Author of Choclatique—150 Simply 150 Elegant Desserts, Running Press, 2011
My friends in Lisbon at A Padaria Portuguesa (the Portuguese Baker) had never heard of Monkey Bread. Over and over again they kept dipping and pulling out another ball of bread. It was easy to see how when one monkey saw the others do it, he fell right in and did it over and over again—monkey see, monkey do.
Monkey Bread is like a giant addictive cinnamon roll on steroids. It is buttery, sticky, cinnamon-y and rich in pecans which is what makes it so delicious. If you don’t have time to make the sweet dough from scratch , try using refrigerated tube dough and tearing and rolling that dough into balls and baking to a golden brown.
Prep time: 45 minutes
Proof time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 55 to 60 minutes
Yield: 12 servings
1 cup pecans, chopped
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 batch Basic Sweet-Roll Dough, without nutmeg (see recipe below)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Spread the pecans on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes; set aside. (Set a timer as a reminder so the nuts don’t burn). You can shut the oven off until ready to bake.
- Melt 1 stick butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and heavy cream; boil until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in the vanilla, vinegar, rum, salt and the toasted pecans. Pour all but 1/2 cup of the pecan mixture into an 8-inch-round, 3-inch-deep cake pan. Refrigerate until almost set, about 15 minutes.
- Set the remaining pecan mixture aside at room temperature.
- Put the remaining 1/2 stick butter in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave until melted.
- Put the granulated sugar in another bowl. Pinch off tablespoonfuls of dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Dip the balls in the melted butter, letting the excess drip off, then roll in the granulated sugar.
- Arrange in the prepared cake pan in 2 layers, leaving a bit of space between the balls.
- Let rise, uncovered, in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (325°F if using a dark or anodize cake pan.).
- Bake the bread until puffed and golden brown (a thermometer inserted into the center should register 175°F), about 55 minutes; tent with aluminum foil if the top is getting too dark.
- Remove the bread from the oven and immediately spread the reserved 1/2 cup pecan mixture on top. Transfer to a rack and let cool 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a plate.
- Pull off pieces to serve.
Basic Chocolate Chip Sweet-Roll Dough
Prep time: 1 hour
Chill time: 4 hours or over overnight
Yield: 1 3/4 pounds dough
1/2 cup whole milk
3 1/4 -ounce packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for brushing
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 cup Choclatique Semisweet Chocolate Mini Chips
- Warm 1/2 cup water and the milk in a saucepan over low heat until a thermometer registers 100° to 110°F. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the yeast on top, then sprinkle with a pinch of the sugar; set aside, covered with a kitchen towel undisturbed, until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk the melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla into the yeast mixture until combined.
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, the remaining sugar, the salt and nutmeg (if using).
- Make a well in the center, then add the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to make a thick and slightly sticky dough.
- Add the chocolate chips.
- Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 6 minutes. Shape into a ball.
- Brush a large bowl with butter. Add the dough, turning to coat lightly with the butter. Cover with food film and let rise at room temperature until the dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour, 15 minutes.
- Turn the dough out of the bowl, knock it down and knead briefly to release excess air; re-form into a ball and return to the bowl.
- Lightly butter a large piece of food film and lay it directly on the surface of the dough. Cover the bowl tightly with food film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
ChefSecret: If you choose to refrigerate the dough overnight make sure you take it out early enough to bring it back too warmer than room temperature. When touched you shouldn’t feel any chill to the dough.