Childhood Monkeys and Monkey Bread

Last Sunday afternoon it was all monkey talk among a handful of friends (Lovelylanvin, hungryrabitnyc, eatlivtravwrite, manggy, inuyaki, fujimama & jenjenk — yay #monchichiclub) and I in Twitter.

Oh, I’m sorry, did that sound loony?

We were nostalgic over Monchichi. How could we forget the monkey doll with its soft dark chocolate hair that’s almost pixie-ish around the face — that rubber-plastic cheeky freckled face (what kind of monkey has freckles?), tucked lower lip that fits its right thumb, and those innocent looking eyes begging for you to hold it. This, my friends, is a glimpse of our 80’s childhood.

Monchichi
The Monchichi doll — please, don’t…just don’t say which infamous US politician reminds you of that parted hair.
Photo courtesy of Winscott.com

I’m not even sure how we arrived at that discussion. I sort of jumped right in, just like when somebody (I’m talking about you, CrippleCreekBBQ!) suggested  Monkey Bread when I tweeted about being unsure what to bake. That’s what I love about Twitter. Everything can be so random and yet somehow make sense in the end.

Was it a coincidence my ape-etite (sorry, there I go again!) conceded that it’s about time to bake Monkey Bread? I think it was fate.

According to Wikipedia, this American favorite is also called African coffee cake, pinch-me cake, bubbleloaf and golden crown. I like it as it is, in all its non-ape-etizing glory [I swear, last time]. You and anyone around you, will be reduced to helpless monkey behavior, tearing apart and eating this bread like it’s nobody’s business. I’ll let you sit with that image for a bit.

Or you can turn to this:

"I die." - RZ

Monkey Bread Making begins with dough balls taking a dip in melted butter (for this recipe, it’s dough from scratch), rolling happily in brown sugar mixed with cinnamon, and reaching their final destination in a Bundt pan, piled on top of each other. And then they’re baked until the they rise, puff from side to side, squishing themselves while liquid caramel ooze through and out of crevices of soft pastry bread. The resulting sticky, gooey fortress is inverted onto a plate and allowed to cool down to eating temperatures before serving. I should warn you that it is so easy to get carried away, pulling-apart each piece, and if you sit down alone you can very well finish it alone.

Oh, look, it's me again playing with my food!

My initiation into the world of this fragmented cinnamon pull-apart bread was through Dan’s mom, whose own version is revered in Arizona, often baked only for special occasions, each morsel coveted like prized truffle. You should see how everyone’s eyes light up at the mere mention of it. It’s something you’ll come to know when you try it.

For those who have never seen or tried Moneky Bread, I’ll give you a point of reference
:
if you love cinnamon rolls, then Monkey Bread is  your friend.

But, but! not all Monkey Breads are created equal. Beware.

My 1st in March 2006 with frozen biscuit dough

I made them once before. The photo you see on the right is the actual photo taken in 2006, showing cut-up thawed frozen biscuit dough. Don’t cringe, most of the recipes call for the packaged stuff! If you want to cut down prep time, it is the way to go.

Having ready-made dough as a bread base meant that you have to up your game when it comes to the caramel. I didn’t realize it could be a frustrating task to get the taste right, given just 3 ingredients. I used a recipe I found online and it wasn’t that good. It was okay at best. Disappointed, I then continued to rely on bake-me-downs, a smuggled slice every now and then. [I’m just joking on the smuggled part — it’s not illegal to bring over baked goods like this to Canada.]

The era of MB Fear has ended. Folks, this is my second attempt at baking Monkey Bread in FOUR years. It took a leap of faith in Cook’s Illustrated, even though their recipes have worked for me without fail. I’m not going to lie, I was hesitant. I received tweets (from TwoPeasandPod and MelleCotte) pointing me to blog posts from browneyedbaker and smittenkitchen, which turned out to be adaptations of the C.I. recipe. That made me feel a better.

The yeasted dough from scratch requiring 2 proofing cycles was the the catalyst for ending my fifteen hundred days or so of Monkey Bread Baking Exile.

