Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

Most of the time, I try to cook fairly healthy food. But friends, there is nothing healthy about this recipe. Nothing. I didn’t look up the nutrition stats, because why would we want to know? If we’re going to indulge, let’s do it right—and part of doing it right means living in ignorant, syrupy bliss about the calories, sat fat, and sugar. Right? Right.

This monkey bread adventure began with my friend Lauren sharing with me a recipe she found for Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread. I drooled, thanked her profusely, and immediately put it on my “must make” list. Now, recipes sometimes sit on said list for quite some time, because I read way too many food blogs and food magazines, and add recipes to this list much more quickly than I can actually make them. Several weeks later my friend Jordan showed up to work one day with leftovers from her weekend of baking, and one of them was this same recipe! Then I posted on my blog that I might make this bread during Thanksgiving week. My friend Megan saw my link on Facebook, commented that she thought she’d make it, then several hours later followed up with, “Make it. MAKE IT! You will not regret it!” She was right.

I bought this mug for 49 cents at Goodwill. I chose this
particular one because it's the color of pumpkins.

Based on feedback from both Megan and Jordan that the rolling-out-slicing-stacking-slicing-more-and-arranging-in-the-pan method in the original recipe was really complicated and made for a big cinnamon-and-sugar mess all over the kitchen, I decided to make mine more like a monkey bread. Also, the shape of the bread pieces in the original recipe kinda weirds me out a little. I’m not sure why. Don’t judge me.

I used my bread machine to make the dough; but if you don’t have a bread machine, you can follow the dough-making steps on the original recipe. I also wanted a more syrupy, less glazey sauce to pour on top, so I made it more like the buttered rum sauce from my Pumpkin French Toast Casserole. Oh, and since my house was cold because I’m too cheap to turn on the furnace, I used this tip when it was time for the dough to rise a second time:
“Searching for a warm draft-free place to allow yeasted bread to rise? Preheat oven to 350° for about 2 minutes. Turn off and place covered bowl in warm oven.”
Now, there are a lot of steps here, but none of them are hard. This bread will take a lot of time from start to finish, but a lot of that time is spent waiting. So this is a great recipe to make when you have a long, leisurely morning (or afternoon), with plenty of time between each step to clean the kitchen, do laundry, watch TV, listen to the movie your neighbors are watching next-door, write, process food photos, or do whatever else strikes your fancy.

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

Adapted from Willow Bird Baking, as seen on Sunny Side Up
Yield: 1 loaf pan

Bread Ingredients
2 Tbsp. browned butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2-1/2 to 3 cups flour
2-1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast – or 1 generous tsp. rapid rise/bread machine yeast

Coating Ingredients
2 Tbsp. browned butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Sauce Ingredients
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. rum (or appropriate amount of rum extract or vanilla extract)

To brown the butter: Heat butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook until the butter turns medium-dark golden brown and smells irresistible. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan. The butter will continue to cook a bit in the pan, so take that into account when you decide how dark to let the butter get before removing it from the heat.

To make the dough: In a bread machine pan, combine the bread ingredients in the order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer. Select the dough cycle and let it do its thing. For the flour measurement, start with 2-1/2 cups, and when you machine gives you the, “Hey! Check on the dough and see how it’s doing!” beep, add more flour if needed. Mine definitely needed it. My machine’s dough cycle includes an hour for the first rise. If yours doesn’t, be sure to let your dough rise in a warm place for about an hour before continuing.

To prepare the coating: Brown some more butter; set aside. In a large, wide bowl, combine the sugars and spices for the coating. Grease a loaf pan.

To assemble the monkey bread: When dough has risen, punch it down and turn out onto a clean, floured surface. Knead a few times with your hands. You can work in a bit of flour here, but not too much, because you’ll want the dough to be sticky. Pinch (or cut) off small amounts of dough and roll into balls about an inch in diameter. Roll in the sugar mixture and arrange in the prepared loaf pan. Be sure to get them good and heavily coated with the sugar mixture. About halfway through, drizzle a bit less than half of the browned butter over the sugared dough balls. When all the dough balls are in the pan, drizzle the rest of the browned butter over the top. Cover pan with a clean, damp towel and allow dough to rise for 30-45 minutes.

Note: You should have quite a bit of sugar mixture left over at the end of my assembly process, and it may be tempting to sprinkle it into the pan. Don’t. I was tempted, too, and I’m really glad I didn't  This bread is going to be insanely sweet and rich as-is, and I think that if ALL that sugary goodness was mixed in, it’d be too much. So, either discard the excess sugar mixture, or save it for some future use. You could even use some of it for the sauce.

To bake the deliciousness: Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top is deep, golden brown. It helps to tent the pan with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking time, and remove the foil for the remaining 10-20 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire cooling rack for 20 minutes. Go a little crazy with anticipation.

To make the sauce: Heat your skillet once more over medium heat and whisk together butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup until sugar is dissolved and butter is browned. Remove from heat; whisk in the rum.

To serve: Use a plastic knife to loosen the sides of the bread from the pan, and carefully turn it out onto a plate. Place another plate on top, and flip it so it’s now right-side-up on the second plate. Pour butter rum sauce over top, and serve.

I've always kind of hated my blue counters, but they sure do provide
nice, photogenic contrast to orange, pumpkin-based dishes.  

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