Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

IMG_12313 by you.

We decided not to travel for the holidays this year and have our first real family Christmas at home.  It was especially exciting because this is the first year that our daughter really understood the concept of holidays, and it was fun to see how much she enjoyed the lights and decorations and of course, the presents.

Since it was just the three of us, I didn't want to do anything too complicated for breakfast, so I nixed my original plan to make cinnamon rolls and decided to make Monkey Bread instead.  I've heard many people rave about Monkey, but I've actually never eaten any myself.  Most of the recipes I came across called for store-bought biscuit dough, cut into quarters and dipped in a mixture of sugar and butter.  I did, however, find a recipe that used yeasted dough, but it was geared towards a bread machine.  I decided to try and adapt it for my stand mixer and give it a try.

Monkey Bread

One packet or 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 c. warm water
1 c. butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans

1. Proof the yeast in the warm water.  (I sometimes also add a pinch of flour or sugar to get it going.)

2. In the bowl of your mixer, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and softened butter.

3. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the water & yeast mixture.  I use the paddle attachment to start.  Once the dough comes together, change to dough hook and knead on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  Dough will be fairly soft.

4.  In a medium saucepan on low heat, melt one cup of butter, stir in brown sugar and nuts. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

5. Gently shape the dough into a log and cut dough in one-inch chunks. Drop one chunk at a time into the butter sugar mixture. Thoroughly coat dough pieces, then layer them loosely in a greased Bundt or tube pan, staggering layers so you're plopping each dough chunk over a space between two below. Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until dough is just over the top of the pan, 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. After removing from oven, place a plate face down in top of the pan, and (using oven mitts) flip the pan over  until bread slides out onto plate. Serve warm.

I made this the night before, covered and refrigerated it.  I'm not so sure that was a good idea.  Even after taking it out of the fridge and letting it warm up at room temp for an hour or so, I don't think I got as much rise out of the dough as I should have and the resulting Monkey Bread seemed a bit dense to me.  I also used a tube/angel food pan, which I also don't recommend.  For one thing, it was way too big.  And then, because it was two pieces, the gooey brown sugar/ butter mixture oozed out the bottom and made a giant burn-y mess all over the bottom of my oven.   I think the loss of goo also made for a lackluster result. And there's nothing like scouring out your oven on Christmas morning to get you in the holiday spirit.

Still, Troy claimed it was good and our daughter managed to eat 4-5 pieces on her own, so I guess it wasn't a total bust.  I think next time, I will definitely make it the morning of, and use a smaller one-piece pan.  I may also try halving the cinnamon in the dough and adding some to the butter mixture.

What would Christmas be for a cookbook junkie without a few new cookbooks?  Under my tree this morning:

I spent the better part of the day reading the Momofuku book. It's unlikely that I'll ever make a single recipe from it (though the pork belly is extremely tempting), but it was still very entertaining.

I'm also looking forward to trying out some of the recipes from Martha's Baking Handbook.  Even though I have a bazillion baking books already, her approach always makes everything seem easier.  I have a feeling that I may never get back to Cooking with Claudine.

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