Photo by Alice Gao

A recipe from The Vintage Baker

Jessie Sheehan
September 17, 2018

Flake-apart or pull-apart bread, for the uninitiated, is nothing short of your new favorite breakfast treat. Yeasted, enriched homemade bread dough is rolled out thin and cut into squares. The squares are then stacked one on top of the other like dominos, and placed in a loaf pan. Once baked, the slices fan out, and separate slightly. As the loaf gets passed around the table, each guest can tear off her own glorious slice, making for the most perfect of brunch activities—yes, more fun than reading the Style section or drinking mimosas. Here, the squares of dough are brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar and raisins, an ode to the Pepperidge Farm cinnamon-raisin toast of my youth. Although most folks refer to the bread, as “pull-apart,” I call it “flake-apart,” as the “buttercrust flake-aparts,” (tiny individual breads baked in muffin tins) from a 1951 Pillsbury recipe booklet, inspired my version. In fact, such booklets influenced all of the recipes in my book, The Vintage Baker. And though many have equally as whimsical names as this bread, and are certainly equally as delicious, few provide such engaging hands-on entertainment around the morning table. Pretty sure you wouldn’t want to miss out on that, just saying. 

Jessie Sheehan's Cinnamon-Raisin Flake-Apart Bread

Serves 12

Ingredients

Dough
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (140 grams) bread flour
2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
¼ cup (45 grams) potato starch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (240 milliliters) whole milk, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature

Filling
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup (105 grams) raisins

Step 1

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.

Step 2

For 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 the butter, milk, and egg and mix in medium-low speed until a shaggy dough forms.

Step 3

Replace the paddle with the dough hook attachment. On 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, 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.

Step 4

Transfer the dough into the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until it has practically doubled in size.

Step 5

For the filling. In a small bowl, whisk the cinnamon and sugar to combine. Set aside.

Step 6

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 (550 cm by 38 cm).

Step 7

Generously brush the dough with the melted butter *you will have some left over). Evenly sprinkle the raisins over the dough, pressing them in with your fingers. Top with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Step 8

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 raisins will fall off as you do this, just stick them back into the dough or sprinkle them on top of the loaf.

Step 9

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 ½ times its original size.

Step 10

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).

Bake the bread until nicely browned, 40 to 45 minutes. Tent the loaf with aluminium 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 200ºF (95ºC). If you do not have a thermometer, stick a paring knife in between the “flakes” to confirm that the dough is cooked through.

Step 11

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and brush the top with the extra melted butter. 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.

Recipe reprinted from The Vintage Baker by Jessie Sheehan with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018

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