Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Monkey Bread & Cuddly Toys

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

  1. 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.
  2. Cool for a few minutes, then beat in the eggs with a fork.
  3. 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.
  4. Leave for 5 minutes, then transfer onto a floured worktop and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and springy.
  5. 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.
  6. Leave in a warm place for one hour or until doubled in size.
  7. To assemble, grease a 25 cm Gugelhupf or Bundt pan with butter (you can also use a different baking pan).
  8. Melt the rest of the butter in a small saucepan.
  9. In a medium bowl mix together the spices and sugar plus a pinch of salt.
  10. Spoon 2 tbsps melted butter, 3 tbsps spiced sugar into the bottom of the baking pan.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Pre-heat your oven to 180° C (375° F).
  14. Bake the monkey bread for about 35 minutes, or until it is well risen and golden.
  15. Let the pan cool for 5 minutes, then give it a sharp rap on the counter. Leave in the pan until just warm.
  16. Whisk all of the ingredients together to make the glaze. It will thicken as the melted butter cools.
  17. 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.


  1. OOOOOOOOOOO, what a beautiful, heartfelt story.
    And that monkey, well, he's been well LOVED! Adorable.
    I adore monkey bread, especially when it's dripping/ w brown sugar, butter & cinnamon!! xxxx

    1. Kim, you are simply the best! I am looking to change my blog style a bit, the pictures, the written word...the design. I will see where that leads me, inspiration is not always easy to come by for me.
      Hugs & Kisses,

    2. Not true,
      about the inspiration, I mean.
      You INSPIRE me!!

    3. Dearest Kim, may I say that I feel honored?!

  2. Your husbands monkey looks well loved and your bread looks fabulous. What a great treat for family or friends. Eine wunderschöne Woche Andrea.

    1. Dear Gerlinde, yes, very well loved indeed - hugged to bits and pieces but still "alive".
      Ich wünsche dir noch einen phantastischen Urlaub in Deutschland!

  3. Hi Andrea, what an adorable monkey, definitely should be on a shelf. Also this monkey bread looks delicious!

    1. Cheri, Monkey Bread is a nice treat every once in a while and this one came with a little bit of a "background story" to tell to the kids. Could not ask for more.
      Thank you for your nice comment,

  4. I made monkey bread for Easter---such a teat!!! Yours is lovely as usual!! And the well-loved monkey is quite a treasure. I have Nick's threadbare Winnie the Pooh on our dresser--such fun memories :)

    1. Liz, Monkey Bread is wonderful - the heavy as well as the somewhat toned-down version I made for this post!
      And those (threadbare) and much loved cuddly toys are indeed true traesures!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I have never had monkey bread - looks like I will have to try it, even though my Kugelhopf pan isn't vintage! :) I love Thomas' monkey - he is so sweet - I can see why you wanted to have him around more! Liebe Grüße, David

    1. I cannot believe that you have not tasted Monkey Bread before - this world is up-side down, our kids who hav enever been to the US, love this treat every once in a while.
      Grüße zurück, Andrea

  6. Your monkey bread looks fabulous - and the monkey is the perfect companion.

    1. Thank you my dear! Loving that worn and sweet face of that monkey!

  7. Your monkey bread looks wonderful - like one of the previous commenters, I've never eaten it either. And there is nothing like a well-loved stuffed animal!

    1. Beth, then you must make it for the girls (and yourself) when they are home from college - they will adore this sweet treat!

  8. I bake a lot of bread, but have never baked a monkey bread...thanks for the inspiration...I will definitely try. The little monkey just made me smile...thanks!

    1. Dear Juloiana, this is a sweet "bread" - although I must say that "bread" is a misnomer here, as this is not as much a bread as it is a pull-apart sweet yeast cake with loads of lovely cinnamon. So good and so addictive!

  9. Andrea, we love monkey bread and this recipe sounds delicious. Your marvelous pictures made me crave some! Really sweet story about the toy monkey and I'm glad he's back out hanging out with the family!