Monkey Bread (From Scratch)
How was your Thanksgiving?!
I hope everyone is recovering nicely. I had a great night, spent with family and friends. There was tons (and tons) of food, a pie buffet, and lots of laughter!
Yesterday I posted a photo which has prompted several emails for a recipe. So even though you’ve all probably had your fill of sugary things the past few days, today I have this glorious recipe for homemade monkey bread.
If you’ve never had monkey bread, you should try it. Because it’s everything you love about cinnamon rolls in a pull-apart loaf of goodness. They somehow seem lighter than a roll, and it’s inexplicably fun to eat each little puff of caramelized sugar and butter.
What prompted this bread’s creation was that amidst my pie bake-a-thon, I was asked last-minute to bake some monkey bread for a Thanksgiving party. But perusing the internet for recipes proved a bit disheartening. I spent 20 minutes only finding recipes which called for pre-made biscuit dough that comes in a can. Umm, no thanks.
I came across a homemade one from Mel’s Kitchen Café, but then remembered I’d made it a while back and was disappointed. It tasted good, but the bread was a bit tough, and the caramelized bits got too caramelized. Perhaps I had overbaked it, though I’ve read elsewhere that the coating on a monkey bread can get pretty brittle and tough by the end of baking, resulting in an almost tooth-breaking coating. No thanks again.
I came across another from Baking Bites, but wanted to keep the dough egg-free in hopes of creating a lighter and fluffier final product.
The monkey bread of my dreams is light as a pillow with an airy crumb. Not sickeningly sweet, and not with glasslike shards of “caramel” around the edges.
I winged the recipe as I went along, and ended up with a mish mash of the two recipes above, then veered completely off course for the coating and used mostly white sugar and baked in smaller pans.
And a star was born. This was THE BEST monkey bread I have ever baked or eaten.
The loaves were packaged and sent off to the party. They all disappeared PRIOR TO DINNER, which I found both complimentary and somewhat frightening. Apparently they didn’t ruin appetites, but instead resulted in several heartwarming phone calls. And I’ve been asked to bake them again for this week’s Poker Night.
I did save myself one loaf to eat late last night and OHMYGOODNESS it was delicious. It needed no reheating, though I’ve included more tips about that–as well as the best way to store the monkey breads, making in a stand mixer, or baking in advance–below the recipe.
So, I promise to post some nice and healthy recipes in days to come, but feel free to bookmark and give this monkey bread a try the next time you want to put a smile on someone’s face. This bread had adults and children alike diving in for one more sugary puff!
So, let’s get baking!
First, mix the yeast, warm water, and a pinch of sugar in a large bowl. Let sit until foamy and bubbling, 5 minutes:
Add the warm milk, melted butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and 1 cup of flour to the yeast mixture and stir, stir, stir until combined:
Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until your dough comes together. For me, I added 2 1/4 more cups, resulting in about 3 1/4 cups flour total. You want your dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It may take some elbow grease:
Now, dump your dough onto a work surface sprinkled with flour:
And start kneading! Don’t be intimidated by kneading please. It’s just smooshing dough around on a table top. If you keep your hands and work surface well floured, it’s a pretty cathartic process. I kneaded for about 8 minutes, before my dainty little arms got tired:
Once your dough is relatively smooth, form it into a ball and stick it into a bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour:
After an hour, your dough should have doubled in size:
Dump it back out onto your floured work surface and pat it into an 8″ square:
Now, cut it into 8 strips (a bench scraper makes this very quick and easy):
And then again into 8 strips going the other way (totaling 64 pieces). Please don’t worry If they are slightly uneven:
Now it’s time to roll! This would be a great task for kids to help with.
One at a time, take each piece of dough and roll into a ball, then plop a few at a time into the melted butter:
Let the excess butter drip off, then roll in your cinnamon/sugar mixture:
As you coat them, lay them into your prepared pan:
Continue until all your loaves are filled, then divide any remaining butter and sugar/cinnamon mixture between them, sprinkling on top:
Cover with plastic and go do something for 30 minutes:
Come back to find your monkey bread climbing out of the pan:
Remove plastic and bake!
I got lucky and guessed the right amount of baking time on the first try. Hint, hint–it will smell like heaven in the house:
Let them sit in the pan for a couple minutes, then flip them out onto a wire rack:
OH MY! They are glorious things. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
I SAID CLOSER!!!
I love you, monkey bread.
