Monday, April 13, 2009

Monkeying around

I'm not entirely sure why, but Gillian really loves monkeys.  The first sign was when she started to carry around a small stuffed Curious George that belongs to Brianna.  Brianna wasn't exactly thrilled with that, so fortunately Santa Claus brought Gillian a Curious George of her own (yay for Kohl's Cares for Kids).  We have a couple of monkey cups that she's quite fond of as well, often arguing with Brianna about who will get which one.  They have a carpet with animals on it at her daycare, and she claimed the monkey as her spot to sit during circle time.  She likes to sing about the Five Little Monkeys (jumping on the bed and swinging in the trees, both).  And it's quite entertaining to ask her what monkeys say--"Ooh, ooh, aah, aah!"  

And then there's the fact that she acts like a monkey.  She was quicker than Brianna was to start climbing into and out of things.  Like the playpen, and then her crib.  It's still pretty funny to watch her climbing over the side, which stays lowered all the time now--she's quite capable of scaling it when it's up, which is rather scary to watch.  We have a very difficult time convincing her not to climb over the arms of chairs and the couch, not to mention actually getting her to stop standing on the furniture.  Brianna still wins for climbing the front of the refrigerator, though... =)

So with all the monkey business around here, it's kind of surprising that it took me this long to get around to making another monkey item--monkey bread.  What made me decide to make some was a great post about Monkey Bread Muffins over at Two Peas and Their Pod.  I'm not really sure why it's called monkey bread, but boy, is it tasty.  =)  Sort of like cinnamon rolls, but with the cinnamon on the outside.  And fun to eat, especially with kids, since you get to pull it apart.  I was home by myself when I decided to make some, but it would be a great thing to make with kids, as well--they'd have a lot of fun rolling the dough in the butter and sugar.  

I used the bread dough that I already had in my fridge, which was a result of my monkeying around with another Artisan Bread in Five recipe.  I was looking for dough that would make a good sandwich loaf.  The recipe for Buttermilk Bread caught my eye, and it was something I hadn't tried yet.  It's not that different from the basic dough, but you substitute buttermilk for some of the water and add a bit of sugar, both of which make for a more tender crumb.  However, I started to get everything together to make the dough and then discovered that I didn't actually have buttermilk.  I don't always have it around, since I have a bad habit of opening a pint container, using about half a cup and then forgetting that I have the rest.  What I did have, though, was plain yogurt.  I figured it was worth a shot!  

The verdict?  The dough turned out great.  I liked the bit of tang in the finished loaves of bread.  And it worked quite nicely for the monkey bread--not too chewy.  And not too sweet, which was good since there was plenty of sugar on the outside.  I will definitely make both the plain loaves and the monkey bread again.  I'd like to try it with part whole wheat, too.

For the full bread method, head over to the Artisan Bread in Five website, or check out a copy of the book.  For lots of other great bread, be sure to check out the BYOB roundups.  And I'm submitting this to Yeastspotting (this week hosted by Zorra) as well, another wonderful source of inspiration.

Monkey bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
20 ounces bread dough (see below for what I used)

Spray an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan (I use Pyrex) with baking spray.  Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a small bowl.  Using a bench scraper, cut the dough into small pieces about the size of a walnut.  Dip each piece of dough in the melted butter, roll it in the sugar mixture, and then place it in the loaf pan.  If you have any butter or sugar left, drizzle/sprinkle it over the top of the dough balls in the pan. Don't pack the dough balls in too tightly.  

Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until the pan is about three-quarters of the way full.  While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the pan on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for about 50 minutes.  The dough will fill the pan and be nicely browned on top.  The center of the loaf should be 190-200 degrees F when done.  Let rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then invert the bread onto a serving platter.

Yogurt bread dough
(adapted from ABin5)

18 ounces room temperature water (I used spring water since my tap water is extremely hard)
8 ounces whole milk yogurt (Brown Cow)
2 pounds unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast

Place the water in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Stir in the yogurt.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.  Switch to the dough hook and mix on low speed for one minute.  Transfer the dough to a large (5-6 quart) covered bucket.  Let it rise at room temperature for about two hours, then refrigerate.  Use the dough within seven days.


  1. I make the buttermilk bread every week and form it into rolls for the kids' lunches. Next time I'll use the yogurt - I never would have thought to try it!

  2. Looks great! I have always wanted to make monkey bread.

  3. Great story and the bread looks awesome!

  4. The crib climbing thing always stresses me out.

    This looks incredible, Di! I am a sucker for anything rolled in butter, cinnamon and sugar. Hope your little monkeys enjoyed this too!

  5. I love monkey bread. Your's looks delicious.

  6. I like the substitution of random sour dairy product--happens in my kitchen all the time given my usual state of disorganizaion... Good to know that it works so well in this case.

  7. Di, I substitute yogurt and buttermilk all the time, always with good results. And I've been known to use "expired" buttermilk - I figure it's already sour! Someday I'll get on the ABin5 wagon, but I'm spending a lot of time with Peter Reinhart (but soooo far behind in posting).

    I'll be interested in seeing how you like the torte.

  8. I love monkey bread -- my grandmother used to make it for us when we were little but I haven't had it in a long, long time. Yours looks seriously delicious. Great call on subbing the yogurt for the buttermilk!

  9. my husband's nickname is windmonkey, can't believe I haven't made these. Great post.

  10. Looks delicious -- I will bet your monkeys loved this!