After her kids were grown and starting to have kids of their own my Mom started the tradition of having everyone over for breakfast Christmas morning. She would make Monkey Bread and have it on the table for everyone to snack on while she whipped up eggs and bacon and pancakes. The sweet little puffy balls coated with cinnamon and sugar would disappear one at a time until before you knew it nothing was left.
I was a pretty picky eater growing up and I didn’t love Mom’s Monkey Bread because she always added nuts to it. I’m still not crazy about nuts in baked goods, but I love Monkey Bread. It’s like getting just the best part of a cinnamon roll, the ooey, gooey middle in every bite. (Monkey Bread is also known as Bubble Bread or Pull Apart Bread.)
So this year in memory of my Mom I decided it was time to serve Monkey Bread on Christmas morning. I think Mom made it with frozen Rhodes roll dough the night before, but I wanted to make the dough from scratch. An internet search turned up tons of great recipes. I was especially attracted to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe posted by Kristin, on Picky Cook, because it uses brown sugar.
I adapted the recipe so that you don’t add all of the flour in the beginning, which gives you more control over the consistency of the dough and prevents adding too much flour, which can be a problem in my dry climate. I eliminated letting it rise in the oven because my home is generally pretty warm already. And most importantly I included directions to make it overnight so that it’s ready to bake in the morning.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk, warm (about 120 degrees)
1/3 cup water, warm (about 120 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for work surface*
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Butter a 12-cup Bundt pan generously with softened butter. Set aside.
In large measuring cup, mix together melted butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt. Stir to dissolve.
Mix 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast in stand mixer fitted with a beater blade. Turn machine to low and slowly add the milk mixture. After the liquids are incorporated, switch to the dough hook, increase the speed to medium and gradually add the remaining flour (add more or less as necessary*) until dough clings to the hook and almost cleans the sides. Knead until the dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. You want the dough to be slightly sticky.
Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball. Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm, draft free place until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
While dough is rising, mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in bowl. Place melted butter in second bowl. Set aside for the sugar coating.
Remove dough from bowl, and pat into rough 8-inch square. Using bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces.
Roll each dough piece into a ball. Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl. Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers.
Cover Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.
Approximately one hour before you want to bake your Monkey Bread, remove it from the refrigerator and let the dough come to room temperature and the dough will begin to rise. (It should have risen some in the refrigerator overnight.)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
For the glaze: While bread cools, whisk confectioners' sugar and milk in small bowl until lumps are gone. Using whisk, drizzle glaze over warm monkey bread, letting it run over top and sides of bread. Serve warm.
*I used bread flour and used significantly less than 3 1/4 cups flour. You may need to use more or less flour depending on the flour you use and the climate you live in.
adapted from Cook's Illustrated