food: monkey bread

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I would like to think I am the kind of woman that would do just fine on her own.* That I would consciously take care of home and hearth, diligently make home-cooked meals for myself, and keep everything running smoothly. I’ve had a few instances to test that hypothesis of late, as B. has had to leave town for a few long stretches recently. And, what I’ve found is that I turn into a bit of a bachelor without him. Cheesey rice dinners with Froot Loops for dessert. There may have even been a day where I never got out of pajamas (working at home can be both a blessing and a curse). The fact is that I thrive when I have others to cook & care for in addition to myself. And, I get dressed.

So, to make sure that B. knew how much I missed him, and to get myself back into the cooking and baking routine, I got up early this morning to make one of his brunch favorites- Monkey Bread. This treat goes by many other names (like ‘bubbleloaf’ and ‘sticky bread’), but is probably most commonly called ‘Monkey Bread’ in bakeries and cookbooks. I’ve actually made this (rather unsuccessfully) once before after buying a special ‘Monkey Bread Mold,’ and using the attached recipe- once again suckered by Williams Sonoma into buying a kitchen tool that I didn’t need… a regular ‘ol bundt pan will do just fine for this treat!

I didn’t find the need to try again once I found an Uptown bakery that had a delicious (and B. approved) version, made in small, individual-sized brioche-style wrappers. Unfortunately, when I stopped by Flourish Bakery late last year for a monkey bread fix and found they were C-L-O-S-E-D (for good), I knew I had to find a better recipe for making Monkey Bread at home. So, I went to one of my favorite sources for getting classic recipes right, America’s Test Kitchen. While Cook’s Illustrated IS a paid subscription site, it pays to sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter from America’s Test Kitchen (which is produced by the same people as CI)- you’ll get access to a few recipes and kitchen tips and reviews every week from Cook’s Illustrated. Monkey Bread was one of them. I’d also recommend watching this clip from Cook’s Country (also related to CI)- with the always informative and entertaining Christopher Kimball and crew!)

Monkey Bread

Needless to say, this version worked out perfectly! The only tweak I’ll make for next time is to use an actual bundt pan, vs. my ‘special’ WS Monkey Bread Mold. With it’s higher and narrower walls, there were some bread balls in the middle that were a tad undercooked, and the bread ended up coming up higher than the rim, which made plating it a bit hard. I think the more open channel of a true bundt pan would allow for more even cooking, and prevent it from spilling over.  So, without further ado:

 MONKEY BREAD RECIPE:

Serves 6 to 8.    Published February 1, 2005 in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.
The dough should be sticky, but if you find it’s too wet and not coming together in the mixer, add 2 tablespoons more flour and mix until the dough forms a cohesive mass. Make sure to use light brown sugar in the sugar mix; dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor that can be overwhelming. After baking, don’t let the bread cool in the pan for more than 5 minutes or it will stick to the pan and come out in pieces. Monkey bread is at its best when served warm.

INGREDIENTS
Dough:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted

1 cup milk , warm (about 110 degrees)

1/3 cup water , warm (about 110 degrees)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 package rapid-rise yeast (or instant)

3  1/4 cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for work surface

2 teaspoons table salt

Brown Sugar Coating:
1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

Glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons milk

INSTRUCTIONS
1. For the dough: Adjust oven rack to medium-low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Butter Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.
2. In large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball. Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
3. For the sugar coating: While dough is rising, mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in bowl. Place melted butter in second bowl. Set aside.
4. To form the bread: Gently remove dough from bowl, and pat into rough 8-inch square. Using bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces (cut into 4 even sections, then continue to quarter each section until get 64 pieces).
5. Roll each dough piece into ball. Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl. Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers.
6. Cover Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.
7. Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
8. For the glaze: While bread cools, whisk confectioners’ sugar and milk in small bowl until lumps are gone. Using whisk, drizzle glaze over warm monkey bread, letting it run over top and sides of bread. Serve warm.

ENJOY!

*of course, I know that I WOULD do just fine on my own… it would just take more than a little practice. And, a self-imposed ban on Froot Loops.

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