It sounds like such a long commitment to be in the kitchen when one speaks of dough rising once, twice. I’ll break it down for you: there are two 50 to 60 minutes blocks of time when you can do other things. You won’t regret it

…until you realize it’s gone so fast. Well, that’s not such a bad thing.

It’s worth it.

The Monkey Bread {enter angelic chorus}

It’s really not hard to make, but it takes time. There’s barely any kneading required. Bring your patience and it will be rewarded.

Are you ready?

MONKEY BREAD RECIPE
Makes 6 to 8 servings

An American classic (also called African coffee cake, bubbleloaf, golden crown, and pinch-me cake), this sweet pull-apart bread is like cinnamon rolls in bite size form, but with more cinnamon and sugar caramel with every bite. The homemade dough takes about two 1-hour rising times, but it will be worth the wait. You will be rewarded with gooey, sticky, soft bread after baking in the oven. ~ Joy

This recipe was adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine (February 2005 issue).

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), about 2 ¼ teaspoons if measured from a jar
  • 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 2 teaspoons table salt

Cinnamon Sugar Coating

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

PREPARATION

1.     Preheat oven to 200°F with the rack in medium-low position. Turn off when the temperature reaches 200°F. Butter a Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter.

2.     For the Dough: Combine milk, water, melted sugar, and yeast in a small bowl.

Using a Stand Mixer: Mix flour and salt in the bowl of the standing mixer using a wooden spoon. Place on the mixer fitted with a dough hook, turn to low and slowly pour milk mixture. Wait for the dough to come together and increase speed to medium. Wait until dough is smooth and shiny and pulls from the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer onto a floured work area.

By Hand: Mix flour and salt in a large bowl using a wooden spoon. Create a well in the flour, add the milk mixture into it and blend until dough becomes shaggy and difficult to stir. Transfer onto floured work area and knead until dough becomes smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes.

For Both: Apply cooking spray on a large bowl. Tuck dough into a ball and place in the coated bowl. Mist the surface of dough with cooking spray and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in the warmed oven for about 50 to 60 minutes, until the dough doubles in size.

3.     For the cinnamon sugar coating: Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Melt butter (melting in the microwave is fine) in a separate bowl.

4.     After the dough has risen, turn over onto your floured work surface, and flatten into an 8-inch square with your fingertips. Divide dough in 8 strips crosswise and lengthwise using a knife or bench scraper, leaving you with 64 pieces.

5.     Tuck each piece into a ball, pinching together the ends. [Note: the original recipe instructs you to roll each piece into a ball, which could lead to a sticky mess. I prefer to tuck and pinch, they will not be circular balls once they are baked anyway. – Joy]

6.     Dip each ball in melted butter; placing them on a fork (not piercing) works really well. Let the excess butter drip back into the bowl. Roll individual balls in cinnamon sugar and layer in the Bundt pan until evenly segregated at the top.

7.     Cover Bundt pan with plastic wrap and place in (still turned-off) oven for 50 to 70 minutes, until balls become puffy and risen 1 to 2 inches from the top of the pan.

8.     Remove pan from the oven. Heat oven to 350°F with the rack in the upper middle position. Remove plastic wrap, and bake until the top becomes deep brown and caramel bubbles through the dough crevices, about 30 to 35 minutes.

9.     Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a platter and cool for another 10 minutes before serving.

Monkey Bread is best served warm. It can be kept at room temperature for 2 days and warmed up in the microwave for 15 minutes. Slice and/or pick apart.

29 Responses to “Childhood Monkeys and Monkey Bread”

  1. jenjenk says:

    WAAAAH! i think i started to cry when I saw that picture! I can still see my monchichi with his one hand missing…i can’t believe i threw him away. :(

    Funny you should post on Monkey Bread – for some reason I’ve been thinking about having this for weeks now!!! must try!!! :)

    • joy says:

      I’ve been thinking about my monchichi for the longest time. I wish I still had it! I really am tempted to go back to the mall and check if that store still had the monchichi. Back to being kids!

