Sometimes inspiration for baking comes along in surprising ways. The other day I was sorting through some long forgotten cuddly toys and came across my hubby´s much hugged, stuffed, weary-looking stuffed toy monkey. Cleary, this toy monkey has been through thick and thin with his lovely owner. It did not take me long to decide that this particular little monkey desperately needed a special place in our living room. It is way too cute to be hidden away in a toy chest, and so it has finally found a new place, sitting high on one of our bookshelves, overlooking all that is going on around here. No longer hidden from the eyes of grown-ups and children anymore. I could not have asked for a better inspiration on a Monday morning, on the first day of school after the Easter break. Monkey Bread just seemed to be the perfect choice for dessert that day.
Monkey Bread, also known as pull-apart bread, is a well-known, much-loved American sweet treat that is sticky and spiced mostly with cinnamon and vanilla. At times it is even stuffed with pecans. I have versions with added maple syrup as well. It is a rather indulgent breakfast, brunch or dessert to share with the ones you love. And it is addicitve and comforting, the way just baked, warm cinnamon buns are. Monkey bread is a classic treat that is very easy to make. Usually you see it served in a Bundt (Gugelhupf) or round shape. But you could use just about any suitable baking vessel you please. The resulting bread is easy to pull apart into individual serving sizes.
Monkey Bread in a Vintage Gugelhupf Mold
Ingredients for the dough
- 200 ml milk (I like to use 3.5%)
- 85 grams (2.9 ounces) unsalted butter
- 2 eggs (L), free range or organic
- 550 grams (19.4 ounces) strong white bread flour, plus extra for kneading if doing it by hand
- 2½ tsp dried yeast
- 50 grams golden baking (caster) sugar
- sunflower oil, for greasing the bowl
Ingredients for assembly
- 125 grams (4.4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking pan
- 1 tbsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 225 grams (7.9 ounces) light muscovado sugar
Ingredients for the glaze
- 100 g (3.5 ounces) icing sugar, sifted
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp milk (I like to use 3.5%)
- pinch of ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 2 tbsps unsalted butter, melted
- Start with the dough. Put the milk and butter into a medium pan and heat gently until the butter melts and the milk is at warm to the touch.
- Cool for a few minutes, then beat in the eggs with a fork.
- Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl with 1 1/2 tsp fine salt, then add the liquid and stir to a sticky dough.
- Leave for 5 minutes, then transfer onto a floured worktop and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and springy.
- Use a little oil to grease a large bowl, add the dough, turn it in the oil to coat, then cover the bowl with food wrap.
- Leave in a warm place for one hour or until doubled in size.
- To assemble, grease a 25 cm Gugelhupf or Bundt pan with butter (you can also use a different baking pan).
- Melt the rest of the butter in a small saucepan.
- In a medium bowl mix together the spices and sugar plus a pinch of salt.
- Spoon 2 tbsps melted butter, 3 tbsps spiced sugar into the bottom of the baking pan.
- Pull the dough into about 65 small pieces and roll into balls. Taking 4 or 5 at a time, dunk the dough balls into the melted butter, let the excess drain off, then tip them into the spiced sugar. Roll to coat, then put haphazardly into the tin. Repeat until there is a full layer of dough in the baking pan, then carry on filling the pan with the coated dough balls. Tip any leftover sugar and butter over the dough.
- Cover the pan with oiled food wrap then leave to rise in a warm place for one hour, or until risen and the dough no longer springs back when you touch it.
- Pre-heat your oven to 180° C (375° F).
- Bake the monkey bread for about 35 minutes, or until it is well risen and golden.
- Let the pan cool for 5 minutes, then give it a sharp rap on the counter. Leave in the pan until just warm.
- Whisk all of the ingredients together to make the glaze. It will thicken as the melted butter cools.
- Turn the monkey bread onto a serving plate, then drizzle with the glaze. Let it set, if you can bear the wait.
Usually, Monkey Bread is best served warm. Because this version of mine has less sugar (and a bit more warm spices) than the traditional version, it will not keep as well and is best eaten the same day. You can rewarm it the next day in a low oven on a baking sheet wrapped in foil. It can also be frozen, if well-wrapped, for up to two months. But of course, it is preferable to eat it fresh and warm from the oven.
If you are planning on serving this in the morning, maybe a Sunday brunch, you can let the dough prove in the baking pan in the fridge overnight. Remember to let it acclimatize at room temperature for 45 minutes to one hour in the morning, to complete the proving, then bake as described above.
This Monkey Bread recipe is really lovely. The individual bites taste like mini sticky buns without the overwhelming sweetness that most have. We liked that we could have one small bite at a time, plucking off a bit of yeasty dough with just the right amount of sticky caramel goodness attached.
This simple Monkey Bread is a recipe that takes you back to simpler, gentler times. Which is a good thing every once in a while. And while you are baking up a Monkey Bread for the ones you hold dear, it might feel like the perfect time to re-kindle an old friendship.