Ever since I heard of Monkey Bread, I can't remember when, I've been wanting to make it. For whatever reason, I just never got around to it. A couple of weeks ago, maybe more, while going through The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook trying to compile a week's worth of dinner recipes, I came across the Monkey Bread and decided to go ahead and give it a try. I already had all the ingredients in the pantry but I still didn't get around to starting it until yesterday and even then, I only finished it today.
I had every intention of finishing it yesterday but by the time it would have been done, the good photo light would have also been gone and the photos would have been terrible (not that they turned out great mind you). Since I have my priorities straight, I decided to rise the dough for the second time overnight in the fridge instead of at room temperature for two hours. It worked great.
The recipe called for making the dough in an electric mixer but to be honest, I couldn't be bothered plus I wanted to try the dough cycle of my bread machine. So, instead of kneading by electric mixer or hand, I put all the ingredients in the bread machine as if I was making normal bread and set it to the dough cycle. One and half hours later, I had perfectly kneaded and risen dough. Wonderful! Ah....this is why I LOVE kitchen appliances, they may not be essential but they sure make things easy! So, here's the recipe, adapted for using the bread machine. If you don't have a bread machine then you can knead by hand or electric mixer, there are instructions on how to do it on my previous bread posts.
For the dough:
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup water
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons honey
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) rapid rise or instant yeast
Pour the milk, water, butter and honey into the bread machine pan. If the instructions for your machine say you must place the yeast first, reverse the order in which you add the liquid and dry ingredients.
Sprinkle over the flour making sure all the liquid is covered. Add the salt in a corner of the pan. Make a small well in the center of the pan, making sure not to go as far as the liquid, and add the yeast. Close the lid and set the bread machine to the dough cycle.
When the cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a slightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 36 equal pieces (each one will weigh approximately 27 g) and form into balls. Cover with plastic wrap.
For the caramel:
7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a large tube or Bundt pan.
Combine the melted butter and vanilla in a shallow bowl. Toss the sugars, cinnamon, and salt together in another bowl, combine well.
Working with one ball of dough at a time and keeping the rest covered, roll them in the butter mixture, then roll them in the cinnamon sugar to coat and arrange evenly in the prepared pan. Drizzle any remaining butter and sugar mixture over the top. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Alternatively, let them rise overnight in the refrigerator, taking them about about 30 minutes prior to baking to de-chill.
Bake the Monkey Bread in the middle oven rack until golden, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then use a thin-bladed knife to loosen the edges of the bread from the pan (this step isn't necessary if you are using a non-stick pan). Being careful of the caramel, flip the bread onto a serving platter, letting the caramel drip out of the pan over the bread. Let the bread cool slightly before serving. To eat, tear off the pieces.
Was it good? Heck yeah! I think it's even better than Peter Reinhart's Sticky Buns! Plus, the pieces are a much more manageable size, although I couldn't just stop at one piece. The pieces that were at the bottom of the pan are nice and gooey while the ones that were at the surface, are a bit crunchy. It's a perfect combination. I'd definitely make it again and I think it's totally worth the effort, even if you are kneading by hand.