Sometimes, it's okay to get in touch with our inner child, skip and dance around a room, collapse in a fit of giggles, and eat super-sweet treats -- like monkey bread. Life's too short not to allow ourselves these simple pleasures.
So last night, with a little extra time on my hands (and a little convincing from someone in this house who loves cinnamon-sugar baked goods and who was otherwise tied up with making fantasy football draft picks), I finally decided to tackle making monkey bread from scratch.
The monkey bread I made, following a recipe from The Art and Soul of Baking, starts with a simple white bread dough, which is cut into small pieces, coated in butter and cinnamon sugar, and baked in a tube pan. Well, actually the recipe instructed to bake the monkey bread in a loaf pan, but that just didn't sound as fun to me (especially after recently purchasing a monkey bread pan), so I doubled the dough recipe, crossed my fingers, and used my tube pan instead.
The scariest part of this recipe (besides the calorie count) is that it requires making a yeast bread. This is something I continually freak myself out over and always manage to coach myself through. It's not difficult at all. But for some reason it's difficult for me to remember it's not difficult. And it has its benefits: While the dough rises, there's plenty of time to sit on the couch and catch up on writing blog posts or watch movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks -- may as well completely embrace the inner child by watching kid movies while making kid treats, right?
Below are the steps to make monkey bread in a tube pan and possibly a small loaf of cinnamon-sugar bread (I had some leftover dough). If you would prefer to make the monkey bread in a loaf pan, just halve the ingredients below. Also, it helps to keep a stick of butter out to soften while you're making the bread to use for buttering bowls and pans.
I had quite a bit of help writing the recipe up for you.
It never matters that there's a whole half of the couch free; Gunner has to get as close to me as possible -- even if that means lying on my books. I feel so loved!
Monkey Bread (adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking)
(Print this recipe)
For the dough
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
For the cinnamon-sugar coating
2 sticks unsalted butter
3 3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cinnamon
Whisk water, sugar, and yeast together in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until yeast is activated and foamy.
Combine the warm milk and melted butter together in another small bowl. (I just added the butter to the measuring cup with the milk, so I wouldn't have to dirty another bowl.)
Place flour and salt in bowl of stand mixer. With dough hook attached, mix for 1 minute on low speed.
Add yeast mixture and milk mixture, and mix on medium speed (or medium-low speed if flour starts flying everywhere) until dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes.
Cover the dough with a damp towel, and let it rest 20 minutes.
Knead dough with dough hook on medium-low speed until firm, elastic, and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes.
Butter a glass bowl, and scoop the dough into the bowl. Rub the surface of the dough with more butter. Cover the bowl with the damp towel, and let it rise for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, leave the dough covered, and start working on the cinnamon- sugar coating. Melt two sticks of butter on the stove. Keep an eye on the butter, and remove it from the heat and pour it in a small bowl once melted. (If it's too hot, you'll burn your fingers when you try to dip the dough in it.)
Grease a tube or monkey bread pan.
Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a medium-size bowl. (I did this in three rounds so the mixture wouldn't get too gunky. If you choose to do this, mix 1 1/4 cups sugar with 4 teaspoons of cinnamon each time.)
Uncover the dough, and turn it out onto your work surface. Press the dough out into a square, making sure to expel any air bubbles as you go.
Using scissors or a bench scraper (highly recommended), cut the dough into small pieces about the size of cherries. (I cut several pieces, dipped them, and then cut more, as opposed to cutting all of the dough at once. This is also a good idea if you have leftover dough and want to turn it into a loaf.)
Dip the dough pieces in the melted butter, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.
Place the pieces side by side in the tube pan.
Fill the whole bottom layer evenly, and then move onto the next layer, arranging the pieces the same way, until you have four layers.
Smooth the top layer, and then cover the pan with the damp towel. Let the dough proof (or rise) for another 45 minutes.
If you have leftover dough, gently form it into a ball, and then press the ball out into a square.
Mix together any leftover cinnamon sugar with any leftover butter. Spread this mixture evenly over the square of dough.
Roll the dough toward you, and when you get to the end, use your wrist to pull the dough down and make a seam. Tuck in the ends, and place the loaf into a buttered loaf pan, seam-side down. Rub some butter on top of the loaf. Cover this pan with a damp cloth too, and let it proof for 45 minutes as well.
After 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. When the oven is ready, uncover both pans, and transfer them to the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 200 degrees.
Transfer pans to wire racks to cool. When cool enough to handle, turn monkey bread out onto a dish or serving platter.
Remove cinnamon bread from loaf pan, and, if desired, brush the top with melted butter, and dip it in cinnamon-sugar.
We were happy we had that loaf of cinnamon bread to placate us while the monkey bread cooled enough to eat.
And then we all know the best thing about monkey bread is the way you eat it. Just pull off pieces, quite like a monkey would, and enjoy.
I imagine that's why it's called monkey bread, though after researching it, it seems like there's no true answer to how it got its name. But I start giggling when I picture what would happen if a group of monkeys got their little hands on a loaf of monkey bread.
Have you ever made or eaten monkey bread? Do you know this method or the biscuit method? If you had to come up with an explanation for the name, what would you say?