Tomorrow I’m taking a little me-time in the company of about 250 other people. Sounds a little odd, doesn’t it?
There are both personal and professional reasons for doing so: tomorrow is the Minnesota Blogger Conference, an all-day event that’s as much about building a sense of community among bloggers as it is about sharing valuable tips and tools that anyone can use to help communicate on their own blog, regardless of topic. I’m a little nervous, simply because I’m an introvert, so these “get together, connect, and make new friends” events can be a bit of a challenge. Are you going? Look for the gal with her eyes to the ground, back absolutely smashed into the wall and white-knuckling her notebook, and say “hi.”
In addition to the introverted apprehension, there’s also a smidge of guilt in going to this. It’s being held on a Saturday, which is a very nice thing in that I don’t have to break away from work to attend; even though I think there will be some work-related benefits to going. It is time away from the family at home, though, and so my mind wanders to what Saturday things I might not be doing. (I know the guys are going to have a fantastic day together, though. And it’s great that they get that time together before hunting season starts!)
For example: I could have baked a batch of monkey bread. Which, as we like to tease our nieces, is always best made with fresh monkey.
I’ve found one recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook that captures all the good things about Monkey Bread. The drippy-gooey goodness of the caramel glaze that coats each delicious mouthful, punctuated by the doughy bites of bread that hold up all the caramel and nuts. Mmm. Monkey Bread.
As an aside, I’ve also tried the America’s Test Kitchen recipe in the Family Baking Book. There are a few variations on the ingredients, which make a difference in the bread more than anything. We found that we preferred the recipe in the cook book rather than the baking book.
1 cup whole milk, warm (approx. 110 degrees, no warmer or the heat will kill off the yeast)
1/3 cup water, warm (also approx. 110 degrees)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons honey
3 ¾ cups all purpose flour, plus extra for the counter (you will only measure 3 ½ cups for the dough, reserving ¼ cup to add if the dough is extra sticky)
1 envelope instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 teaspoons salt
Whisk the milk, water, butter and honey together in a large liquid measuring cup. Mix 3 ½ cups of the flour, the yeast and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. (If your mixer does not have a dough hook, see the hand-mixing note below in Step 2.) With the mixer on low speed, add the milk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.
Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (If, after 5 minutes, more flour is needed, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for the pan (I just use the extra tablespoon from the stick of butter to grease the pan)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup pecans, toasted and chopped fine
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
Lightly grease a large tube or bundt pan. Combine the butter and the vanilla in a shallow bowl. Toss the sugars and nuts (if using), cinnamon, and salt together in a separate bowl, then spread out over a rimmed baking sheet.