Monkey bread is a popular dessert or breakfast pastry, coated in cinnamon and sugar. The origin of the name “monkey bread” is a great mystery with many theories. Some believe that the chef who invented the dish named it because it looked to him like the lumpy hands of a monkey. Its direct ancestor appears to be a German pastry known as Affenbrot, or ape-bread.
The first recipe for monkey bread appeared in ladies magazines and cookbooks around the 1950s and became popular in the 1980s when served in the White House by then First Lady Nancy Reagan. The origin of the monkey bread recipe is unknown though food historians believe that it could be a Middle Eastern recipe since they were the first to make sweet rolls with butter and cinnamon. Some historians think that the term monkey bread came from the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana). Some believe that the name came about because the golden brown pieces look like monkeys seated and bunched close together. I found an interview with Ann King from Texas who has been identified as one of the creators of monkey bread. She developed the formula with the help of a silent film actress- Zasu Pitts.
I don’t care where it really originated, I’m just glad it did ! And isn’t this just perfect for your out of town visitors over the Holidays ? And I agree with Matt and Renato-this is addictive stuff.
For the Monkey Bubble Bread
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating
1 1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Make the Monkey Bubble Bread
Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan with non stick cooking spray.
In a small saucepan, warm your milk to slightly above room temperature, then remove it from the heat, add the yeast, and whisk to dissolve. ( Do not warm it beyond 110 degrees F or you will kill the yeast).
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour, sugar, and salt until combined.
In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork and add it to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until combined.
Keeping the mixer on low, slowly stream in the milk until combined. Add the melted butter and mix until the dough comes together.Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook attachment. Continue to mix on medium speed until the dough becomes silky and tacky,but not sticky, 8-10 minutes. The dough should mound together and easily come off the bottom of the mixing bowl. (If the dough is too wet, add some flour. If it is too dry, add a tiny bit of water.)
Spray the bottom and sides of a large bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to make sure it is completely covered in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel and let it rest in a warm area until the dough has doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Use your clean hands to push down and deflate the dough. Remove it from the bowl and pat it into a rough circle approximately 8 inches diameter. Use a bench knife or serrated knife to cut dough into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces ( about 1/2 oz each )- alternatively, use your hands to pinch apart the dough. Roll the pieces into balls ( they don’t have to be perfectly round). Place the balls on the sheet pan ( you will get about 60 pieces in all). Cover the balls lightly with plastic wrap.
Make the Cinnamon Sugar Coating
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Place the melted butter in a separate bowl.
Assemble the Bread
Remove the plastic wrap from the dough balls and dip one ball in the melted butter. Let the excess butter drip back into the bowl, roll the ball in the brown sugar mixture, and place it in the Bundt pan. Continue this process with each ball, until you have several layers, arranging them as if you are building a brick wall.
Wrap the Bundt pan tightly in plastic wrap. Set it in a warm area of the house for about 1 hour, or until the dough balls have doubled in size and appear puffy.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic and bake the Bundt until the top layer is deep brown and the caramel coating begins to bubble around the edges, about 30 minutes.
Cool the bread for 5 minutes, then turn it out directly onto a platter and serve warm. Should you have any leftovers ( this is rare), simply reheat them in a 300 degree oven until warm to the touch.
Baked Notes: You do not need an icing or topping for this bread-too sweet. Second, you can make the dough ahead of time. Once the dipped dough has been placed in the pan, wrap it tightly, refrigerate it, and bring it back to room temperature to “proof” the dough before baking. Lastly, this is one of those breads that exists to be eaten warm straight from the oven. Once the caramel begins to cool, reheat the bread in the oven before serving. Enjoy !
Excerpted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Copyright © 2010 by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Excerpted by permission of Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of Abrams. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.