Cheesy garlic pull-apart bread

Inspired by Kelly at Just a Taste. The dough based on this Hokkaido milk bread. And you can find a scallion pesto version here!




  1. Make the tangzhong: In a small saucepan, whisk together 6 tbsp water and 2 tbsp bread flour until no lumps remain. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. It should thicken in less than a minute to a gel-like consistency. As soon as lines appear in the mixture when stirred, remove from heat and transfer to a small, clean bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Next, heat the milk briefly to just above room temperature, about 110 degrees or lukewarm to the touch but not hot. I do this simply by microwaving it for 10-15 seconds. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and set aside for 5-10 minutes for the yeast to activate. The milk should foam.
  3. In the meantime, sift together the bread flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Once the yeast has foamed, add the tangzhong and the egg, and whisk until well-combined.
  4. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a loose, shaggy dough, then switch to using your hands. Knead for 4-5 minutes, or until the dough forms a semi-smooth ball. The dough should be quite sticky — sprinkle flour over your hands and the dough as needed to keep kneading, but try to avoid overflouring. One tablespoon should be enough.
  5. Add the butter to the dough, one tablespoon at a time, kneading after each addition. Add the second tablespoon of butter only after the first has been evenly incorporated. The kneading will be slippery and messy at this point, but just keep kneading (it’s weirdly satisfying, actually) and it should eventually form a soft and pliable dough that’s easy to work with. Knead for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until dough becomes smooth and elastic.
  6. Place the dough in a large bowl with plenty of room and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let proof for 1-2 hours, or until well-doubled. Alternatively, let the dough proof overnight in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours, covered with plastic wrap. I prefer the latter — it gives extra time for the gluten to develop, and yields a better flavor, in my opinion. Plus, dividing the labor over two days makes the process much more manageable.
  7. The next day, whisk together softened butter, chopped parsley, garlic, and garlic powder. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out to a rough 10×14-inch rectangle (or larger, which will result in more pieces). Spread the butter evenly across the surface, then sprinkle with mozzarella, Parmesan, and cheddar. If you like, you can also add finely sliced scallions here, too. Slice the dough into strips, then stack the strips and cut into squares, like Kelly’s tutorial here.
  8. Place the pieces vertically into a 9×5 loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Tuck extra pieces on the sides as needed. When finished, there should be some extra room, either on the sides or at the top, for the dough to rise. Let the dough rise again, covered with a damp towel, for about 45 minutes to an hour. The dough should nearly double again.
  9. About 30 minutes into the rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the dough has risen again, sprinkle extra cheese over top, then bake, uncovered, about 35-40 minutes, or until cheese is well-browned on top and bread sounds hollow when tapped. (If cheese browns too quickly, cover the loaf with foil to prevent burning.) Cool briefly, then remove from tin and serve warm, with extra parsley and scallions if desired.


If your milk doesn’t foam and your yeast is fresh, it might be because the milk isn’t ultra-pasteurized — discard and start over, but this time, heat the milk to just under boiling to scald it, then cool it down to lukewarm and proceed. Supposedly this denatures any proteins that might be inhibiting the yeast.

If not measuring the flour by weight, be sure to fluff it before scooping to get the most accurate measurement. I generally spoon the flour into a cup and then level.

If letting the dough rise overnight, take care not to seal the bowl completely airtight, which can sometimes result in a build-up of gas and an alcohol-like smell. I generally wrap it lightly in plastic wrap and then again with a tea towel.