough.

Cut into 8 sections

Cut each of the 8 sections into 3, leaving you with a total of 24 sections. (In case you are making a smaller loaf, slice it into 16 sections.)

Almost there...

Hold each section and twist it twice and place it down. Just make sure all the sections are twisted in the same direction.
Brush beaten egg all over and scatter black sesame seeds over the centre.

And done...

Leave the loaf to rise for about 45 minutes or till doubled in size.
Pop it into a preheated 190°C oven and bake for about 25 minutes or till golden brown.
Remove the baked loaf onto a wire rack.
Serve with mayo or wasabi mayo.

I made a second batch of dough and stuffed it with just cheese and chives.

Mark, slice & twist

Ready for 2nd proofing



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