Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ooey Gooey Monkey Bread

With the Snowpocalypse shutting down the city (and law school!) for the third day running, I was stuck in my apartment with nothing to do.  The snow-covered trees and buildings outside reminded me of frosting, and I just happened to have sugar, flour, butter and cream cheese, so . . . obviously I had to make Monkey Bread!

This was my first time working with yeast -- usually I make this recipe with Pillsbury biscuit dough. But I happened to have some packets of dry active yeast in my cabinets and way too much time on my hands, so I was feeling pretty ambitious. Monkey bread from scratch, baby!

Isn't it amazing how just a little warm water, yeast, sugar and flour can come together and create something as awesome as dough?  The recipe said to let the dough rise for 2-3 hours in a warm place, so I stuck it in the oven (unheated, of course) and ran off to the gym. By the time I came back the dough had risen to epic proportions, and was slightly crusty on top (which worried me a little), but most of it was moist and yeasty, so I plopped the sucker on my table and and started kneading.  

The crusty parts blended with the rest of the dough without a hitch, and the rest of the recipe followed smoothly. Roll out little balls of dough, dip in butter, cover in cinnamon sugar, plop into cake pan.  Then drizzle the stacked layers with brown sugar butter sauce, pop the whole thing into the oven, and wait for your apartment to fill with the mouthwatering scent of cinnamon rolls (which, if you think about it, is more or less what Monkey Bread is).

The end-product is pull-apart soft, buttery, cinnamon-y, and oh so yummy. The brown sugar/butter mixture drizzled on top caramelizes during the baking process, and forms a delightful crust.  Unlike a regular cinnamon roll, this monkey bread is moist and soft on the inside, but sweetly crispy on the outside.  Drizzle some cream cheese frosting on top, and you'll think you're in heaven.

Ooey Gooey Monkey Bread (Adapted from the Cooks.com recipe)

2 cups milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2-1/2 sticks butter, melted

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon 

(1) Dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

(2) In a pot, heat milk until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pot. Remove from heat, and pour into a medium sized bowl.

(3) Stir shortening and 1/3 cup granulated sugar into milk until dissolved.

(4) Cool milk mixture until lukewarm, then stir in yeast mixture + 3 cups flour.

(5) Transfer dough to a large bowl brushed with oil. Turn dough once to coat entire surface with oil.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours.

(6) Add baking soda/powder, salt, and remaining 1 cup of flour. Knead 4-5 minutes on floured surface. Return kneaded dough to bowl and let rise for another hour. (Although, I only let it rise for another 40 minutes, and it turned out fine.)

(7) While you're waiting for the dough to rise, preheat the oven and prepare two separate bowls. One for 1 stick of melted butter, the other for a mixture of the cinnamon and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

(8) Roll dough into 1-1/2 to 2 inch diameter balls. Dip the balls into the melted butter, then roll it around in the cinnamon sugar. Line and stack finished balls in greased cake pan (see pictures). Set aside.

(9) Melt remaining 1-1/2 sticks of butter in a pot with brown sugar on medium heat. Stir until mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and drizzle it over the dough balls in the cake pan.

(10) Bake the monkey bread for about 45 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes, then smear with cream cheese frosting. (Use whatever recipe you like, but I usually mix 1 stick butter, 8oz cream cheese, and powdered sugar to taste.)

The bread can be eaten sliced or pulled apart by hand.  Best served while still warm and gooey from the oven!

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