kitchenklutz: (fresh baked bread)
[personal profile] kitchenklutz
I've got a great new cookbook that I picked up on the discount table some time back -- The Best Ever Book of Bread, by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shatter. Given my desire to learn how to bake a lot more, I thought it an excellent investment, and as I've been looking it over the past week or so it definitely looks like it's worth it.

I've been paging through it and dog-earing recipes that look like they're particularly worthwhile, and the first one I tried out was

Monkey Bread

Ingredients:

FOR THE DOUGH

* 1/4 oz sachet easy bake (rapid-rise) dried yeast (using Fleischmann's)
* 4 cups unbleached white bread flour
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
* 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
* 1/2 cup lukewarm water
* 1 egg, lightly beaten

FOR THE COATING

* 1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins) (alternatively, just use regular raisins)
* 3 tbsp rum or brandy
* 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped (lacking walnuts, I used 1 cup of sliced almonds I had left over from other baking)
* 2 tsp ground cinnamon
* 2/3 cup soft light (or dark) brown sugar
* 1/4 cup butter, melted (I might increase this to 1/2 cup, since I ran out of melted butter long before I ran out of dough pieces to dip in it; see below)


Method:

1. Lightly grease a 9 inch springform ring cake tin (pan). (Lacking such a pan -- also known as a Bundt pan -- I simply greased a 9 x 13 cake pan, which worked well enough.) Mix the dried yeast, flour, salt, and caster sugar together in a large bowl and make a well in the center.

2. Add the milk, water and egg to the center of the flour and mix together to a soft dough. (With my attempt, this dough turned out notably dry and flaky and required substantial kneading to make come together; I may slightly increase the amount of milk and water in the recipe when I next make it.) Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minues until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl (using about 1/2 tbsp of oil, at most), cover with lightly oiled clear film (plastic wrap) and leave to rise, in a warm place, for 45 - 60 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

(I had substantial trouble with the rising, but mostly that's because my kitchen in winter is cold, cold, COLD. Clearly I need to buy an oven with a warming tray or something similar, I suppose.)

3. Place the sultanas or raisins in a small pan, pour over the rum or brandy, and heat for 1 - 2 minutes or until warm. Take care not to overheat. Remove from the heat and set aside. Mix the walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl.

4. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently. Divide into 30 or so equal pieces and shape into small balls. {I'd recommend cutting the dough with a sharp knife rather than tearing the dough by hand; tearing by hand seems to stretch and "tighten" the dough a bit.) Dip the balls, one at a time, into the melted butter, then roll them in the nut-cinnamon mixture. Place half in the prepared tin, spaced slightly apart. Sprinkle over all the soaked sultanas.

(As I was using a 9 x 13 rectangular pan rather a Bundt pan, I instead placed all my coated dough balls in a single layer side by side and sprinkled the leftover nut-cinnamon mixture over the top of the raisins. Notably, I ran short of melted butter long before I ran out of dough balls, so I would recommend doubling the amount of butter to 1/2 cup (1 stick).)

5. Top with the remaining dough balls (if any), dipping and coating as before. Sprinkle over any remaining nut-cinnamon mixture and melted butter. Cover with lightly oiled clear film or slide the tin into a lightly oiled large plastic bagj and leave to rise, in a warm place, for about 45 minutes, or until the dough reaches the top of the tin.

6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190° C / 375° F. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until well risen and golden. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool. (I made sure to put a paper towel out on the wire rack before turning out the bread, as the peripheral cinnamon, nuts, and raisins were a little loose and shook free when I inverted the loaf.)


Rising time: 1 - 2 hours
Total prep time: 2 - 2.5 hours
Cook time: 35 - 40 minutes

Overall, I was pleased with the resulting monkey bread. (Side note: no one, even Wikipedia, seems to know where this name originated! Lots of theories, though.) It was sweet, sticky and tasty, with any number of chunks easily torn off for finger food. The coating-bits that popped free were incredibly delectable in and of themselves!

However, regardless of the tastiness of the coating the dough itself was a bit on the dry side and was a bit plain. I may end up adding a little more water and milk to the initial dough to aim for a moister end product, and perhaps a little additional sugar to the starting dough to get it sweeter.

Additionally, given my desire to use less in the way of throwaway materials in my cooking and baking, I'm curious to know what alternatives there might be to using plastic wrap/plastic bags during the rising process. I know I've heard of some just draping a damp kitchen towel over the top of the bowl/pan -- how has that worked for others?

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kitchenklutz

March 2015

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