After 48 hours of a funtastic trip (more on that in a later post), I am back in the saddle – or rather, I am sitting in front of my computer. Neva is curled up in her doggy bed, exhausted from 48 hours of non-stop playtime with several other puppies (dog camp). She wanted to go straight to bed the moment we brought her home, but she had enough of a stink on her that we insisted on giving her a bath. Since the sun was already down and the winds were blowing, we put her in the tub for a rub-a-dub-dub. Neva jumped out of the tub, twice. But after a few minutes under the warm water, she resigned herself to her fate, quietly whining as streams of dirty brown water swirled at her feet and on down toward the drain. Now she’s a fluffy fuzzball, all clean and cuddly and cute.
neva feels a treat is the least she deserves after the indignity of her bath
This recipe is a longish one, so it’s best to dive into it now. A (complimentary) box of beautiful Piñata apples from Stemilt Growers arrived on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago. The last time they sent me a shipment of fruit (pears), we ate them straight up because they were so sweet and juicy. This time, I actually held out and saved some of the apples for baking. Piñatas are excellent for snacking as they deliver a nice balance of tang and sweetness, but they are also great for baking. You can easily substitute Granny Smith or Fuji apples for this monkey bread – anything with a little tartness to it.
Let’s start with the filling. The recipe I followed called for three apples. My Piñata apples were on the large side, so I suspect I had a lot more apple than the recipe anticipated. The good news is that the end result is great despite the extra wrangling of apple pieces in the dough. Make your apple filling first. It will need time to cool after you sauté it because it gets added to the bread dough.
apples, sugar, butter, cinnamon, lemon (juice)
peel, core, and dice the apples
toss the apples, cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice together
add the apples to melted butter in a sauté pan
when the liquid has simmered away, let the apples cool
While the apples cool, start making your dough. It’s a yeast dough, and if you don’t have experience with yeast doughs, the best way to learn is to make some! The two things to ensure success are: 1) make sure the yeast is active (i.e. not dead) and 2) get the temperature of the liquid right. Yeast begins to die at 120°F, but if you are adding liquid to yeast mixed in with the dry ingredients, the temperature range should be 120°F-130°F (because your dry ingredients will cool the liquid).
apple juice, milk, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, butter
combine the yeast and 2 cups of bread flour
place the apple juice, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan
heat the liquid to 120°f-130°f
add the liquid to the flour and yeast
Use a paddle attachment to mix the liquid into the flour and yeast. Once that is well-beaten, swap out the paddle for the dough hook. Start adding the remaining bread flour to the mixture until the dough pulls from the sides of your mixing bowl and wraps around the hook. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth – either using the hook or by hand. When the dough is ready, scrape it back into the bowl and add your cooled apple filling. I found that my quantity of apples made it tough for the dough hook to incorporate the fruit into the dough, so I kneaded it by hand which worked fairly well. If bits and pieces fall off, don’t worry. Just smoosh them back onto the dough. Let the dough rise until doubled in size.
adding the rest of the flour
knead until the dough wraps around the hook
knead in the apple filling
set the dough in a lightly greased bowl to rise
Be sure to butter your baking pan well, so that the monkey bread releases when you invert it. This is especially important for pans with ridges or features that are not straight. After the dough has doubled in size, it’s go time! Melt some unsalted butter in a bowl large enough for dipping little balls of dough. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl that is also large enough for dipping little balls of dough. See where this is going? Flatten the dough into an 8×8-inch “square”, then cut it into 64 equal-sized pieces that you will individually shape into balls. Rolling out such springy dough never truly take the shape of a square, so you will have odd small pieces where the corners are rounded. This is fine. You will be fine. Your monkey bread will be just fine. Lots of bits of apple fell out of or off of my dough. Just tuck those little dudes into the dough ball and wrap the top of the dough ball down around the bottom to seal them in. Dip the ball in butter, roll it in the cinnamon sugar, then set it in your baking pan.
