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Monkey bread–a.k.a. pull-apart bread or bubble bread–is a wonderfully kid-friendly introduction to yeast baking. Get the kids involved as you make these mildly cinnamon-y, tender treats: they'll carefully shape their own several pieces of dough, while you quickly take care of the rest. For step-by-step photos illustrating the whole process, check out our monkey bread lesson.
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1 5/8 ounces) potato flour OR 1/2 cup dried potato flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) water
1/2 teaspoon Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor, optional but good
4 cups Mellow Pastry Blend OR 3 3/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) milk
1/3 cup (2 ounces) Baker’s Cinnamon Filling OR cinnamon-sugar
1/2 cup (6 ounces) maple syrup or cinnamon syrup, optional
1/4 cup (2 ounces) melted butter, optional
Using your hands, a mixer, or a bread machine, mix and knead all of the dough ingredients till you’ve got a smooth, fairly soft dough. Remember, the more flour you add to cut down stickiness, the drier and tougher your final bread will be; so go easy on flouring your kneading surface, if you’re doing this by hand. Personally, I like to lightly grease my kneading surface, rather than flouring it.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and allow it to rise at room temperature for an hour; it’ll be puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.
Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a clean work surface. Place the milk and the cinnamon filling or sugar in separate small bowls. Lightly grease two 9" round cake pans. If desired, pour 1/4 cup maple syrup or cinnamon syrup into the bottom of each pan.
Tear off 1"-or-so pieces of the dough. (If you bothered to round them into balls, they’d be about the size of chestnuts; but you’re not bothering to do that.) Dip the irregular dough pieces into the milk, then into the cinnamon. Place them, close together, in the prepared pans. Each pan should be full enough that you can only see the bottom of the pan in scattered places. Cover the pans, and allow the dough to rise for about 90 minutes, till it’s puffy, though probably not doubled in bulk.
Drizzle the bites with melted butter, if desired. Bake them in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 to 22 minutes, or until they’re beginning to brown around the edges, and they seem done. These are hard to check for done-ness, as their cinnamon coating makes it hard to see how brown they are; what I usually do is just take one of the pans out of the oven, use a fork to carefully lift out one of the bites, and break it open. If it looks wet and gummy, continue to bake; if it looks ready to eat, they’re done.
Remove the pans from the oven, and carefully turn the bites out of the pan onto a rack to cool. If you’ve used syrup, let them rest upside-down on the rack till they’re cool; otherwise, the syrup will stick to the rack. Serve the bites warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 64 bites.
Cinna-Bite Bread Pudding
Make the recipe above, enjoying one pan of bites, and reserving the other. Break the reserved bites into pieces; tearing each one in half is fine. You'll have about 8 cups of bread (about 16 ounces), gently packed. Set the bread aside.
Lightly grease a 9" round cake pan that's at least 2" deep. Spread 1 cup (5 ounces) cinnamon mini chips in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the chips with 1/3 cup (2 ounces) Baker's Cinnamon Filling; this will give the pudding a dark, cinnamon-y, gooey top when you turn it out of the pan. You can omit this, if you like, but it's certainly tasty.
Place the bread in the prepared pan. Whisk together 3 cups (24 ounces) milk, 3 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pour into the pan, pressing the bread down gently till it's mostly submerged.
Bake the pudding in a preheated 325°F oven for 60 minutes, or until it feels set and firm. Remove it from the oven; the center will still look a little jiggly. Serve it right from the pan. Or run a table knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides, and turn the pudding out onto a serving platter. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Yield: about 12 servings.