Apple pull apart bread! Apple pie filling and bourbon soaked cranberries all sandwiched between layers of sweet bread dough and then topped with a cider glaze. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s messy and yummy and you need to go get some apples to make this right now.
Last year I saw a picture of an apple pull apart bread on the cover of a magazine and I thought ‘OMG, I gotta make that!’ Because it looked so good. 🙂 And it reminded me of all the times I made monkey bread with my daughter when she was smaller. Monkey bread is so much fun with smaller hands since they can work each little ball of dough and it’s supposed to look rustic.
However, for this apple bread it was sometime in November that I saw it when I needed to be thinking about comforting (or light or comforting AND light) post-holiday food for January and February, and not working on apple recipes. We have to stay seasonal here and people want apple recipes in the fall!
Admit it, you do.
It’s okay. I do too. I just made an Apple Cake last night because it’s fall and I need to make apple recipes, darn it!
Fast forward to August, when I haven’t forgotten about the idea for apple pie bread, and it was time to make a loaf. Yay!
First things first, I needed to decide on the apples. When I’m making an apple pie, I like to use 3-4 varieties to provide layered flavors and variations in texture and all those good things, and this bread is no different. Well…a little different. 🙂 But it still uses several apples, which means you can pick 2 or 3 types.
I ended up going with half local Honeycrisp apples, since they are one of my favorite apples in texture and flavor, along with a Macintosh and a couple of Cortlands, but Braeburn, Jonah Gold, Pink Lady, Northern Spy, or any other apple you would like in your pie would be great choices as well.
Don’t see those varieties and aren’t sure what apple to use? If you are at a farm stand, and they don’t have ‘great for pies’ labels on their apples, ASK. Or just wing it. Honestly, no matter what apples you use, apple pie pull apart bread is going to be tasty. (Though I would still stay away from using more than one Macintosh since you will get more applesauce than apple slices.)
Second, I needed a dough.
This is when my Art & Soul of Baking cookbook came to the rescue. This is the cookbook from Sur La Table, and one of my favorite references for baking ideas.
I flipped through until I got to the section on Rich Breakfast Dough and I knew that was just what I needed. A sweet dough enriched with butter and eggs, but not so rich that I couldn’t add the filling and glaze without it being too much. A really awesome brioche is awesome, but it needs little adornment since it is perfect as itself. If you are going to make a pull apart bread you need to take it down a few notches.
One thing I want to note about the dough is that, though it will look a bit dry before you start adding the butter, it is going to look seriously shaggy when you are working in the butter, before becoming all smooth and pretty at the end. I’m noting this because the Sur la Table recipe states that it will look shaggy before you add the butter and smooth out once you start, which isn’t quite accurate. 🙂
Third was deciding how to make the apple filling, and this one was easy. Just like my apple pie! Boom…done.
Well, not quite since I decided I totally needed to embellish the filling with dried cranberries. The husband (and chief taster) thought I should soak them in bourbon first. And that was a great idea! There is a reason he is my chief taster.
Next, I needed to think about how I was going to assemble it!
One thing to note: It is going to be messy no matter what. Accept this and move on.
However, I did determine, after trying a few different concepts, that rolling out the dough, spreading out the apple filling over the dough and slicing it into strips and then squares, did work the best. Once you have the squares, you pick them up, one or two at a time and layer them in the pan, being sure to scoop up any runaway apple bits as you work.
Oh, and totally use some parchment paper if you want any hope of getting the bread out of the pan. This bread is sticky!
Now that I had the best and yummiest apple pull apart bread, I needed the last piece. A topping!
While you can make the bread without the topping, I highly recommend that extra ooomph. (This is a serious, technical baking term.) Cinnamon, cream cheese, and intense cider flavor turn the bread from pretty awesome to seriously craveable.
So go forth and bake apple pull apart bread full of apple pie filling, and remember it’s supposed to be rustic and craggy. Don’t worry and bake bread.
– Happy Baking, Annemarie
Apple Pie Pull Apart Bread
Apple Pie Filling
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 lbs (6 medium) apples, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 cup apple cider
Rich Breakfast Dough
- 1/2 cup warm whole milk, 110-115F
- 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 egg yolk, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour, or bread flour
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 8 tbsp (4 oz) unsalted butter, very soft but not melted
- 1 cup apple cider
- 2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
Apple Pie Filling
- Before you begin to peel and slice the apples, set the cranberries in the bourbon to soak.
