All families have family traditions, or at least I hope they do! For my family Monkey Bread is one of these traditions. A little background on our family history and then I’ll jump into the heart of the article, delicious, gooey monkey bread!
My Grandmother used to make monkey bread for the family at gatherings, it was always a crowd pleaser, easy to eat, the perfect combination of gooey sweetness, to crunchy yumminess. Another nice trait about monkey bread is that it’s a very informal dessert, you don’t need any sort of serving tools, you don’t even really need a plate, you can grab a few tasty morsels and continue on with what your doing. Or you can sit down with whomever you are sharing it with and literally break bread.
As I grew older my brother and I would help my Grandmother making it, I was young and didn’t remember exactly what was involved with it until just a few years ago. I was visiting my Grandmother about 5 years ago and we got to talking about cooking and food in general. I mentioned how I always loved her monkey bread and was curious if she remembered how to make it, and she just started rattling the directions from her head, I quickly wrote everything down and took all of the notes so I had it directly from the source with all of the information.
With the newly acquired recipe in hand I stopped by the grocery store to round up all of the ingredients, this is one of those rare occasions that I used a recipe. My grandmother was kind enough to send me home with a spare bundt cake pan which is my preferred vessel for baking a monkey bread in. I got home and got to work right away!
Here is the ingredients list:
2 – 7.5 oz Buttermilk biscuit tubes.
1 cup granulated sugar (more on this later)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Water
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Preparation of monkey bread goes something like this, but feel free to personalize it to suit your tastes. In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon. If you are using raisins put them in the bottom of the bundt pan, ungreased. Quarter the individual biscuits, I find it’s best to get a very sharp knife and take the entire tube of biscuits and cut down it lengthwise so you have two half moon lengths of dough. Then lay them on the flat part of the half moon and cut down the length of biscuits, do this to both half moon sections and you’ll have effectively quartered the biscuits. After you do this a few times you get very good at it and it goes very quickly. I have a friend who enjoys the process of making monkey bread and he prefers to hand tear the biscuits. There is no wrong way to do it as long as you make them a little smaller. As you cut the pieces toss them in the cinnamon and sugar mixture, gently stir the pieces so they are entirely coated.
I find it’s easier to do the biscuit pieces tossing using about 1/4 of the total biscuit pieces at a time, you can do them all at once but it’s just quicker and seems to do a more thorough job when you do them in smaller groups. After they are coated with the cinnamon and sugar mixture place them in the bundt pan on top of the raisins. The main thing to take care of here is to make sure you don’t pack them down and make sure that you fill the bundt pan evenly. This recipe typically fills up 1/2 of a normal sized bundt pan, that is 100% normal.
Once all of the biscuit pieces are tossed with the cinnamon and sugar and in the bundt pan you’ll notice you have sugar left over, this too is normal.
In a small saucepan, combine the water and butter and slowly melt the butter. Once the butter is melted entirely add the remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture to the party and slowly bring the heat up. Be sure to stir almost continually as you bring the heat up, you want to stir this until all of the sugar is dissolved in the butter and the grittiness vanishes, you’ll notice it starts to froth a little bit while doing this, once that starts it typically means it is ready. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for a minute or two. Carefully cover the top of the biscuit pieces in the bundt pan with the melted butter mixture, paying particularly close attention to the sides, I find it’s best to use a tablespoon and spoon it on.
Preheat your over to 350° F once preheated bake for 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when you see the bits on the top (which becomes the bottom) are lightly brown and crunchy looking. Once that happens take it out of the oven and before it cools, flip it onto a plate, it should look something like this:
A few tips for making this, I typically use 3/4-7/8 cup sugar, I tend to like things less sweet than most. I’ve also found different people like their monkey bread a different ways, some like it softer and less done (then bake it for a little less time) while others prefer it crunchy and more done (in which case you bake it for a little longer). I’ve also done experiments replacing the raisins with dried cherries, fresh blueberries, fresh peaches, fresh apples and the list goes on! I typically use less cinnamon when using fruits other than apples. Also be cautious about fresh fruit adding too much liquid, I find it’s best to cook the fruit in the butter sugar mixture first and then assemble the monkey bread. It adds a little bit extra work but produces better results.
I’ve even experimented with savory monkey breads, removing the sugar entirely, replacing the raisins with parmesan cheese, then add finely chopped fresh garlic to the butter mixture, you could easily add some italian seasoning, parsley or marjoram – the options are limitless. I’ve even seen a recipe for a mexican monkey bread that is like a whole meal all in a monkey bread!
I’ve also done testing replacing the bundt pan with a ramekin or other cooking vessel, they always seem to cook less even unless the cooking container is on the small side, for example if you were making single serving sized monkey breads. I also want to stress that you should use the water, this is an old pastry chef’s trick, water in the oven when baking pastry and bread is what gives it a crusty crust. If you prefer it softer throughout omit the water and you’ll get less of textural difference, it will be softer throughout. You can also mist the monkey bread with water while baking for even more crunch in the crust. Some bread shops keep bake pans with water in them steaming in their ovens to provide the famous bakery crust. I know it sound counter intuitive but that is a great baking tip snuck into this post!
Monkey Bread is a great comfort food that I enjoy sharing with family and friends, it always brings a smile to people’s faces and despite the simplicity of this dish it is extremely well balanced and incredibly enjoyable. After you prepare it a few times you probably won’t need a recipe and you’ll start trying new things, as long as you follow basic rules of cookery you’ll be rewarded with a delicious, homemade monkey bread.