I love cinnamon rolls and other cinnamony things, but my husband might love them even more. He's a great guy, so I decided to surprise him with monkey bread for breakfast. If you've never had it before, monkey bread is little balls of dough coated in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and baked in a bundt pan. Eating monkey bread is basically like eating the inside of a cinnamon roll, which we all know is the best part! In the past when I've gone out of town, I've made him monkey bread with canned biscuits, but I wanted to do it from scratch this time and this Martha Stewart recipe looked like a great one to try. Along the way I made a few changes to streamline the method, I had to make more of the cinnamon sugar mixture coat all of the dough, and I changed the glaze to something I thought would taste better. The monkey bread turned out amazing! Really, truly excellent, if I may say, and without question better than the kind made with canned dough. The bread part was soft and tender, the brown sugar-cinnamon-butter part was gooey and wonderful, and the glaze was creamy and flavorful. My husband said it's better than cinnamon rolls and we may or may not have been reduced to licking our plates a little bit. I really, really hope someone will feel inspired to make my version of this great recipe, because you will not be disappointed!
If you're afraid of working with yeast, this is probably a pretty good recipe to start with since the dough will be coated with cinnamon sugar and let's face it, most things would taste good like that. My best advice for the dough is to make sure it rises enough (before baking it should have approximately doubled in size), but don't let it rise too much or the dough will fall and the texture will be funky. Regardless of the time of year, I always have my dough rise in the oven. I pop in the bowl of dough, turn the oven to 300, count to 45, and turn it off. All ovens are different, but for mine, this provides a perfectly warm environment for the yeast to do its magic! If you open the oven door a lot, you'll probably need to warm it more than once.
Quick note: As much as we like how this turned out, it is admittedly impractical to make for breakfast because of the rising time. I tried to be smart and stuck the bundt pan in the fridge overnight, thinking it could rise in there and I'd be able to just stick it in the oven in the morning, but that didn't exactly pan out. The dough only rose a little overnight, and because it was cold, it took two hours to finish rising in the warm oven! So, don't do what I did or breakfast will be very late and you'll end up fixing scrambled eggs while you wait. Next time I make it I'm going to try completing the entire recipe up through the last rising and stick it in the fridge when it's almost doubled in bulk. Hopefully it will be ready to go in the oven immediately in the morning. If this works out, I will update the recipe with what I did!
Also, sorry about the not-so-pretty picture, every time I make this recipe a little bit sticks to the bundt pan. Doesn't compromise the flavor, though!
Monkey Bread from Scratch
1/4 C warm water (about 105-110 degrees F if you want to get specific)
1 t sugar
1 packet yeast (2 1/4 t)
2 T butter
3/4 C milk
1/4 C sugar
1 t salt
about 3 3/4 C flour
for cinnamon sugar:
1 stick butter
1 1/4 C brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
2 T butter
2 C powdered sugar
1/4 C milk
1/2 t vanilla extract
Proof the yeast in 1/4 C slightly warm water with 1 t sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer for 5-10 minutes. Yeast mixture should look creamy. Melt the butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, then add 3/4 C milk and microwave until slightly warm (again, between about 105 and 110 degrees F). Stir into yeast mixture along with sugar, egg, and salt. Stir in 3 C flour by hand, then add 3/4 C more and knead with dough hook until a nice, barely sticky ball of dough has formed. You can add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time if it's too sticky, or water 1 teaspoon at a time if it's too dry. Once dough is ready, form it into a ball and pour on about a teaspoon of oil, turning to coat. Cover the bowl and put it in a warm spot to rise for 20 minutes, it's okay if the dough does not rise a ton.
Melt butter in one bowl and stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in another. Grease a 10 inch (12 cup) bundt pan and sprinkle about 4 T of the sugar mixture in the bottom. Tear off walnut sized pieces of dough, roll into balls, dip in butter, and roll in brown sugar mixture. Place balls in bundt pan. To make things faster, I roll about 8 dough balls, then put them all in the butter then all in the sugar mixture. Do this with all of the dough, then sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture on top of the balls and pour butter on top. Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, which should take about 30-60 minutes, but may take longer if your kitchen is cold.
When the dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350 and bake the bread until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let bread rest in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate.
To make the glaze, melt the butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, then whisk in the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. You can pour it on the entire loaf of bread, over individual servings, or pour it in tiny bowls for dipping.
Yield: About 8 to 12 servings