The sweet and tender dough of this apple cinnamon pull-apart bread is interleaved with cinnamon apples and slathered with a gorgeous maple cream cheese icing. It tastes even better than it sounds.
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love the combination of flavors in this bread–apples, cinnamon, maple, butter, and cream cheese. The frosting is smooth, creamy, and fluffy, not too buttery and the tang of the cream cheese balances the sweetness perfectly. Essentially, it’s the same as American buttercream except that it uses half butter and half cream cheese.–Bernice Baran
CAN I FREEZE PULL-APART BREAD?
You certainly can. Once it’s been baked–cooled and unfrosted–you can wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 6 months. You can also freeze it in sections, as in pull-apart a few pieces, and freeze it in the same way. Make the frosting as you thaw the bread and you’re ready to go.
Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
For the dough
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter plus more for the pan and bowl, softened
- 1 cup whole milk warmed to 120°F (49°C)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar divided
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk room temperature
To assemble the pull-apart bread
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter softened
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 to 3 medium (11 oz) apples such as Fuji or Gala, thinly sliced
For the maple cream cheese frosting
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1/4 cup cream cheese room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Make the dough
- Butter a 9- by 5- by 3–inch (23-by 13-by 6–cm) loaf pan and line it with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, stir together milk, yeast, and 2 tablespoons (25 g) of sugar. Let mixture rest until the top turns foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine flour, remaining 2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar, and salt. Turn mixer to low speed, add egg and egg yolk, followed by the milk mixture and butter.
- Increase mixer to medium-low speed, knead dough until it begins to peel away from the sides of the bowl, and forms a ball around the hook attachment, 10 to 15 minutes. If this doesn't happen after 15 minutes, the dough is too sticky; add 2 tablespoons (14 g) of flour and continue to knead until dough comes together.
☞TESTER TIP: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use your hands to combine the dough and knead it. The dough is ready for proofing when you stretch it between your fingers and it’s thin enough to see light through it without it ripping.
- Move dough to one side of the bowl, butter the open side, then repeat with the other side. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm environment, such as in the sunlight or on a stovetop warming zone. Allow dough to proof until it’s doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Assemble the pull-apart bread
- On a well-floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough into an even square about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Spread butter onto dough, and top with sugar and cinnamon. Slice dough into 16 even squares.
- Place a couple of slices of apple on each square of dough and gently stack squares, a few at a time. Place stacks, upright, into the prepared pan. Your pan may not be completely full, and that’s ok. It will expand during baking.
- Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).
- Bake bread for 30 minutes, then increase oven temperature to 350°F (177°C). Bake until bread is a little darker than golden brown, about 25 minutes more.
☞TESTER TIP: If your bread is browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil.
- Allow bread to cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the frosting.
Make the maple cream cheese frosting
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add confectioners’ sugar to the butter mixture, and mix at low speed, just until sugar is combined, about 2 minutes.
- Turn mixer to medium-high speed, and beat frosting for at least 5 minutes, or until all of the sugar is fully dissolved and frosting no longer feels gritty when pressed between your fingers. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add salt and mix just until combined.
- Add vanilla bean paste, maple syrup, and cream, and mix until fully combined.
- Remove bread from the pan and, while it’s still warm, spread frosting on top. This bread is best served fresh and warm. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours, or refrigerate for two to three days.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
The photo for this apple cinnamon pull-apart bread recipe reeled me in. I’ve never made pull-apart bread before but I have no issues with tearing bread apart. This recipe required neither pulling apart nor tearing apart. As I topped the warm loaf with the luscious maple cream cheese frosting, the layers tumbled exposing the apple cinnamon centres [begging to be forked and spooned] now bathed in creamy indulgence. While this may be an undesirable trait to some, it was theatrical exuberance to me. This and the comforting aromas landed this recipe on my repeat list even before tasting.
I’m not going to lie, this bread takes a bit of time and effort to complete. Don’t be discouraged, though. It’s absolutely worth it! I used Fuji apples as I like how they hold their shape when cooked.
Overall, the recipe worked perfectly and was a joy to execute, to admire, and to taste.
This apple cinnamon pull-apart bread is ooey-gooey good! I could barely hold myself back from eating the maple frosting with a spoon.
The dough rolled out really easily (not too elastic). It was cut into 16 pretty even squares. While my bread puffed up nicely in the oven to fill the pan I think this bread would be better if the dough was rolled out thicker and cut into fewer squares. I would have liked more bread to go with all that delicious filling and icing. You could sneak more apples between the slices that way.
Just the scent of fresh-baked bread makes me happy. This is a lovely (versatile) dough and adding apples and cinnamon and frosting…how can you go wrong?
The dough came together easily, although I found it odd to add the eggs, then the milk and butter after. Typically most bread doughs combine all of the wet ingredients and add them at once to the dry. However, it still worked out just fine.
All in all, it is so delicious that I honestly can’t stop eating it. The icing is glorious, although the maple syrup doesn’t add much flavor.
This apple cinnamon pull-apart bread is like apple-strewn cinnamon rolls in bread form. Which is to say, it was highly wonderful to eat. It is also pretty fun to make, and it looks sculptural when you take it out of the oven (not to mention it smells amazing). I knew we wouldn’t eat the whole thing in one go, so I opted not to douse the top in frosting, and to just frost as we went.
Originally published September 18, 2021