My favourite recipes are ones that look super messy prior to being baked and then inevitably emerge from the oven looking gorgeously rustic. When I first started making these buns, I thought I had made a terrible mistake because the unbaked, risen buns looked like passengers crammed onto a Tokyo subway line, not like neat little rows of perfectly spherical buns as Jamie Oliver suggested that they should. And yet, every time I pull them out of the oven, they look like the most amazing pull-aparts you’ve ever seen. I actually like them BETTER in their rustic state than I do the “after” photos of Jamie’s (which is a thing I tell myself when I can’t for the goddamn life of me get a recipe to resemble the photo).
Are these kinda fiddly and fussy? Yes. Is all risen bread a bit of a faff? Generally yes. Are these buns more work than most other breads? Certainly not. Will your friends think you are a goddess/god amongst mortals for inviting them over to tear into these buns with you? Unquestionably, yes.
One more little plug for these buns – the garlic butter is insanely easy and the recipe makes way more than you could ever hope to use on the buns alone (I’ve tried!), so save that shit and use it to grease up a roast chicken, to sauté fresh prawns in, or to brighten up your morning avocado toast.
Pull-Apart Garlic buns
Adapted from Jamie Oliver (Comfort Food)
Makes 1 9x13-inch “loaf” of pull-apart bread (comprised of 35 “buns”)
5+1/3 cups bread flour, measured correctly
1 packet active dry yeast (¼ oz)
1 tsp sea salt
2 ¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 head of garlic
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 small bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped (stems and all)
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2/3 cup stale bread crumbs
Stir the bread flour, yeast, and sea salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually pour 2 ½ cups warm (not hot!) water into the well, continuously stirring and bringing in flour from the edges to form a rough dough. Trust me when I say that the dough will look ROUGH at this point. It will be scraggly and sticky, but not to fear, a bit of kneading will fix all of that! Transfer the dough to a flour-dusted work surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and springy. You will probably need to keep adding flour to your work surface, the dough, and your hands to stop the dough from sticking to everything. Set a timer for the 10 minute kneading time because otherwise you will surely over-estimate how much time has gone by. The finished dough should feel very smooth and elastic and be minimally sticky if sticky at all. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, rolling it around the bowl to lightly slick the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 hour.
Make the butter while the dough rises. This recipe makes a LOT of butter, some of which can be frozen and saved for another time. Place the soft butter in a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Using a garlic press, crush each clove of garlic into the butter. Add the lemon zest, parsley, kosher salt, and pepper flakes. Stir until the add-ins are speckled evenly throughout the butter. Place ½ the butter in a bowl and set aside. Scrape the remaining butter onto a sheet of parchment paper and try your best to roll the butter into a log. Twist the ends of the paper like the wrapping of a hard candy and keep twisting to shape the butter into a tight cylinder. Place the rolled butter in the freezer for up to 6 months (or freeze for 30 minutes to shape, then wrap in plastic and keep in the fridge if using in the near future).
Spread about ¼ of the reserved butter in a 9x13 baking dish or casserole dish. Scatter the bread crumbs around the dish, coating each side with a smattering of crumbs (shake off any excess). Divide up the dough into 5 lumps, then divide each lump into 7 pieces (try to be as equal as you can, but don’t stress over getting them to all be perfect). Roll each piece into a ball and arrange 5 rows of 7 balls in the prepared dish. Brush/spread a layer of the reserved butter over the dough balls, making sure you hit all the little cracks and crevices. Place a damp tea towel over the dish and let rise for 90 minutes in a warm, draft-free spot.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle the buns with a pinch of kosher salt and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden-brown. Spread most of the herb butter over the warm buns. Dot any remaining butter over the buns prior to serving. Serve hot or warm and watch your friends devolve into primitive beasts as they tear into DEM BUNZ.