Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monkey Bread

This is monkey bread.  Frankly folks, I don't even know where to begin here.  If you've never had monkey bread before, close your eyes and imagine with me.  Imagine a warm soft ball of dough dipped in cinnamon and rolled in caramel and just barely dunked in some cream cheese glaze.  Are you drooling yet?  Now add a playful presentation, a big cup of coffee, and a crossword puzzle.  Oh, and there's not a can of biscuit dough in sight.  You see where I'm going here?  Monkey bread is no joke.

There's a reason why I'm sharing monkey bread with you today.  My grandpa turns 84 today!  Happy birthday Lou babe!  You don't look a day over 70!

 We'll get to the caramel butter ridiculousness in a moment, but first, you should know this.  You should know that my grandpa and I share a disdain for saying goodbye.  When we were little, he'd pretend he had to use the restroom, and then hide in the airport when we got on the airplane to go back to California.  You should know that my grandpa served our country in World War 2, a world away in the Pacific Ocean at the tender age of 17.  You should know that my grandpa thinks that Rachel Ray talks too much.  I think so too.  You should know that my grandpa loves monkey bread, even though he has diabetes and a touchy heart and probably shouldn't go anywhere near all this butter and sugar.  You will love monkey bread too.  Want to know how to make it?  Ok, I'll show you.

Start with milk, water, melted butter, and sugar in a measuring cup.
Rapid rise yeast!  Yeast-o-phobes, this is a recipe for you.  Rapid rise yeast rises... well... rapidly.

Add the yeast to the liquid mixture.

In another bowl, stir together flour and some salt.  You could put these in a Kitchen Aid mixer, but this dough is pretty forgiving, so I like to mix it and knead it by hand.

Now just pour the liquid into the flour, and stir it in gently.

Once your dough comes together in a shaggy mass, you can turn it out onto a floured surface.  Knead it for about 10 minutes until it's pliable and shiny.  If you've never kneaded dough by hand before, just push, twist, and pull it around.  Resist the urge to add a bunch more flour.  As you move the dough and the gluten develops, the stickiness will give way to a much more workable dough.

About 5 minutes in...

This is what you want it to look like when you're done kneading.

Now the dough needs to rise in a warm spot for about an hour.  In the meantime, mix some brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  In another bowl, melt a stick of butter.  Yeah, I said a whole stick.  Don't worry about it.

After an hour in its cozy spot, the dough will be nice and airy.  Flour a board and press the dough into a square.

Now we just cut the dough into little rectangles.  I cut it into 8 strips, then ran my knife through in the perpendicular direction.  With each row, pull the small dough balls out so that they don't stick together.

Once all the dough balls are cut, take one and dip it in the melted butter...

Then roll it in the sugar and cinnamon.  Don't ask me to replicate this move where the dough ball sticks to the underside of the fork.  I don't know how that happened.

Once the ball is ready, just drop it into a heavily buttered bundt pan.  Trust me, the last thing you want is for this masterpiece to get stuck in the pan.

Now just let 'em rise one more time, then it's baking time.  While we're waiting, let's make some glaze.  Start with cream cheese and powdered sugar.

And add milk and vanilla.  Glaze is done.  Easy right?

This is what the monkey bread looks like when it comes out of the oven.  Lordy.

And this is what it looks like on a plate.  Just grab a chunk!  Or ten...  Then go for a jog.

Happy birthday Grandpa!  

Monkey Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, via

Serves 12
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, divided (2 tablespoons softened, 2 tablespoons melted)
1 cup milk, warm (around 110 degrees, but don't sweat having a precise temperature.  Just try to make sure it's warm to the touch, but not hot)
1/3 cup water, warm
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise, instant or bread machine yeast (I used rapid rise)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons table salt

Brown Sugar Coating
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick or 4 ounces), mleted

Cream Cheese Glaze
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus extra if needed
2 tablespoons milk, plus extra if needed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Get oven and pan ready: Adjust oven rack to medium-low position and heat oven to 200°F. When oven reaches 200, turn it off. Butter Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.

Make dough: In large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast.
To proceed with a stand mixer, mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. (The dough should be sticky but if it is too wet to come together into anything cohesive, add an additional 2 tablespoons flour.) Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball.

To proceed by hand, mix flour and salt in large bowl. Make well in flour, then add milk mixture to well. Using wooden spoon, stir until dough becomes shaggy and is difficult to stir. Turn out onto lightly floured work surface and begin to knead, incorporating shaggy scraps back into dough. Knead until dough is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Shape into taut ball and proceed as directed.

Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray or a tablespoon of neutral oil. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with more cooking spray or oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.

Make brown sugar coating: Place melted butter in one bowl. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a second one.

Form the bread: Flip dough out onto floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces. Separate them from the rest of the “grid” as you cut them into small pieces.

Working one at a time, use a fork to dip each piece in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl.  Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan.

Cover Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.

Bake bread: Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350°F. Unwrap pan and bake until top is golden brown, 25-30 minutes.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes (no longer, or you’ll have trouble getting it out) then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Make glaze: Beat cream cheese with powdered sugar until smooth and light. Add milk and vanilla, then taste and adjust — you’re looking for something that tastes equally tangy and sweet, and texturally thin enough to drape over the bread but thick enough that it will not just roll off completely.
Drizzle the glaze over warm monkey bread, letting it run over top and sides of bread. Serve warm.


  1. Super impressed with your monkey bread from scratch. I just use canned biscuits.... : (

  2. Beautiful work Mary - I love the bundt pan you used! Happy Belated Birthday to your wonderful grandfather!

  3. Awesome. I've been waiting for someone to show me how to make this without canned biscuit dough. It looks so yummy! Happy birthday to your sweet grandpa!

  4. Is he about to write you a check in that picture. Bribery for Monkey Bread perhaps?

    But for reals. I am making this - perhaps marathon practice week one...

  5. Aside from being very upset that I can not taste the photo and that I refuse to lick my laptop screen, the only option is for me to add this to my recipe collection and get to baking :-) I like-S A LOT!!!

  6. @Shannyn- it does look a bit like he's writing a check! I think he's reading a book though, my grandma's the one who wields the checkbook.

    Thanks for your kind words about grandpa! I'll be printing this post and mailing it to him :-).

  7. wow, that is the tastiest looking monkey bread i have ever seen! sure does look like a lot of work though.

  8. My eyes teared up upon reading about how your grandpa (and you) doesn't like to say bye and how he avoids doing it. Too sweet.

    This monkey bread looks absolutely amazing. I recently saw one with an ice cream glaze, but it had the canned biscuit dough. I will use your dough recipe. I've made homemade monkey dough before, but I'm always open to new (for me) recipes! Great process photos!!!

  9. Irresistible!!! I'll definitely make this one. Thank you for posting it!

  10. Happy Birthday Grandpa!

    That looks wonderful!

  11. They look great, and it's awesome to see them made without using biscuits. I've been making homemade ones since this summer, but rolling the balls out by hand. Love your technique of just cutting them. Thanks. :)

  12. I'm glad to know these things about your grandpa, you stole a tear and smile, but you can have them gladly, I love to hear things like this, it's what makes the world magic for me.

  13. I bet these are so much better than the ones made with the biscuits from a can!

  14. That monkey break looks sooo good!!

  15. The first time I made monkey bread from scratch, it was good, but wasn't quite right. I don't know what it is, but I followed your recipe and it's a thousand times better than the old one I had. Simple, yet delicious. I didn't have a bundt pan but I had mini angel food cake pans so I made individual monkey bread tubes. Excellent recipe!!! And I love the tutorial pics.


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