risen dough, butter, cinnamon, light brown sugar
mix the cinnamon and brown sugar
cut the dough into 64 pieces
shape each piece into a dough ball
roll the buttered dough in the cinnamon sugar
stack the dough balls into your baking pan
At this stage, you can follow the recipe and let the dough sit overnight in the refrigerator (it will rise a little), or you can let the dough do its second rise and bake it the same day. I opted for the overnight route since I ran out of time and I also like the flavors that develop while the dough chills in the refrigerator. Whichever method you choose, when the bread is in the oven baking, it’s time to whip up a quick icing. I doubled the amount of icing for the photograph, but in the future, I’ll stick to the original amount (which is listed in the recipe below) because double was just too sweet for my tastes (but apparently not for Jeremy’s).
confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extract, water (or milk)
i like the consistency of a thick drizzle
The thing to keep in mind when your monkeybread comes out of the oven is not to let it sit in the pan for too long. Let it sit for a few minutes so that it doesn’t tumble apart when you invert it. If the caramel is too warm, it won’t be cohesive enough to keep it all together. Let the caramel sit too long, however, and that sucker is going to stick to the pan. Find the middle ground. That said, it’s monkey bread, so you can always reassemble the little blobs that don’t come out of the pan (or tumble onto the counter). Drizzle the icing while the cake is warm. I think it tastes better when it is a little melty.
icing the monkeybread
This bread is great served warm or at room temperature. It gets sticky, so if you pluck pieces off, expect to find caramel in your hair at some point during the day. Totally worth it, though. A cup of coffee or tea is a welcome partner to balance the sweetness. Serve it for breakfast, brunch, snack, tea, or dessert – all winners. In addition to the deliciousness that is this apple cinnamon caramel monkey bread, it’s fun to eat!
hard to resist a nibble
3 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tbsps granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsps salt
2 tbsps unsalted butter
3-4 cups bread flour (I used all 4 cups)
2 1/4 tsps active dry yeast
brown sugar coating
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsps milk or water
1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the apple filling: Toss the apples, 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and lemon juice together in a large bowl until the apples are evenly coated. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté until all of the liquid has simmered off. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Make the dough: Heat the milk, apple juice, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan to a temperature of 120°F-130°F. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Combine 2 cups of the bread flour with the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on to low speed and slowly pour the warmed liquid into the flour and yeast mixture. When all of the liquid has been added, turn the mixer speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes. Switch the paddle attachment out for the dough hook and turn the mixer on to low. Gradually add the remaining flour until the dough pulls from the sides of the bowl and wraps around the dough hook. Knead the dough (increase the speed if needed) until it is smooth. Scrape the dough into the bowl (off the hook) and add the apples. Knead the dough and add more flour if needed until the dough is slightly sticky. (I found it easier to knead the dough by hand.) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly by hand. Shape the dough into a ball and set it in a lightly greased large bowl. Turn the dough over (to coat the whole thing) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm location for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
Prep the brown sugar coating: Mix the brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan.
Assemble the monkey bread: Punch the dough down and flatten it to an 8×8-inch square. Cut the square into 64 1×1-inch pieces – basically cut 8 1-inch strips, then cut those into 8 1-inch pieces. Dust your hands with flour and roll or shape each dough piece into a ball. Tuck any stray apple pieces into the center of the dough ball. Dip a ball in melted butter, let any excess drip off, then roll the ball in the cinnamon sugar coating. Place the ball in your greased pan. Repeat for the remaining dough, arranging the balls evenly and in a staggered pattern. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (it will rise a little bit). Alternatively, you can let the dough rise for an hour and bake it.
Bake the bread: If refrigerating the dough overnight, take it out of the refrigerator an hour before baking so that the dough can come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the bread for 30-35 minutes until the top is deep brown in color and the caramel is bubbling around the edges. (I baked mine for 35 minutes.) Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes. Carefully turn the bread out onto your serving platter. If any pieces stick to the pan, work quickly to remove them before the caramel hardens. You can reassemble the bread pieces once they are out of the pan. Cool for 10 minutes.
Make the icing: Whisk the powdered sugar, milk (or water), and vanilla extract together until smooth. Increase milk or water as needed to achieve your desired consistency. Drizzle the icing over the cake. Serve warm. Serves 8-12.
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