      Give this recipe a whirl. I plan to make more tomorrow for the weekend, if it will last that long. Hehe.

  2. Amy says:

    My son was just asking me yesterday if we could make this – he had some at school. Your from-scratch recipe looks soooo much better than the canned biscuit version. This would be so yummy on a cool fall afternoon!

    • joy says:

      If you can schedule to make this, I highly suggest you do! You can also add chopped pecans or walnuts to it. [Let me know if you’d like the original CI recipe, in case you want to go by theirs.]

  3. Jamie says:

    Oh where oh where do I start? THIS bread is indeed for ME!!!! Love love cinnamon buns but this looks so much more decadent and delicious! Your bread texture is light and fluffy – perfect – and the coating? Wow! And LOVE the video thing – wow how did you do this? Perfect perfect post! And BTW did NOT have one of those monkeys. Kinda creepy, non? Oh, must be that they do look like politicians! LOL! xoxo

    • joy says:

      Seriously, when I first had this bread, I wondered how could I have lived more than 20 years without it? :) The “video” is not actually a video, but just an animated gif file. I think a video would have been a lot easier to make, but I take horrible ones. Haha. About that politician — a friend pointed it out and my brain will forever be scarred!

  4. glenn says:

    Wicked, simply wicked.

  5. Dana says:

    Wow Joy. I have never made it myself but have wanted to. I have a recipe from a favorite local bakery and I’m going to see how close it is to the one here. Why mess with perfection, right?

    • joy says:

      True. I like the CI in particular because the caramel is not over the top. Is it Holly B’s? I’m sold on the cookies…I’m sure her version is great, too!

  6. farida says:

    Thanks for the great recipe! I am saving it:) Your pictures are soo good!

  7. Jen says:

    You should roll cream cheese into the middle of the rolls, absolutely heavenly!

    • joy says:

      Jen, that’s brilliant! It reminds me of the cream cheese-filled soft pretzels we had at Disney World. Yummy! I’ll have to try that next time, thank you!

  8. Melynda says:

    I have been wanting to make a scratch recipe of this for so long, thanks!

    • joy says:

      Oh, Melinda, you should try making it sometime. I love it. The dough is easy to work with, and has reignited my passion for working with homemade dough.

  9. cca says:

    This looks amazing! Might be my sunday morning recipe for this week!

    Love your pictures- they are really great!

  10. Oooooh my goodness… my mouth is watering. My college roommate used to make this bread and we would eat the whole thing in one night. We had NO idea what we were doing, just that it tasted ah-maze-ing. I’m going to try NOT to make this recipe for fear of repeat behavior. Sigh… Ignorance was such bliss.

  11. John Lynch says:

    OH SURE BLAME ME!! lol That looked absolutely awesome! Of course I showed my wife and her response, “OH sure yet another thing you haven’t made me! ” Thanks Joy get me in trouble!

  12. Ah I thought I had commented but apparently not. This is a stroke of genius Joy. I love love love it – from the story to the recipe!

  13. Mary Anne says:

    Hi Joy: I love, love, love your animation. Very clever. You are now a professional baker having undertaken Monkey Bread from scratch. I will definitely give it a try…as soon as it cools down here which doesn’t look like anytime soon :-(. You’re fabulous!

  14. maria says:

    Two questions: 1) what do you for the dough if you want to prep a much of this as possible the night before so that it’s ready to go in the oven in the morning? 2) In another blog, the person poured a butter / sugar mixture over the balls of dough in the pan until they were swimming and she says it turns out the same….Would be interested to hear if you try this method (yes I realize she used refrigerated dough): http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/05/monkey-bread/

  15. Taylor says:

    It’s sooo good! :) Thanks for the great recipe!

  16. rachel says:

    I love the smeel of the dough while its in the oven rising. my mom use to make this for me when i was a kid and now my fiance wanted some so im trying this out, so far so good

  17. FRAN says:

    Never heard of this until my son got married 12 years ago and my daughter in law made one weekend when I visited. Very good, and ever since then I email them every monkey bread recipe I can find. Will have to make this again one day soon.

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