The crumb on these beauties is almost like a freshly fried donut hole, minus the grease. They are fluffy like King’s Hawaiian rolls. But they taste like butter and cinnamon and vanilla goodness. These are more than worth the effort. They will hit the sweet spot, I promise.
Now, for f*ck’s sake, drizzle them with some icing:
MONKEY BREAD - Makes 6 mini loaves or one 10″ Bundt pan
Note: Directions for a stand mixer included in Italics. Make-ahead or bake-ahead instructions are included below the recipe, as well as packaging ideas for gifting.
For the dough:
1/3 cup warm water
- 1 (.25 oz.) package active-dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
- 3 1/4 cups flour, divided, plus more for work surface
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed
For the coating:
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the icing:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
1. Make your dough: In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of the sugar in the warm water. Let sit until foamy, 5 minutes (if your yeast doesn’t foam up, it’s “dead.” Discard and try again with a new packet). Add the remaining sugar, 1 cup of the flour, the salt, vanilla, melted butter, and warm milk. Stir until all is combined.
If using stand mixer, proof yeast, pinch of sugar, and water in the bowl of your mixer until foamy. Add remaining sugar, 1 cup flour, salt, vanilla, butter, and milk and combine with paddle attachment over medium speed.
2. Begin adding remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir vigorously to incorporate. Add the last 1/4 cup; your dough should be somewhat shaggy and pulled away from the bowl (IF your dough hasn’t come together, add another 1/4 cup flour until it does. If it comes together earlier, do not add the remaining flour).
Stand mixer directions: add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Switch to dough hook attachment.
3. Dump your dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Dough should be tacky but not sticky. Continue kneading until smooth.
Stand mixer directions: Knead with dough hook about 5 minutes on medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic.
4. Put dough in a large bowl and coat lightly with spray oil (I like to use Baking Pam). Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
5. Meanwhile, prepare your loaf pan/s by spraying with Pam or greasing with softened butter. Prepare your “rolling station” with the melted 1/2 cup butter in one bowl, and then mix the brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon and place on a rimmed plate.
6. Once dough is doubled, remove plastic and dump dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat into a rough 8″ square. Cut into 64 equal pieces (8 cuts horizontally, 8 cuts vertically) using a bench scraper or a knife.
7. One piece at a time, roll dough into balls between your hands. Coat in the melted butter and–letting excess butter drip off–roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place about 10 balls in each loaf pan. Repeat with all 64 balls. Drizzle with any remaining butter and sprinkle with any remaining sugar.
8. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
9. After 30 minutes, dough balls should be very puffy! Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, rotating your pan halfway through. The monkey bread should be very puffy and golden, springing back when pressed, and the coating should have bubbled out around the sides of the bread. If you are unsure whether it’s done or not, pull off one piece of the bread to see if it’s set in the middle. (Then, eat it quietly or stuff it back into the pan.)
Let cool in pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool slightly.
10. To make the glaze, place powdered sugar into a bowl and sprinkle with water several drops at a time and whisk vigorously until you have a thick icing. Drizzle over monkey bread.
TO MAKE AHEAD:
There are 2 options. If you’d like to prepare your monkey bread in advance, you can either prepare your dough and refrigerate it overnight to rise slowly in the refrigerator, or bake it off and store it overnight to eat the next day.
1) To prep your dough ahead and refrigerate it raw: Proceed with recipe through step 7, then cover your pan tightly with plastic wrap and immediately place in the refrigerator for its second rise. The refrigerator will slow down the rise, and you can keep it there overnight. In the morning, remove plastic and pull the dough out as your oven heats up. Bake as directed.
2) To prep your monkey bread completely, follow recipe as written, making sure to pull monkey breads from oven without overbaking. Let them cool COMPLETELY on a wire rack, then place in a container and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. My breads were still completely moist, tender, and soft by the next day and required no reheating to restore fresh-from-the-oven texture.
TO GIFT THE BREADS:
Let cool completely, then transfer to disposable foil mini loaf pans.
Place entire loaf inside a cellophane or plastic candy bag.
Tie with festive string and add a label if desired.
I included ingredient information since the breads were going to a party full of children, in the event of any food allergies. I also included reheating instructions as I saw fit, however the feedback I received was that the bread needed no reheating and disappeared within minutes of me dropping it off.
I ate mine almost 24 hours after baking and have to agree: they were still VERY soft and tasted totally fresh, having been sealed in airtight plastic.***