Sticky pumpkin bread rolls that are wonderfully tender and stuffed with cream cheese. The recipe is a reimagined Khaliyat Al-Nahl, based on the arabic sweet which translates as honeycomb, named after the shape that the rolls are arranged into.
This is a recipe near and dear to me. I grew up eating Khaliyat Al-Nahl, a soft brea, shaped into small rolls that are stuffed with a sweet creamy cheese, baked close together in a honeycomb shape and doused in the syrup that permeates so many arab and middle eastern sweets. The best part is that it wasn’t anyone in my family who made it, it was one of my best friends who still makes it today. And no one I know does it better than her! She’d make it whenever we had a girls’ gathering as teens (the rest of us brought chips and candy bars, lol). And whenever I went to visit her or sleepover I’d ask her to make it. Now that we live very far apart, I’ve asked her for her recipe many times but she tells me, like the best makers always do, that she doesn’t have it written down and she ‘just makes it’.
So I came up with this recipe on my own but definitely with her in my thoughts, trying to achieve the supersoft texture and the perfect amount of sweetness. I added a little pumpkin twist to it, maybe in a nod to the blog that would’ve been Arabish but also because this is the kind of dish I want on my thanksgiving table. Something that joins together my two ‘cultures’, reminds me of my childhood and well, just makes me happy. (Most things stuffed with cream cheese do, but this is extra happiness).
Ingredients for Pull-Apart Pumpkin Cheese Bread
Pumpkin puree: Make sure your can of pumpkin puree doesn’t have any spices! Just plain pumpkin puree is what you want.
Kefir: I use plain Lifeway Kefir in these, full or low-fat is fine. Kefir is not a traditional ingredient in this bread (usually milk) but I’ve found it makes the bread even more tender
Butter: Just a bit, make sure it’s soft because it’ll need to be kneaded into the dough. This is another ingredient that contributes to the softness of the bread.
Sugar: Goes both in the dough and is a primary ingredient to make the simple syrup.
Cream Cheese: A lot of Arabs make this with a Laughing Cow type of cheese; it’s a bit less sweet (and not as soft) but these days I see a lot of people use cream cheese and I think it works better.
Nigella Seeds: If you aren’t familiar with them, these are tiny, very flavorful black seeds that taste wonderful on breads (I like them on my bagel bombs too). You can use sesame seeds if you can’t find nigella.
Honey: It’s not a must but I like the flavor it adds to the simple syrup.
Instant yeast: If you only have active dry, increase the amount to 2 ¼ teaspoons. I prefer to dissolve both kinds of yeast into the kefir before it all goes into the dough.
Baking powder: This helps with the browning, don’t skip it!
All purpose flour: I’ve tried bread here and I don’t think it works as well. A mid-protein level of all purpose works best and keeps the bread really tender.
How to make Pull-Apart Pumpkin Cheese Bread: quick guide
- Warm the kefir.
- Make the dough & knead.
- Let rise.
- Shape balls stuffed with cream cheese.
- Let rise.
- Make simple syrup.
- Pour syrup over baked rolls.
- Eat! Asap, these are best the day of.
Pull-Apart Pumpkin Cheese Bread (Pumpkin Khaliya) Recipe
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Rolls
- an 8 or 9" round cake pan
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup kefir
- 3 tablespoons butter softened
- ¼ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup pumpkin puree
- 8 oz brick of cream cheese
- Nigella seeds
- 2/3 cup sugar
- ⅓ cup water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Warm the kefir in a small pot or in the microwave, just a bit so it’s not too cold (it’s okay if it separates on the sides). Add the yeast to it so it will dissolve.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add the kefir as well. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes on medium, until it becomes soft and tacky.
- Set the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and set in a warm place to rise. After about an hour or two it should have doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9 inch round pan.
- Once doubled, punch your dough to remove air. Taking a small ball at a time, flatten the ball and place about two teaspoons of cream cheese in the middle then wrap the dough around it, pinch to close and roll it between your palms to make a perfect ball. Place the formed cheese balls close together and form a honeycomb shape into your pan. Once all the dough has been used or you have run out of space in the pan, cover the pan with a dishcloth and let the balls rest for about 30 minutes until they are puffy. Sprinkle with nigella seeds.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops start to turn golden brown.
- While the cheese honeycomb bakes, make your simple syrup by combining the sugar, honey and water in a small saucepan. Stir to mix then let boil until it starts to thicken and all sugar is dissolved.
- As soon as your khaliya comes out of the oven, gently pour the simple syrup all over the khaliya making sure to cover all the balls and sides. Eat the same day! These are best fresh and warm.