Garlic and Halloumi Pull-Aparts
There is something to be said about pulling off a hunk of cheesy bread that makes you feel just a little bit like a Sneaky Pete, even if you’re the one who made the bread. And it’s meant to be pulled apart. And you’ve just instructed other people to do exactly that. Even so, just the act of reaching, tearing, and gobbling down garlicky cheese filled goodness brings out my inner bandit in the best possible way. Stolen goods always taste just that much better, don’t they? Oh, salty villainy.
Are you familiar with halloumi? I adore halloumi. It’s a great cheese for grilling or frying in large slabs because it won’t melt and fall apart. Halloumi is generally stored in a salty brine, like feta, but the texture is more like….a brined mozzarella, if that makes sense. But without the gooeyness and melty stuff. So maybe it’s not like mozzarella at all, okay, but its salty and toothsome and utterly delicious.
Garlic and Halloumi Pull-Aparts
Makes 25-30 cheesy two-bite buns
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1.5 cups warm water
- 3.5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp nigella seeds (optional)
- scant 1/4 cup olive oil to dip
- 5 oz halloumi cheese (300 g or 2/3 lb) *
- 5 oz mozzarella cheese (300 g or 2/3 lb)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
* If you don’t have halloumi cheese, feel free to substitute it with an equal amount of feta.
In a medium sized bowl combine the yeast, sugar, and olive oil.
Pour the warm (not hot, just warm) water on top, give it a quick swirl around with your fingers to make sure that it’s combined, and then leave the bowl to rest for 5-10 minutes. During this time, the yeast should start to bloom and froth up. If your bowl doesn’t look like the one below within 10 minutes then your yeast has not been activated and you might want to start the process again with a fresh batch.
While the yeast bubbles and froths, mix together the flour, salt and nigella seeds (if you’re using them).
Pour the foamy wet yeast mixture on top of the flour and stir it together using a wooden spoon until the dough sticks and starts to come together. If it still feels really sticky, you can add a few tablespoons of flour and work it with your hands.
Ease your dough out of the bowl and onto your counter or work surface. This is not a wet dough so you likely will not need to flour the board at all. Pat the dough into a ball shape and knead it well for 7-10 minutes until the texture becomes smooth and elastic.
Lightly oil a large mixing bowl. Turn your dough ball around it several times to make sure that the dough is completely coated in a light sheen of oil. Cover the bowl with some loose saran wrap or a tea towel, and leave it to rise for an hour or so until it doubles in size.
Shred the mozzarella and halloumi. If you have never cooked with or eaten halloumi before, here’s a hint: it doesn’t shred like a cheddar or a mozzarella would. It likes to crumble more than it shreds, similar to a firm and dry feta. That’s okay, shred/crumble away.
Press or the garlic or grate it on a rasp and into the cheeses.
Finely mince the parsley and add this to the cheeses as well. Use your fingers to work the parsley and garlic through the cheese, making sure that everything is well dispersed and you don’t just have a big hunk of minced garlic swimming around somewhere in the white.
Now then, back to the dough. Roll the dough out of the bowl and back onto your work surface. Again, you only need to lightly dust the area with flour if it’s absolutely necessary and your dough is sticking. Gently knead the dough several times to get rid of any leftover air pockets.
To form the rolls, start by pinching off a small ball of dough (slightly smaller than a golf ball. I think. I don’t golf and now I’m questioning that statement. Maybe more like the size of a small organic apricot? Oh jeez. I need to work on that, don’t I?) by squeezing it between your thumb and index finger.
Spread the dough by hand (like a pizza crust) or roll it out into a small circle, about 3.5 inches in diameter.
Dollop a generous tablespoon or so of the cheese mixture onto the center of each one. It may be easier for some people to do this when the dough is flat on your work surface instead of in your hand. Really try to stuff them though, because we’ve got a lot of cheese in that bowl just crying out to be had.
Gather up the sides of your dough circle, and pinch the top together to make a little purse.
Flip the parcel over so that the seam side is on the palm of your hand. With your other hand, press and turn the ball, gently stroking downwards to stretch the skin of the dough into a smoothly skinned taut mass. And I think I need a cigarette after that sentence.
Holding on to the base (where the seam was), dip the top (flat rounded part) of the dough ball in a little bit of olive oil.
Place the dough balls seam side down in an 11×13 baking pan. The balls should be close together or touching, but not pressed up really tightly or smushed. You will likely end up with 25 – 30 balls, depending on how large you form them. I had 29, which was 5 across and 6 down…minus one ball when I ran out of dough.
When you have run out of either cheese filling or dough (probably the dough), cover the tray with a tea towel and leave it to rise again, for 45 minutes to an hour, in a warm and draught free place.
While the dough rises, prep your oven. Put one rack in the bottom third of your oven and the other right at the top. Set the temperature to 425F and while it heats up put a rimmed baking sheet onto the top rack.
There may be some leftover cheese filling. If that’s the case, consider yourself lucky! You can sprinkle it on top of pasta, an omelet, melt it in a sandwich – good god, do I ever love cheese. Keep at least a half cup reserved though to sprinkle on top of these munchkins as they cook.
Has the dough risen? Are you sure? Alright, then they’re ready to go into the oven. But wait! Before you open that door!! Grab a handful of ice cubes from the freezer (6-8 should do it). Just as you slide the bread onto your lower rack, throw the ice cubes onto your rimmed baking sheet and quickly close the door. The ice will create a lot of steam, helping the bread to puff and create a nice crusty shell.
Let the bread bake for 25-30 minutes until it is lightly golden brown on top, but not cooked through. Sprinkle on the remaining half cup of cheese that you put aside……
…and back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes. The bread will take approximately 35 minutes to cook, and it’s ready to come out when the tops are puffed and golden brown.
Let the bread cool for at least a half hour before you start to pull it apart. But then, oh yes, the fun begins.
Little puffy cushions of garlicky cheese filled goodness! I say go ahead and teef one. No, actually, take two!
Inside each mini roll is a puffy pocket of cheesy goodness. DANG, I love cheese. I would be much more likely to enroll as a Navy Seal if they changed their slogan to, “My life for CHEESE.”
Snacking, munching, stealing and grabbing. And garlic. And cheese. That’s what these little nuggets are all about.