Monkey Bread

 

With an upcoming Superbowl party, I was looking for a bread that could be easily shared and eaten with your hands. This seemed like an obvious time to bake a tear-and-share bread. I’ll admit, I’ve been looking for any excuse to make one of these. When I found out about this party I knew I wanted to bust out a tear-and-share for the event.

I flipped through Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible for inspiration. I often turn to see what Rose has to say before I make important bread decisions. In the Brioche section of her book, she lists a recipe for a Rum Raisin Monkey Bread. The moment I saw the recipe I knew it was exactly what I needed to bake.

Monkey Bread is an ooey, gooey, sweet bread that I often see in big rectangular loafs served at breakfast buffets or at a local bakery in single portions. It is usually packed with cinnamon and covered in a glaze. It pulls apart in big hunks of soft dough that are just friggin’ delicious.

The recipe from Rose uses an angel food pan to shape the bread into a massive ring of bread. This shape makes it a perfect tear and share for a party. You can easily pull off a hunk of bread as you move around the party.

New skills

brioche

This is my first time making a brioche. It seems like many amazing sweetbreads start with a brioche. Seems like a bread worth learning more about!

Pull Aparts

This is my first pull-apart style bread. You form the dough into balls and glue them together with a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, butter, and the rum you infused the raisins with.

Infusing Raisins with Rum

I’ll be in infusing raisins with rum on this bake. The raisins with be sprinkled over the balls of dough as I create the layers. The rum itself will also be poured over the dough at the end to soak through.

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What did I learn?

Check for overbrowning early

I have a tendency to overbrown (aka burn) the tops of my breads. I was more paranoid about this bake in general, as I was doing it the morning before the superbowl party. The stakes were high! My paranoia caused me to check the top of the monkey bread early and often. Around the halfway mark, I spotted the top of the bread starting to brown and popped a tinfoil hat on it. This kept the top (which would become the bottom once the bread was turned out from the pan.

Don’t overfill the pan

This bread expanded like crazy in the oven. Which shouldn’t be a surprise to me at this point, but I really underestimated this one. You can see from the first image that the pan is overbrimming with dough. This caused a lot of the bread to come out of the pan and gave the bread a bloated base. On future monkey bread bakes, I’ll make sure to leave the space I need to create a nice straight base.

Make lots of glaze, or spread the glaze more strategically

This bread was interesting. The glaze at the top of the bread was thick and delicious, and the bread was soaked in it. But as the bread was consumed, it became progressively dryer and less flavorful as you ate your way down. Luckily I was in a kitchen where we could make an emergency glaze from butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Adding this to the bread around the halfway point really revitalized the bread.

But why did this drying out happen in the first place? I had coated each ball of dough in the same amount of the mixture. I have to imagine this is some combination of the glaze moving down as it soaks in, and the top of the bread being exposed to more heat and drying out much faster. On the next monkey bread, I’ll need to play with how I soak the dough to make the entire bread consistently soaked with delicious, sticky rum-raisin glaze.

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How’d it eat?

This bread was unbelievably delicious. It was soft and perfectly sweet, while being easy to eat at a superbowl party because of the pull-apart-able balls of dough. The raisins were an amazing burst of rum flavor. It was an impressive looking bake, and it drew attention with its size alone. In The Bread Bible, Rose describes the monkey bread as “an attractive Roman ruin” as it is eaten. This was absolutely true!

Many conversations seemed to happen around the monkey bread throughout the party. The participants pulling away hunks of rum-raisin soaked dough as they talked. I’d say that’s a good measure of success for a pull-apart, how much of a centerpiece it becomes.

 
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