Sourdough isn’t just for savory baking! The robust tanginess of sourdough can add an extra layer of delicious-ness to your favorite cakes, bars, tarts, sweet breads.
Pastry chef Caroline Schiff couldn’t make it easier to do and she teaches you how to achieve sourdough success in her new book, The Sweet Side of Sourdough, with her best tips for building and maintaining a starter and then baking your way to sweet sourdough bliss.
Caroline tells us what she loves about this honey-glazed pull apart sourdough bread recipe:
“Let’s talk about the pure tactile joy of a pull-apart bread: Layer upon layer of enriched dough, with warm, soft and fluffy insides.
This sweet brioche-style loaf is a blast to eat, as you get to peel away the sweet, buttery sheets one by one.
The honey glaze adds that perfect amount of sweetness that seeps between each sheet of dough. Its flavors are simple, warm and comforting.
For a mellow sourdough flavor, it relies on a levain build. And with the not-insignificant amount of fat in the dough, it requires a long, slow fermentation and proofing.
I recommend building the levain as early in the day as possible, then you can mix the dough in the afternoon or evening and shape and bake the following day. It’s gonna be worth every soft, buttery, warm layer.”
Makes one 9-inch (23-cm) loaf
Honey Glazed Pull-Apart Sourdough Bread: Ingredients
For the levain build:
- 70 ml (¼ cup plus 2 tsp) room-temperature water
- 50 g (¼ cup) active sourdough starter, 100% hydration
- 90 g (2⁄3 cup) bread flour
For the dough:
- 1 levain build, doubled in size
- 325 g (21⁄2 cups plus 11⁄2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
- 114 g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 50 g (1⁄4 cup) granulated sugar
- 2 large whole eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 24 ml (1 tbsp plus 2 tsp) whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 tsp kosher salt
For the filling:
- 39 g (3 tbsp) granulated sugar
- 57 g (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- Pinch of kosher salt
For the glaze:
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) honey
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) whole milk
- 24 g (3 tbsp) powdered sugar
- Flaky sea salt, to garnish
Honey Glazed Pull-Apart Sourdough Bread: Instructions
Building a levain, sometimes called a preferment, is common in many sourdough recipes, and it’s incredibly useful. Building a levain allows you to maintain a small amount of starter and use a portion of it to inoculate a larger quantity of flour and water for a specific recipe.
Levain builds can vary widely in their hydration depending on the final dough. This not only makes for a very manageable amount of starter, but because it uses such a small quantity, the sour flavor is restrained and mellow—ideal for sweeter, enriched doughs.
Since all sourdough starters are unique, the maturation time varies widely—anywhere from 6 to 12 hours—so keep an eye on it the first time.
And timing is everything. Generally, I like to feed my starter first thing so I can build my levain early in the day. This allows me to mix a dough in the evening and give it a few hours at room temperature before transferring it to the fridge overnight. The next morning, I can shape and bake.
To figure out what timing will work best for you, get familiar with your starter’s growth times and work backwards from when you’d ideally like to enjoy the final product. (This formula appears in multiple enriched recipes in this
book, and you can easily refer back to it.)
In a small mixing bowl, combine the water and the active sourdough starter. Add the bread flour and bring the mixture together, kneading by hand if necessary, until uniform.
Transfer the mixture to a clear jar or plastic container, 16-ounce (480-ml) capacity or larger.
Cover and set the container in a warm spot to double in volume, at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours. Use a rubber band or piece of tape to mark the starting volume and watch its progress. When it’s doubled in volume, it’s ready to use.
To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook, combine the levain, flour, soft butter, sugar, whole eggs, egg yolk, milk and salt.
Knead on low speed for 25 to 30 minutes, stopping the mixer and scraping it down every 10 minutes or so to make sure everything is getting incorporated, until the dough comes together in a smooth ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The long kneading time is necessary for proper gluten development. It’ll start off looking very shaggy and messy, but resist the urge to add additional flour before it magically smooths itself out!
Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated very lightly with neutral nonstick cooking spray. Cover and set in a warm spot, letting the dough proof for 4 hours at room temperature. It may not rise much this first proofing; that’s OK! Gently fold the dough over itself, cover and transfer to the fridge to ferment overnight, 12 to 14 hours.
Spray a 9 x 4 x 4-inch (23 x 10 x 10-cm) loaf pan with neutral nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Remove the dough from the fridge and gently turn it out onto a floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and gently roll it out into an 8 x 18-inch (20 x 46-cm) rectangle.
To make the filling: Spread the soft butter all over the dough in a thin, even layer.
Combine the sugar and salt in a small bowl; evenly dust the mixture over the butter.
Using a pizza cutter or large knife, cut the rectangle into 24 small squares. I do this by cutting it 3 x 8, first dividing it into three 18-inch (46-cm)-long strips, and then slicing those each into eight even pieces.
Stack the pieces of dough, a few at a time, and line them up in the bottom of the prepared pan, so they’re all standing on edge.
Once all the dough is stacked in the pan, cover it loosely with a piece of plastic. Place the loaf in a warm spot and proof until the rectangles have increased in size by about a third and appear light and puffy, 3 to 4 hours.
Heat the oven to 350F (177C) with a rack in the center.
When fully proofed, uncover and transfer the loaf to the oven and bake until it’s a deep golden brown on top, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature in the pan.
To make the glaze: In a small saucepan, bring the honey and milk to a boil. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.
After the loaf has cooled slightly but is still warm to the touch, gently remove it from the pan and place on a cutting board or platter. With a pastry brush, gently brush the top of the loaf with about half the honey glaze.
Let it sit for 5 minutes, then add a second coat of glaze and garnish with the flaky sea salt. Pull apart and enjoy while still warm.
Reprinted with permission from The Sweet Side of Sourdough by Caroline Schiff, Page Street Publishing Co. 2021. Photo credit: Jonathan Meter