I have been wanting for years to make my Nana’s amazing pull-apart rolls and the recipe (which I got from my mom) that I had just did NOT work. The last time I tried to make it was around 2005 or 2006, and it pretty much tasted entirely of yeast. Gross. I asked my mom and a couple of my cousins if they had any other versions of the recipe, and theirs was the same as mine. So I just figured I’d never have Nana’s special bread again (although she did make a mean monkey bread, which is pretty easy to do, so there is that). Enter my amazing Aunt Jane. She dug around for a couple days and found the original typewritten copy (dictated by Nana, typed by Pappaw using his trusty typewriter and edited with clarifications when he thought it necessary), took a photo of it with her phone and texted it to me and I made it today!!
Reading through the recipe brought back so many memories–my sister and me playing with Pappaw’s typewriter, Pappaw typing up his sermons and putting on his ‘good hair’ for church (lol), us making Jell-o in the kitchen with Nana (always mixing it in Mason bell jars), picking vegetables in the backyard, and of course Nana serving this yummy bread every Christmas. I can still see all my cousins around the table and remember the fun times we had! I never laugh so hard as I do when I’m with my cousins. And at the end of those meals, there was never ANY bread left. If you were even able to get second helping of it that was a bonus. In the photo of the recipe isn’t it sweet that Nana’s little signature is at the bottom? :o)
Moving on! If you’ve baked with yeast before you know that there are a ton of instructions and temperatures and measurements that need to be exact as possible…and I personally have not liked any of the yeast breads I’ve made by hand (thank God for my breadmaker!), other than Amish Friendship Bread, which grows its own yeast, so I was a bit worried about getting this one right. In the recipe Nana used some of her own vernacular (“don’t put too many pieces in but don’t put too few–you’ll know how many to do so that it’s just right” lol) and some of the measurements (such as saying a cube of butter instead of a stick of butter) can be confusing, so I’m going to try and make everything as simple and clear as possible so that you can make this recipe too! It is actually real easy and so very worth it. :o)
***FYI before you get started–you have to start this bread in the evening, let it sit in the fridge overnight and then bake it the next day, so don’t start in the afternoon and think it’ll be ready for dinner–it’s just not that kinda bread. It IS easy to make, but it is definitely a bread dough that values alone time for personal growth (HA!).
PULL-IT BREAD (YIELD: Three 8-inch pans of bread)
- 1 cup milk
- 3/4 cup butter (cold is fine)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 eggs
- 4 cups sifted flour
- 3/4 cup butter
- sesame seeds
1. In a small pot, scald the milk (ie, heat until it’s almost boiling). Pour into a medium-sized bowl and add 3/4 cup butter, 1 1/2 tsp salt, a 1/2 cup sugar, and stir until blended. Note: the heat of the milk will help dissolve the sugar & salt, melt the butter and hold it all together.
2. While the milk mix cools, start your yeast in another small bowl or measuring cup. Mix warm water (between 110 and 120 degrees–use a candy thermometer to get the temp right!!) with the 1 tsp of sugar and stir until dissolved, then add the yeast. Stir again and allow to sit and foam up for 5-10 minutes. If you look at the photo below, the very bottom (slightly darker) portion of the yeast is the original part that I mixed together, and everything above it is the risen-up yeast.
3. Pour risen yeast into the bowl with the milk mix and stir til blended.
4. In another separate bowl, beat 3 eggs until foamy. I recommend a hand mixer.
5. Add eggs into the milk mix and stir gently until blended. 6. Add 4 cups of sifted flour into the bowl and gently stir until evenly mixed. It will be very lumpy. I also dropped accidentally dropped a bunch of flour and before I could wipe it up, Zippy snarfed it right up off the floor….wouldn’t have thought plain dry flour would be tasty…course he also eats leaves and turds so who am I to question such a discerning palate?
7. Cover bowl (with a towel or lightweight baking cloth) and place somewhere warm and let it rise until it doubles in size, around 30 minutes to an hour. I put my bowl on my dining room table and placed a space heater near it and found that it didn’t rise very much over the course of an hour, so I moved the towel back a little bit so some air could get in and out of the bowl and then it doubled up in about 30 minutes. Look at that nice rise!
8. Stir the dough back down, cover and place in the fridge overnight.
9. DAY 2. Take 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) and use some of it to grease 3 8-inch cake pans. You can melt it if you like but I find it easier and way less messy to just peel the wrapper back and rub the flat end all over the pans. Make sure you get every inch greased up. A thick layer is fine.
10. Take a third of the dough out of the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface–I prefer parchment paper taped to the counter. Gently roll the dough into a ball and then hold it in your hand and pat it lightly into a flat disc til it’s about a half inch thick. Place back onto floured surface and use your hands to flatten and spread it out. It will probably be around 9-12 inches across. Cut into strips that are about a 1/2 inch wide.
11. Melt the remainder of the butter (plus another 1/4 cup), then pour into a shallow pan. At this point the doggies are getting real interested in what I’m up to. Noses a-sniffing!
12. Dip a strip of dough into the melted butter, then starting from the middle of the cake pan, make a spiral in the middle, and continue to add each of the other strips (dipping them in butter first) around it to make one big spiral. Each time you add a new strip, press the end of it onto the end of the previous strip to make a continuous rope. Do not squeeze them too close together and when you get close to the outer edge of the pan, make sure to leave a bit of a space around the outermost edge–you want room for the dough to rise. Repeat the process to fill the other two pans. Pour any remaining melted butter over each pan so that the top of each spiral is evenly coated. I think the heat of the butter helps the dough to rise but I’m no scientist. Sprinkle sesame seeds onto each spiral.
13. Put the pans somewhere warm, cover with a light cloth, and allow to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours. I put mine in my dining room, stuck a space heater about 2 feet away from them (if it has multiple settings, put it on medium or high and make sure it’s no closer than 2 feet away) and left a little gap in the towel on top of each pan so that air could circulate under it. This is called ‘proofing’. Nana liked to put her dough to proof in her laundry room (which adjoined her kitchen) while the dryer was going lol. In my case, the dining room had some sunshiney warmth coming in, the space heater provided a warm breeze and I put up gates in the doorways so that my dogs couldn’t mess with my little masterpieces. The dough should rise until it is near to the top edges of the pan. I had to shift my pans around so that they all got air from the space heater equally. By the way, isn’t my baking towel cute? It’s about as thin as muslin and perfect for proofing.
See the difference before & after the dough rose? The spirals are fatter and taller.
14. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the pans on the middle rack and bake for 15 minutes or till very light gold and the middle is not spongy (stick a toothpick in the middle and make sure it comes in and out both easily and cleanly). The dough will have come all the way to the top or higher than the edge of the pan. If you have a convection oven, start checking on it at around the 11 minute mark to make sure it doesn’t get burnt.
15. Allow to cool, then either serve straight from the pan or flip it over onto a plate to serve. It doesn’t need any more butter at this point (HA! we went through almost 4 sticks) but it’s tasty with jam and cinnamon, according to Nana. This is SUCH yummy bread–I brought it to dinner with 4 other people and even though I was serving some very filling lasagna, we still ate two of the three pans of bread!
15. LEFTOVERS: Wrap in plastic wrap (I like press n seal), then foil, then place in a ziploc bag and freeze. When you want to serve the bread, remove from the freezer, take off the plastic & foil wraps (duh) and place on folded foil and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. You do not have to thaw it before putting it into the oven.