Who doesn’t love the feeling of being weak in the knees? Emotional weak in the knees, that is, of course. Almost nothing feels as good as experiencing something that makes you feel like as if it grabs you, encompasses you, and doesn’t wanna let you go. For me, this weakness only comes in three forms: love butterflies, music, or an exquisite food. But perhaps one would imagine that a food that gives you this feeling would be fancy, expensive, and complicated. But…. no no no no no.
Have you heard of Monkey Bread, because Monkey bread makes me weak in the knees unlike any other food and its imperative that people know about it. Imagine pieces of dough, dipped in butter, rolled around in cinnamon and brown sugar, then baked into a caramelized bundt form. I cannot convey how good this is or how much I love it through text. It creates nostalgia for me because I used to eat it in elementary school, and it has the power of transporting me to a world that is made of buttery, doughy, sweetness.
I don’t know about you, but I love feeling enveloped in a moment. These morsels will do that. For once, it feels good to be weak.
Monkey Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze
Adapted from Baked: Explorations
Notes: This is a labor of love. It’s time consuming but very worth it. Some people use pre-made biscuit dough for this. Even though the pillsbury stuff is delicious, it’s so much more fun (not to mention more delicious and satisfying) to make dough from scratch.
I’m in love with cream cheese and think it belongs on everything and anything, but some people would contest that this bread is enough by itself and is best left unadorned. Up to you!
I also suspect that this bread would be even more delicious if you browned the butter that you use to dip each ball. To brown butter, simply melt it in a skillet until it becomes nutty, browned, and begins to foam, about 6 minutes. It will begin to smell different…but make sure you don’t burn it.
Make sure you have fresh yeast or your bread will not rise.
For the Bread Dough
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 (brown it if you want!)
For the Cream Cheese Glaze (optional)
8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2-4 tablespoons milk
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Make the Dough
In a small saucepan, warm your milk to slightly above room temperature, then remove it from the heat, add yeast and whisk to dissolve. (Do not warm it beyond 110 degrees F or you will kill the yeast).
In a 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 one 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 scraper or serrated knife to cut dough into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 ounce 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 brown sugar and cinnamon. Place the melted butter in a separate bowl.
Assemble the Bread
Generously spray a 10 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough balls and dip one ball in the melted butter. Let the excess butter drip back in to 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 a 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.
Make the Cream Cheese Glaze
Cream the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer. Add the milk, then the sugar. Pour over the bread, or serve it on the side for dipping.
We cannot make sustainable change with food, our bodies, or our surrounding habits until we honestly explore and get curious about our relationship with each of them. Mindset change is not easy, but so, so worth it.
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