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Once it's melted, add the apples, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Bring the apples to a simmer, then cover the pot, lower the heat to low and let the mixture simmer until the apples are soft and have released their juices, about 10-12 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon scoop out the apples into a bowl. (Alternately use a colander set over the bowl and pour everything into the colander. Then return the juices to the pot.) Drain the cranberries, set them aside, and add the bourbon and apple cider to the pot. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until reduced to 1/4 - 1/3 cup, 6-8 minutes.
- Combine the apples, reduced juices, and cranberries in the bowl and set it aside to cool. This takes about 1 hour at which time your dough will be ready too.
Rich Breakfast Dough
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the warm milk and the sugar by hand. Add the eggs and whisk to combine. Attach the dough hook and add the flour, salt, and yeast. Mix on low for 2 minutes to incorporate the flour and then increase the speed to medium for 1 minute.
- With the mixer on medium, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Allow each addition to mix in before adding the next, about 30 seconds each time. Once you've added all the butter, continue kneading the dough for 5-6 minutes, until the dough looks soft and smooth.
- Grease the bowl of the mixer and the dough with a little butter, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it in a warm corner of the kitchen to let it rise. When the dough has doubled, 1 - 1 1/2 hours later, it is time to punch down the dough and go to the next step.
Assemble and Bake the Bread
- Get out a 9x5 inch loaf pan and cut off a piece of parchment paper large enough to fill the pan with some overhanging on the sides. Grease the pan so the paper will stick in place and then grease the paper. This bread is sticky!
- Set your risen dough on a board and roll it out into a rectangle 12x15 inches in size. Slice the dough into 6 strips, each 3x12 and each strip into 4 squares. Spread out the cooled filling on the dough, leaving two squares alone. Those squares will fill in at the end of the bread.
- Begin transferring the apple covered squares of dough into the prepared pan. Place the first two so that the dough side is against the end of the pan. And then add the rest in the same direction. This way you will have equal amounts of dough and apple filling all along the bread. Take the last two squares and slip them into the other end. You will need to scoop up fallen filling as you go and press the squares up against the end of the pan. Once you are done, you can smooth things out a little bit and make sure it is as even as you want it to be. (Remember: rustic.)
- Cover the bread with plastic wrap and set it that corner of the kitchen to rise for 1 hour. At the half hour mark, preheat the oven to 350F.
- Remove the plastic wrap and bake the bread for 30 minutes. Then cover the top of the bread with aluminum foil and continue baking for 25-35 minutes. Check the center of the bread. Once it reaches 190F, or a skewer comes out clean, take the bread out.
- Let the bread rest for 10 minutes, then carefully pull it out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.
- While the apple bread is cooling, boil the cider. In a medium saucepan, boil the cider down to 2-3 tablespoons. This will take about 12 minutes. Set it aside to cool completely.
- Using a hand mixer, whip together the cream cheese, cinnamon, allspice, and cider. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat it in on low until the sugar is combined, then increase the speed to high until the glaze is smooth.
- Spoon the glaze over the cooled apple bread and serve.
- If you are using active dry yeast you may need to dissolve the yeast in the milk for 5-10 minutes before mixing it with the dry ingredients. Check your packet/container. Active dry used to need to be dissolved, however there are new formulations which don't need to be. Instant yeast is my preference since I can add it right to the flour every time without any extra steps.
- I usually put my dough in the cold oven during its first rise. It's draft free and cat free, which are both good things.
- You can of course switch the dough to a new bowl or a sealable tub, but why dirty a new container?
- Don't want to use the bourbon in the filling? Switch to 1/2 cup of apple cider and use that for the filling and to soak the cranberries.
- If for some reason you started the dough before making the filling*, spread the filling out on a tray to cool it faster. The filling really does need to be room temp or just slightly warm when you are assembling the bread. (*and I don't know anyone who has done that)
- With room temperature filling, the bread bakes in 55-60 minutes total. If you have put the filling in the refrigerator, it will take longer. If the filling was used directly from the refrigerator, you will also need to wait longer for the rise. Honestly, it is not a variable I've worked with too much. With a slightly chilled filling, my rise took a little longer (75 minutes) and the bread wasn't quite done at 65 minutes in the oven.