Monkey bread (also referred to as bubble bread, puzzle bread or pull-apart bread) is a yeasted bread that can be made savory or sweet. It's background goes way back to at least the 19th century and the idea of arranging pieces of dough in one pan and then baking them, like Parker rolls or even cinnamon buns or Mrs. Goodfellow's Spanish buns.
According to the American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, recipes for monkey bread began showing up in women's magazines and community cookbooks back in the 1950s. "The sweet version is also known a bubble loaf because the dough is pinched off and rolled into balls. These are dipped in melted butter and then layered into the pan with a flavored sugar mixture or a caramel or brown sugar glaze." One can see calling it "bubble bread" since the dough rises into big, pillowy bubbles, but even food historians are unsure of where the name "monkey bread" came from. Theories range from the fact that it is eaten in a "monkey-like" fashion by being pulled apart, that it resembles the monkey puzzle tree (so-named because of its unusual overlapping leaves that would pose a puzzle even for a monkey to climb), and even perhaps that it looks like a barrel of monkeys jumbled together. There is actually a fruit called "monkey bread," from the African baobab tree, but it has no connection to this bread.
In any case, there are any number of recipes for monkey bread that exist today (just Google it). I did a quick search through my cookbook collection and found two sweet recipes (Lemon Bubble Ring from the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, and Hawaiian Bubble Bread from Cooking Light Low Fat Ways to Bake), and one savory (Pull-Apart Cheese Bread from Bakery Treats). Most of the savory versions I saw seem to include cheese as an ingredient. I actually made the Hawaiian Bubble Bread years ago (the "tropical" flavors stem from the addition of sliced banana, cream of coconut and pineapple-orange-banana juice), and it was really nice, but I since I am partial to cinnamon, I liked the version I just made even better, as the dough "balls" are dunked in a milk and butter mixture and then coated with cinnamon sugar prior to placing in the pan to rise. Yum!!
This recipe does require two (albeit brief) risings but you could always do the one rising, roll the dough into balls, and then let it proof overnight in the pan. They will be all ready to bake in the morning - fresh, warm and gooey!!
- 13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
- 4.75 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package quick-rise yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 cup very warm fat-free milk (120° to 130°)
- 1/4 cup very warm orange juice (120° to 130°)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Cooking spray
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 4 1/2 tablespoons fat-free milk, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached; mix until combined. With mixer on, slowly add 1 cup milk, juice, honey, and 2 tablespoons butter; mix dough at medium speed 7 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)
- 2. Combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Combine 3 tablespoons milk and 2 tablespoons butter in a shallow dish, stirring with a whisk.
- 3. Punch dough down; divide into 8 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll into an 8-inch rope. Cut each dough rope into 8 equal pieces, shaping each piece into a 1-inch ball. Dip each ball in milk mixture, turning to coat, and roll in sugar mixture. Layer balls in a 12-cup Bundt pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining 7 dough ropes. Sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture over dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.
- 4. Preheat oven to 350°.
- 5. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool 5 minutes on a wire rack. Place a plate upside down on top of bread; invert onto plate. Combine powdered sugar, remaining milk, and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Microwave at HIGH 20 seconds or until warm. Drizzle over bread.
Sources: Food Timeline; Monkey bread - Wikipedia