Every month, Jan and usually, my daughter, Miriam attend the monthly Ethno Breakfast. While many of the larger companies have discovered the usefulness of using Anthropologist to research what their customers need and want, they usually only hire one or two. This leaves these Ethnographers isolated from others who really “get” what they are talking about. The Ethno Breakfast gives them a chance to socialize and discuss problems and solutions—topics that do not really interest the company officers and computer engineers, with whom they spend much of their days.
The Ethno Breakfast is often a pot-luck, so Jan asks me to make a dish. This time, Jan asked for monkey bread. Since this was a breakfast, I wanted to make it sweet—rather than savory—like a sticky bun. Jan asked that it not be too sweet, so I made it just a little bit sweet.
Karl’s Cinnamon Sugar Monkey Bread
1½ tsp. active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 Tbs. sugar
1 cup milk
½ lb. butter, separate uses
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt
3-4 cups flour
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon, ground
1. Dissolve yeast in the water and stir in the sugar.
2. Scald the milk in a medium pot.
3. Add a ¼ cup of butter and let it melt in the cooling milk.
3. When the milk is lukewarm, whisk in the eggs, salt and yeast mixture.
4. Sift the flour into a large bowl.
5. Make a well in the flour and stir in the milk mixture.
Note: There should be enough flour and milk to make a soft dough. if the dough is too wet add some flour, but do not stress if it is a bit dry.
6. Knead the dough for five minutes on a well floured board.
7. Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with a smooth damp cloth.
8. Set the dough in a warm spot and let it rise for one hour.
9. Roll the dough out into a half inch thick sheet and slice it into ¾ inch wide strips.
Tip: Like you were making thick noodles.
Note: My mother usually used a cookie cutter to make identical shapes. For this bread, I thought I would make little bread snakes, twisting around each other.
10. Cut the dough strips into 3-4 inch pieces and gently roll them into cylinders.
Tip: You are not trying to make a long thin snake, but a small thick rod. Cut and roll all or moast of the dough before proceeding to the next step—once your hands are covered with butter it will be hard to handle the dough.
Note: It is not vital that all of the pieces be the same size, variety is the spice of life.
11. Put the brown sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl and mix them well.
Tip: Use the back of a teaspoon to grind up any lumps of sugar. You want a fairly even and fine mixture.
Note: I am making this monkey bread only slightly sweet. If you would like to make it more like sticky buns, use ½ to ¾ of a cup of brown sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of cinnamon. Sprinkle this sugar mixture on each piece of dough as you assemble the loaf.
12. Melt the remaining butter in a shallow pan.
13. Butter a 10 inch ring mold.
Tip: I use an angel-food cake pan. The pan that starts off half full of dough fills to the brim, between the rise and the oven spring, with light crusty bread.
14. Sprinkle a teaspoon of the sugar mixture over the bottom of the empty pan.
15. Dip each piece of dough in the butter and lay them in the ring mold, until the bottom of the pan is completely covered.
Tip: You want to “weave” the dough pieces over and under each other a bit as you lay them down.
Note: Once you finish laying out your dough, the inter weaving of the dough is the just about only thing that keeps the loaf in one piece.
16. Sprinkle more sugar over the dough pieces.
17. Continue butter dipping, interweaving and sprinkling sugar until you run out of dough.
Tip: The pan should not be more than ¾ full or it will overflow as it rises.
18. Brush any remaining butter over the top of the loaf and sprinkle on any remaining sugar mixture.
19. Let the monkey bread rise for 1 hour.
20. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Note: For the savory bread I used a temperature of 400° F. I found that the exposed sugar of the sweet bread wanted to start to burn at the higher temperature.
21. Bake at for about 20 minutes at 350° F.
22. Remove the pan from the oven and run a knife between the bread and the sides of the pan.
Note: The “top of the loaf will be close to burnt at this point, but the bread surfaces that are in contact with the pan will be pale and under done. Flipping the bread over onto a wire rack exposes the rest of the loaf to the direct heat of the oven and protects the top from burning.
23. Set a wire rack on a baking tray and flip the pan over onto the wire rack.
Tip: Give the pan a sharp rap to free the bread from the pan.
Note: The surface of the pan will have some caramelized sugar sticking to it. Remove this, with a spoon, before it cools for a treat for someone you love. If you wait until it cools, it will be very hard to remove from the pan.
24. Return the loaf to the oven with the baking pan and wire rack.
25. Baked the monkey bread for 10-15 more minutes, until you have a deep brown crust all over.
26. Remove the monkey bread from the oven and leave it on the rack to cool.
Note: My mother separate the bread into pieces with two forks. I prefer to present the unbroken loaf for the dinners to tear apart.