Obvious statement of the evening: I love to cook and bake. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me, and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing it’s not exactly news to you either. I like cooking and baking best when I get to share the goodies with my favorite people. I mean, why else would I make so many shower and birthday cakes? Or chocolate chip cookies? After all, when special occasions roll around, I like to give the people what they want.
You’d think Andy would take advantage of this trait. (I would, if I was him…) I’ll ask him what he wants for his birthday, and his answer is always the same: monkey bread.
Seriously? I’m willing to bake you ANY sort of decadent dessert for your birthday, and you want me to crack open four cans of Pillsbury biscuits, toss them in cinnamon sugar, pour some caramel-like sauce over the top and call it a day? Where’s the challenge? The new technique? The HOMEMADE BATTER, for goodness’ sake. (Clearly, his birthday treat should be all about me and what I want to bake…)
This year, I made up my mind: I was going to kiss those canned biscuits goodbye and find a homemade version of Andy’s favorite childhood treat. So, I put Google to work and entered “monkey bread” into the search function on my Google reader. Lo and behold, Deb at Smitten Kitchen came to my rescue AGAIN. (Side note: I realize that two of my previous four posts have been Smitten Kitchen goodies. I’m not obsessed. I promise. Her stuff just works!) After finding the Smitten Kitchen version of monkey bread, I didn’t bother to look any farther. I didn’t even do a test run; I just went for it. (How’s that for trust?)
I did forgo Deb’s cream cheese frosting because, while I am sure it would have been wonderful, Andy’s version of monkey bread doesn’t include cream cheese frosting. Instead, it gets a melted-butter-vanilla-brown-sugar concoction poured over it before it bakes. And I figured it was best to not stray too far from tradition… at least for this year.
All in all, this was a huge success, if the empty plate was any indication. It does take more time than popping open a can of Pillsbury, and we noticed that the finished result was a little denser than the canned biscuits, but those are trade-offs that I’ll take any day.
For the bread:
2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for the pan
1 cup milk, warmed to 110 degrees
1/3 cup water, warmed to 110 degrees
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active yeast (1 packet)
3 1/4 all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons salt
cinnamon-sugar for coating
oil, such as canola, for greasing the bowl
For the caramel sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grease a large bundt pan. When the oven reaches 200, turn it off and keep the door closed.
In a large measuring cup, combine the butter, milk, water, sugar and yeast. (I used my two-cup Pyrex measuring cup.)
Combine the salt and the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Turn the mixer on to the low speed and gradually add the milk mixture. After the milk has incorporated and the dough has come together, increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny (about 5 minutes). Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead a few times. Shape the dough into a round ball.
Wipe out the mixing bowl and then grease lightly with oil. Place the dough into the greased bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place bowl in the warm oven until doubled in size, about 50-60 minutes.
When the dough has risen, remove it from the oven and turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a large square about 1″ thick. (You’re aiming to have a square that’s at least 8″ x 8″.) Using a butter knife, cut the dough into 1″ squares. Toss dough pieces in a cinnamon-sugar mixture (I don’t usually measure this – I just combine some white sugar with a couple spoonfuls of cinnamon), then place into the greased bundt pan. When all of the dough has been tossed with the cinnamon-sugar and placed in the bundt pan, cover the pan with plastic wrap and return it to the warm (but still off) oven to rise again. When the dough has puffed and risen to the top of the pan, remove the pan from the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
While the oven is preheating, prepare your caramel sauce. In a small saucepan combine the stick of butter and brown sugar. When the butter has melted and the mixture is almost to a boil, add the vanilla. Pour the sauce over the dough pieces in the bundt pan.
Bake the monkey bread for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Invert the pan over a serving platter and turn out the monkey bread. Let it cool for just a few more minutes (but not too long, because this is best when it’s warm, gooey and sticky) before serving. If you’re feeling neat, use a fork to pull off chunks of monkey bread. (Or, if you’re like us, dive in with your fingers. It IS monkey bread, after all.)
Bread and method from Smitten Kitchen
Sauce from my mother-in-law
Click HERE for a printable version!