Papaya Pull-apart Bread

by Dr. Hennie Fisher

Pull-apart breads are quite the rage on social media sites lately. Everyone is making a slightly different version from the next person – they are loaf shaped or bun shaped, and in the latter category there is even a truly South African version with cream and brown sugar poured over. The similarity they all share, however, is that the bread consists of individual pieces of yeast dough interspersed with ingredients that make it easy to separate the pieces after baking. This recipe uses dried papaya in the dough and fresh papaya pulp mixed with melted butter, sugar and spices between the dough pieces, which after baking resembles a little spread of jam. Because of the papaya pulp, the layers do not separate a cleanly as layers spread with fat would, but that is small sacrifice for the delicious jammy layer that forms between the layers.

There are some dried fruits in the recipe, mostly complimentary to the dried papaya, but feel free to add alternative selections of dried fruit such as dried banana, or even nuts.

If you cannot find dried papaya to purchase in stores, make your own.  Peel and slice papaya in 1 cm thick slices. Lay on silicone mats and dry in a low oven (not higher than 70 °C) for 2½ days, turning them over now and again.

Ingredients for 1 large pull-apart loaf – for around 8 people:

For the dough:

400 g cake flour
15 ml (1 packet of 10 g) Instant yeast
3,75 ml (¾ teaspoon) salt
70 g granulated sugar
70 g dried pear, finely chopped
70 g raisins, finely chopped
30 g dried papaya, finely chopped
5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla essence or extract
2 whole eggs
150 ml full cream buttermilk
60 g butter

For the separation butter:

60 g butter
40 g sugar
2,5 ml (½ teaspoon) each of ground cinnamon and ground ginger
80 g papaya pulp (freshly puréed papaya)


Butter a 20 – 25 cm loaf tin very well. Set aside.

Melt the butter for the dough and add the buttermilk. Warm slightly but be careful not to overheat the buttermilk as it may split. Mix the butter/buttermilk mix, and all the other ingredients for the dough together well in the bowl of a free-standing mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough until it is really smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until the dough has fully doubled in size.

Tip the dough onto a floured working surface, and roll into a log. Divide the log into 12 pieces. The tricky part here is to have a nice glossy smooth part that will be the ‘top’ of the slice. If you have ever made traditional yeast rusks, you’ll know how to pinch a piece of dough so that it has a smooth surface. Try to pull the sides of the individual piece of dough into the middle, so that the sides will be nice and smooth. Now flatten out the piece of dough, either by hand or with a rolling pin, to resemble the shape of the loaf tin. Repeat with all the 12 pieces. Melt together the separation butter, add the sugar and papaya pulp and mix well. Divide this mixture onto the 12 pieces and spread to the sides. Lay the first layer into the loaf tin upright and all the remaining pieces apart from the last piece with the spread side in the same direction. Turn the last piece around so that the spread part faces back to the bread and not the outside.

Cover the loaf tin with a damp cloth and set aside in a warm place until the bread has increased in size, slightly over double. Be careful not to over-proof the bread; a little more than double will produce a really light and fluffy bread. Bake for 45 minutes in a preheated oven at 175°C. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife carefully around the side of the tin; some of the papaya mixture may have cooked out and if you let the bread cool down in the tin, it may stick. Carefully turn out onto a wire cool rack. Serve when cold.