Call it what you will — bubble loaf, pull-aparts, monkey bread — we’re ape for the stuff…
The sweet or savory Eisenhower-era snack has had the Betty Crocker cinnamon sugar, nut and maraschino cherry treatment, Neiman Marcus’s strawberry butter, Nancy Reagan’s buttery brioche with jam smears, and Paula Deen’s hidden cream cheese cubes, thus evolving it to gorilla bread status.
We also like the idea of orange peel and cardamom (1 tbsp peel to 1/2 cup brown sugar) and croissant dough or puff pastry studded with dark chocolate chunks. And of course, browned butter would send it all over the top.
But we also crave sea salt and olive oil flecked with minced garlic and thyme, dill or parsley or rosemary and oregano. Parmesan, onion, and poppy seed or bacon, cheddar, green peppers, and sweet onion.
Our obsession knows no bounds. We love it sharing it for winter brunch, apres ski, holiday tables or weeknight spaghetti dinners.
Now, we are obsessed with the idea of using muffin tins or mini cocottes to make single servings.
Yes, there are cheats. Our first childhood version involved refrigerated biscuit dough. Cindy Crawford used two loaves of frozen bread dough, a stick of butter, two cups sugar and two tablespoons of cinnamon on Good Morning America.
We are way too intimidated to try Gourmet magazine’s 1941 English jam bag pudding. And yet, we continue to hoard the recipe. Typical.
But Smitten Kitchen’s version of Cook’s Illustrated looks sublime. Click the link to see the awesomeness:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, divided (2 tablespoons softened, 2 tablespoons melted)
1 cup milk, warm (around 110 degrees)
1/3 cup water, warm (also around 110 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise, instant or bread machine yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons table salt
Brown Sugar Coating
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick or 4 ounces), mleted
Cream Cheese Glaze
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus extra if needed
2 tablespoons milk, plus extra if needed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Get oven and pan ready: Adjust oven rack to medium-low position and heat oven to 200°F. When oven reaches 200, turn it off. Butter Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.
Make dough: In large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast.
To proceed with a stand mixer, mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. (The dough should be sticky but if it is too wet to come together into anything cohesive, add an additional 2 tablespoons flour.) Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball.
To proceed by hand, mix flour and salt in large bowl. Make well in flour, then add milk mixture to well. Using wooden spoon, stir until dough becomes shaggy and is difficult to stir. Turn out onto lightly floured work surface and begin to knead, incorporating shaggy scraps back into dough. Knead until dough is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Shape into taut ball and proceed as directed.
Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray or a tablespoon of neutral oil. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with more cooking spray or oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
Make brown sugar coating: Place melted butter in one bowl. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a second one.
Form the bread: Flip dough out onto floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces. I found it helpful to immediately separate them from the rest of the “grid” or they quickly reformed a big doughy square in 64 parts.
Roll each piece of dough into ball. Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl. (I found a fork to be helpful for this process.) Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan, staggering seams (something I didn’t do, but should have) where dough balls meet as you build layers.
Cover Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.
Bake bread: Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350°F. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown and caramel might begin to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes. (The reason for the “might” is that CI says that it should, but mine did not bubble, leading me to bake mine for an extra 5 to 10 minutes, during which it still did not bubble but go the dark crust you see in the photos. Next time, I’d take it out sooner.) Cool in pan for 5 minutes (no longer, or you’ll have trouble getting it out) then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
Make glaze: Beat cream cheese with powdered sugar until smooth and light. Add milk and vanilla and this is where you can kick me because I completely forgot I was a food blogger for a minute there and know I added a touch more milk and sugar but did not write down how much. I have some nerve! Just taste and adjust — you’re looking for something that tastes equally tangy and sweet, and texturally thin enough to drape over the bread but thick enough that it will not just roll off completely.
Drizzle the glaze over warm monkey bread, letting it run over top and sides of bread. Serve warm.
- 6 ounces butter, softened, plus extra for greasing pan
- 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring pan and work area
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm milk (110 to 115 degrees)
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces melted butter
Butter and flour a 1-quart or larger ring mold or tube pan and set aside. Whisk the yeast with the milk in a large bowl. Whisk in 2 of the eggs and then the sugar, salt and 4 cups of the flour, switching to a spoon when the dough gets stiff. Stir in the softened butter and knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together in a ball. Turn out onto the work area and knead until it forms an elastic ball, sprinkling with and working in up to 1 cup more flour to keep dough from getting sticky. Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured work area. Roll dough into a log and cut into 28 equal-size pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, dip in melted butter and place in the prepared pan, staggering pieces in 2 layers. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat the remaining egg and lightly brush over the top of the bread. Bake until top is nicely browned and dough is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. (Test by turning out the loaf onto a rack; the bottom and sides should be nicely browned.) Turn upright on another rack to cool slightly before serving.
NEIMAN MARCUS STRAWBERRY BUTTER
A lovely accompaniment to Neiman Marcus Monkey Bread, below.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
Whip butter in a bowl with electric mixer until fluffy.
Fold in strawberry preserves.
Return to refrigerator and allow butter to solidify.
Adapted from “The Best From Helen Corbitt’s Kitchens” by Helen Corbitt.
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm milk (no hotter than 125 degrees)
Scant 3 1/3 cups (14 ounces) flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, drizzle the yeast over the warm milk, stirring to combine. Set aside for a few minutes to hydrate the yeast.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt.
3. Using the paddle attachment with a stand mixer, or a hand-held mixer, beat the softened butter into the yeast mixture. With the mixer running, add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed (as the dough thickens you may need to do this by hand). Continue to mix on medium speed until the dough appears sticky but becomes smooth to the touch when you roll a small piece into a ball, about 2 minutes.
5. Form the dough into a disc and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour (time will vary depending on the temperature in the room).
After dough has risen, turn out onto lightly floured work surface.
Punch down and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut into 2″ diamond shaped pieces.
Dip each piece in melted butter.
Arrange in a 4″ pie pan, 4 or 5 overlapping pieces per loaf.
Allow to rise for 1/2 hour.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until brown.
Remove from oven and brush with more of the melted butter.
NEIMAN MARCUS POPOVERS
3 ½ cups milk
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 large eggs, at room temperature
Place milk in bowl and microwave on High (100 percent power) for 2 minutes, or until warm to the touch.
Sift flour, salt and baking powder together in large mixing bowl. Crack eggs into work bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk, and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until foamy and pale in color. Turn down mixer to low and add warm milk.
Gradually add flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Turn machine off and let batter rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Spray popover tin generously with nonstick spray. Fill popover cups almost to the top with batter and place popover tin on cookie sheet. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn down oven temperature to 375 F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes longer, until popovers are deep golden brown outside and airy inside.
Turn out popovers and serve hot with strawberry butter. Makes 12 popovers.
Note: Chef Garvin advises: “The key to making great popovers is having the eggs and milk warm before mixing. It is also important to let the batter sit for an hour before baking it. Popovers do not freeze well, and pre-made batter has a tendency not to work properly the next day.”
PER SERVING: Calories 224 (19% fat) Fat 5 g (2 g sat) Cholesterol 97 mg Sodium 387 mg Fiber 1 g Carbohydrates 34 g Protein 10 g
SOURCE: Neiman Marcus Cookbook, Kevin Garvin with John Harrisson