Friday, April 1, 2011

Monkey Bread & Monkey-ing Around

Sorry, it has been awhile since my last post. This past weekend we had great weather, so on Saturday Dan and I went to a maple syrup "farm" for an open house on how they make maple syrup.

When we returned, we decided to play with Remi off of his leash in the fields around our house. He usually has a leash on at all times outside, but since we no longer live in a big city Dan wants to start weaning Remi off the leash. For now we try and only experiment when we both are around to coral him in case he gets any harebrained ideas!

Needless to say, Remi had a blast, so there will need to be frequent repeats when the weather is fair; we are looking forward to Spring!

On Sunday night we had plans to head into the city to meet up with some of Dan's co-workers. Thus, I made a late brunch with a monkey bread ring. Now you really need 6-8 people for this thing, because it is a haus of a bread.

My love of this bread began in 2006 when my friend Elizabeth first introduced it to me. She was my co-worker at the time and would bring this bread whenever we had morning staff parties (which were fairly often because we had a large staff).

Everyone looked forward to it, and when she wasn't able to bring it because of time or whatnot folks were crestfallen to say the least. Anyhow, she never had a precise recipe for it; it was one of those recipes you know is right by the way it looks and feels just because you've made it so often.

After we went to the maple farm on Saturday, we stopped by our local library for some new reading material. I was perusing the aisle with the cookbooks and saw an old America's Test Kitchen volume with monkey bread on the cover. I subscribe to ATK so I thought it would be fun to give their version a whirl. Coincidentally, yesterday I saw a whole monkey bread making kit at Target, so clearly it is becoming rather popular.

When you taste it, you too will know why! It reminds me of cross between a doughnut hole and a cinnamon roll; it's good! Even Dan, the hard-to-please-one in our house, thought it was fantastic and proceeded to tell me every time he went to pull off another chunk from the ring "this is really good, you'll definitely need to add this to the recipe box!"

The city pictures below are what you might think, pictures of NYC; these are just from our drive in on Sunday night. I enjoy the architecture of the bridges and buildings.

Over the bridge :)

Monkey Bread Adapted from the "America's Best Lost Recipes" Cookbook

2 Tbsps unsalted butter,softened,plus 2 Tbsps melted
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pkg rapid-rise yeast
3 1/4 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt

Brown Sugar Coating
1 cup packed LB (light brown) sugar
2 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
8 Tbsps (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp cream
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

For the dough: if you are making this in the north and your house is currently holding steady at 55 degrees (like our house) then you will need to preheat your oven to 200; when the oven reaches 200 turn it off (this will serve as a warm place to put your dough to rise). If you are making this in TX where it is 80 degrees right now, you may not need the oven, just put it in a warm spot...use your judgement.

1. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and butter a Bundt pan with 2 Tbsps softened butter; set both aside.

2. Mix milk, water together in a large pyrex measuring cup--heat in a microwave for a 30 seconds or so, just to take the chill off or until it registers 110F. Add melted butter (which will raise the temp a bit) sugar and yeast. Stir the flour and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on low to combine flour and slowly add milk mixture. When the dough comes together increase the speed to medium and mix the dough until smooth 6-7 minutes. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to form a smooth ball. Place the ball into the prepared bowl, roll it around a bit to coat, cover with plastic wrap and place in the warm oven or a warm spot until doubled in size 50-60 minutes.

3. Sugar Coating: While your dough rises mix the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish (I used a pie plate for this). Place the melted butter in a medium sized bowl (to compensate for any splashing dipping the dough might cause.)

4. Making Dough Balls: Pat dough into an 8" square and cut the dough with a bench scraper into 64 pieces. Roll each into a ball. Dunk the small dough balls into the butter then roll into the brown sugar (use a wet hand, dry hand method much like you would do for dredging fried chicken). Layer the sugared dough balls into the Bundt pan.

5. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in the turned-off oven or a warm spot until the dough balls are puffy 50-70 minutes.

6. Remove the pan from the oven and heat to 350F. Remove plastic wrap from the pan and bake until the top is deep brown and the liquid created from the sugar begins to bubble around the edges (about 30-35 minutes). Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out on a platter and let cool briefly (about 10 minutes).

7. Glaze: While the bread is cooling, whisk the confectioners' sugar, milk, cream and vanilla together in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the warm bread, letting it run down the sides. Serve warm.

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