Every great bread-baking cookbook has a plethora of phenomenal recipes for enjoying the spongy, yeasty fruits of your labor. Food writer and recipe developer Alexandra Stafford’s new book celebrates every part of bread-making. We celebrate these buttermilk pull-apart rolls.
Brushed with butter and sprinkled with sea salt, this slightly sweet old-fashioned pull-apart bread resembles Parker House rolls in texture. They are festive on a holiday table but easy enough to make any night of the week. The pans filled with unbaked rolls can be stored overnight in the fridge, too.
This recipe yields about two dozen rolls, which are baked in two 8-inch pans. It sounds like a lot, but before you think about halving the recipe, consider saving one pan for dessert: halve the rolls crosswise, brush with melted butter, toast briefly, and top them with whipped cream and strawberries.
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus at least 1/4 cup for dusting
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- softened unsalted butter, for greasing
- Flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel, for sprinkling
For the rolls
In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups flour, the salt, sugar, and instant yeast. In a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over the buttermilk and stir to combine — the mixture will look slightly curdled. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then add it to the flour mixture. Add 4 tablespoons of the melted butter.
Using a rubber spatula, mix until the liquid is absorbed and the ingredients form a sticky dough ball. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and set it aside in a warm spot to rise for 1½ to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in bulk.
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375°F. Grease two 8-inch circle or square baking pans generously with the softened butter. Using two forks, deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center. Rotate the bowl quarter turns as you deflate, turning the mass into a rough ball.
Spread ¼ cup of the flour onto a clean surface. Using your two forks and working from the center out, separate the dough into two equal pieces. Use the forks to lift one half of the dough onto your clean surface. Using as much flour as necessary from the surface, dust your hands and the exterior of the dough, then shape the mass as best you can into a ball. Using a bench scraper or a knife, divide the mass into 10 to 12 equal-size pieces, each 1- to 2-inches in diameter. Using as much flour as needed to prevent sticking, roll each piece into a ball — it’s okay if each piece is a little misshapen — then transfer to one of the prepared pans, spacing them evenly apart. Repeat with the remaining dough and the second pan. Do not cover the pans. Let the dough rise on the countertop near the oven (or another warm, draft-free spot) for 20 to 25 minutes or longer (up to 1 hour if they’ve been refrigerated), until the dough pieces have puffed to almost fill the pans.
Transfer both pans to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven and immediately brush the surfaces with the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Let the bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto cooling racks and invert it again onto plates. Let the bread rest for 5 minutes before serving.