Monday, March 8, 2010

Cinnamon Walnut Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread

I was not prepared for how good this would be.  The last monkey bread I had was denser with hard, caramelized stuff on top.  This one was gooey on top, crunchy on the sides, soft inside, and cinnamon-y all over.  It seems like everybody is making monkey bread -- a pull-apart bread great for social gatherings -- and I recently saw a guest on Martha Stewart's show make a Banana Brioche Monkey Bread with Moloko Milk Stout Butterscotch and Smoked Toffee Almond Brittle. It sounded so fussy and looked like so much work, I immediately hated the idea. This version from the LA Times is more my speed, and a snap to make as far as breads go.  Walnuts, butter, and brown sugar caramelize into a syrup on the top and bottom, and each ball of bread is rolled in cinnamon sugar.  It doesn't have a 14-word name, but for me less is often more.

The dough is easy to whip up, and then set aside for an hour to rise.  I don't work with yeast often, but this was so easy even I could do it!

Look at how much it puffs up.

Confession: I scaled back some of the butter in this recipe.  I know, I'm supposed to follow all the directions the first time, and it's a treat.  But there's 1 stick in the dough and 2 in the sauce, and who really needs THREE sticks of butter?  So for a mild instead of severe heart attack, I used 2½ sticks.

PUNCH!!!  Just to get the gases out.

Then turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide, and shape into logs.


The logs get cut into pieces, which I roll into balls.  I love this dough scraper/cutter.  The curved side scrapes bowls real clean, and the cutting side doubles as a ruler.


The balls of dough get rolled in sugar.  If you make two batches of bread as I did, there's no need to double the quantities of cinnamon and sugar.  There will be just enough for two batches of bread.

After each ball is rolled in the cinnamon sugar, it gets placed into the pan covered on the bottom with chopped walnuts and the butter-brown sugar syrup .


Continue until all the dough balls are in, then top with walnuts and let it rise another hour.


The balls swell up a bit more.  I also wrapped the springform and bundt in aluminum foil because butter WILL leak out while it bakes in the oven.  You'll also need to set a sheet below the pans to catch drips, or it will smoke up your oven.


Here's my other batch of twice-risen dough, which I made in a bundt pan and without nuts (which Joe can't have).  I like the bundt because that middle section cooks the bread from the inside.

The remaining butter-brown sugar syrup is poured over both batches of dough, and baked.

Removing the bread from the bundt pan can be tricky.  I position the pan on top of a can, and gravity removes the sides without burning your hands and wrists.  This also works well for tart pans with removable bottoms.


Carefully invert the bread onto a plate.


Soft insides of the dough.


From The Los Angeles Times

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes plus rising time
Servings: 10 to 12

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
1 recipe basic monkey bread dough (follows)

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium heat, stirring frequently, just until the brown sugar starts to dissolve into the butter to form a sauce, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Pour one-third of the butter-brown sugar mixture into a greased 10-inch cake pan, then sprinkle in half of the chopped walnuts in an even layer. Keep the remaining butter-sugar mixture in a warm place so it stays pourable.

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

Punch down the monkey bread dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into four equal pieces, and loosely drape a piece of plastic over the dough.

Using your hands, roll one piece of the dough into a 12-inch-long log. (The dough is moist and it may not be perfectly smooth.) Cut the log crosswise into 10 equal pieces. Roll the pieces in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place them side by side, gently touching (not tightly packed), on top of the walnuts and butter-brown sugar mixture. Continue with the three remaining pieces of dough, forming the logs, then rolling the cut pieces in cinnamon-sugar and placing them in the pan (the pieces should cover the base of the pan).

Sprinkle the remaining chopped walnuts over the top of the dough. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until the dough has more than doubled, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap the risen dough and pour over the remaining butter-brown sugar mixture. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the monkey bread is puffed and golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Cool the monkey bread, still in the pan, on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert the monkey bread onto a serving plate or platter and allow the bread to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Basic Monkey Bread Dough
From The Los Angeles Times

Total time: 15 minutes plus rising time

1 package (2¼ teaspoons) active-dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm milk (no hotter than 125 degrees)
Scant 3⅓ cups (14 ounces) flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) softened butter

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, drizzle the yeast over the warm milk, stirring to combine. Set aside for a few minutes to hydrate the yeast.
Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt.

Using the paddle attachment with a stand mixer, or a hand-held mixer, beat the softened butter into the yeast mixture. With the mixer running, add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed (as the dough thickens you may need to do this by hand). Continue to mix on medium speed until the dough appears sticky but becomes smooth to the touch when you roll a small piece into a ball, about 2 minutes.

Form the dough into a disc and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour (time will vary depending on the temperature in the room).

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