If I weren’t going to the Minnesota Blogger Conference tomorrow.

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.

OMG what an IMG!

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.

Monkey Bread

Bread Dough

You know you've got dough when your mixing bowl looks like this.

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.

Hand-Mixing Method: whisk liquid ingredients in Step 1 as directed. In a separate large bowl, whisk 3 ½ cups of the flour, the yeast and salt together. Add the milk mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together and looks shaggy. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, 10 to 15 minutes, adding the remaining ½ cup flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter.
Turn the dough onto a clean counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 1 minute. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 ½ hours.

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

Lined up and ready for action.

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.

If you have a pastry scraper, this goes a lot faster and easier.
Turn the risen dough out onto a clean counter, divide it into 36 even pieces and cover with plastic wrap. Working with one piece of dough at a time (keeping the other pieces covered), round into a tight ball. Roll the balls in the butter mixture, then roll in the cinnamon sugar to coat and arrange evenly in the prepared pan. Drizzle any remaining butter and sugar mixture over the top. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Dunked, rolled, and dropped into the pan.
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the monkey bread until golden, 30 to 40 minutes.
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then use a thin-bladed knife to loosen the edges of the bread from the pan. Being careful of the hot caramel, flip the bread out onto a serving platter, letting the caramel drip out of the pan over the bread. Let the bread cool slightly before serving.
NOTE: To prepare ahead, make the dough, let it rise, and divide the dough, rolling it in butter and sugar and arranging it in the pan the evening before. Cover the pan tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator, effectively suspending the rising process. The next morning, take the pan out of the fridge and place on the stovetop under the vent hood light (if you have one), allowing 30-60 minutes for the pan and dough to return to room temperature and resume rising. Bake as directed.
Now of course, I’m going to get into trouble for posting this. Someone is going to demand that a batch of Monkey Bread be made soon, to make up for a perceived deprivation of monkey bread rights. Which is a big problem, apparently. Maybe I’ll blog about that next time…

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ellen says:

    This probably doesn’t seem very foody but I make a great, much quicker version using a brioche dough recipe from my favorite bread book, “The All new Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook.” All mixed and risen in the Bread Machine! After that, though, it was all on my own time.

    Both bread machine and cook book were gifts and not everything turns out quite the way I envision but, hey, the heart wants the monkey bread when the heart wants monkey bread!

    Love the photos and I think there will be the dreaded MB this week.

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