Bake 52 Week 31: Monkey Bread

August 1, 2012

To start off, I have to apologize for the near-repeat recipe this week. When the current round of recipe dates were posted, and I saw that my date fell right within the time range that I was expecting to have a baby, I picked my recipe early and got it made so that my post would be ready to go regardless of whether I was still pregnant or not (still here, btw…any day now!). Then, a couple of weeks later, Valerie chose cinnamon rolls for her recipe, which fell two weeks before me….and happened to use the same basic sweet dough recipe that the monkey bread does. Under normal circumstances, I would have just nixed the monkey bread and chosen something different. But, since my baking and post-writing was already done–and because I was busy trying to bake ahead as many recipes as I could in anticipation of my maternity leave–I decided that we’d just have to roll with it and perfect that basic sweet dough recipe!

I chose monkey bread mainly because it’s something that I’ve heard people talk about, but I’ve never had it before and really didn’t know exactly what it was….and it uses a Bundt pan, which is something I’ve wanted to own, but never had a good enough reason to buy.  Monkey bread was the perfect excuse for me to go out and buy one!

The base recipe for this monkey bread is the basic sweet dough.  It had a slightly different texture–heavier, I guess–than the dough I’m used to working with, but I was really impressed with the end result.  It’s easy to whip up and work with and baked up nice and light and fluffy.  You start with a buttermilk/butter/egg mixture that is slowly added to the dry ingredients as they mix.  I failed to read that the buttermilk should be warm, and I worried that maybe my dough wouldn’t rise well since I added it cold.  It did take a bit longer to rise, but I didn’t ruin the entire thing, thankfully!

After rising for a couple of hours, it’s time to assemble the cinnamon balls. My balls were pretty scary looking and the sizes were anything but uniform!

The recipe suggested covering the balls with plastic wrap and just pulling out a few pieces at a time to work with.  I thought that would be a waste of plastic wrap, so I just worked fast.  I left my cinnamon mixture in the bowl I mixed it in, rather than spreading it on a baking sheet….it worked just fine and saved a dish needing to be washed.

After everything is covered in butter and cinnamon/sugar, it’s left to rise again.  Easy as pie!

Once the balls have doubled in size, it’s time to bake.  After baking, you leave it to cool in the pan for just a few minutes and then dump it out.  I was a little worried that maybe I had messed something up and the balls would all fall apart when I pulled the pan off, but they had baked together nicely and looked really pretty.  I drizzled the glaze and let them sit for just a bit before digging in….and boy was that first bite heavenly!  Monkey bread should definitely be eaten warm!  The balls pulled apart easily and were the perfect size to be satisfying….for a few minutes at least, and then you needed another!

We really enjoyed this recipe.  I’m glad that the basic sweet dough is so easy to make….I’ll definitely use it again, and monkey bread will be on the list of make-again recipes for our family.

Monkey Bread

Make sure to use light brown sugar here; dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor that can be overwhelming. After baking don’t let the bread cool in the pan for more than 5 minutes or it will stock to the pan and come out in pieces.

Bread

1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 recipe Basic Sweet Dough (see below)
8 TB unsalted butter, melted

Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 TB milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. FOR THE BREAD: Grease a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan. Toss the brown sugar with the cinnamon, and then spread out over a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter, divide it into 36 even pieces, and cover with greased plastic wrap. Working with several pieces of dough at a time (keeping the other pieces covered), round the dough into tight balls. Following the photo, roll the balls in the melted butter, followed by the cinnamon sugar, and arrange evenly in the prepared pan.

Sprinkle any remaining butter and cinnamon sugar over the top. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

4. Adjust an over rack tot he middle position and heat the over to 350°. Bake the monkey bread until the top is deep brown and the caramel begins to bubble around the edges, 30-40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.

5. FOR THE GLAZE: Col. the monkey bread in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently turn out onto the platter and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla together in a small bowl until smooth, then drizzle it over the bread and serve warm.

TO MAKE AHEAD:
In step 3, do no let the monkey bread rise, but refrigerate it overnight or up to 16 hours. Let the bread sit at room temperature until it has nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour, then bake as directed.

Basic Sweet Dough

This versatile dough is used to make Monkey Bread, Cinnamon Rolls, and Sticky Buns.

3/4 cup buttermilk, warm (110°)
6 TB unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

1. Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

2. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 TB at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

3. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

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Bake 52 Week 30: Lattice-Top Peach Pie

July 25, 2012

I was bummed that this recipe didn’t come just a few weeks later than it did so that I could use fresh peaches from my tree, but was happy when I got just the perfect number of them in my Bountiful Basket the week before we were to bake this pie.  I still haven’t ventured much into pie-making and have never made a lattice-top pie, so I was excited for the chance to learn something new with this recipe.

I really should probably try the pie crust recipes in the book, but since I know that the Betty Crocker recipe Amanda uses is pretty much foolproof, I have just been sticking with that.  I made up a double batch so that I’d have enough for the top and the bottom.

My peaches were perfectly ripe and smelled so yummy while they sat in the sugar creating their juices.  In the meantime, my lattice strips were in the freezer and the pie crust in the fridge.

The assembly part of the pie wasn’t really hard, but I could definitely use some practice.  I found it funny that the recipe wanted the lattice strips frozen so they wouldn’t break….mine were VERY brittle after coming out of the freezer and I had to be really careful handling them.  Two of them snapped in half anyway.  Oh well.  And my edges….yikes!

(This post is lacking in pictures because my camera was still in the car after a quick pre-term labor trip we made to the hospital…and I was too lazy to go fetch it…so phone pics is all I’ve got.)

Thankfully, pie crust is somewhat forgiving after it bakes…..my pie is still not perfectly pretty, but it looks better than it did pre-baking!

The kids were very excited to dig into this one, but they were really naughty the day that I made it, so their punishment was having to wait until the next day to have a slice.  When it came time to eat, I really didn’t have the appetite for pie, but I did take a small bite and it was pretty yummy.  We didn’t finish the entire pie, so Joseph took the remainder to work.  I was worried that a two-day-old pie would be received with reluctance, but I received a text first thing that morning saying it was a big hit.  One co-worker said the only thing that would make it better would be a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Talesha was this week’s host…check out her blog for the recipe.  Thanks for picking something so fun!


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Bake 52 Week 29: Cinnamon Rolls

July 18, 2012

This was a yummy week.  While I never crave things like cake, or cookies, or pie, I do loooove bread-based baked goods.  I have yet to come across the perfect cinnamon roll recipe, but this one was close.  They were yummy!

A fun addition to the cinnamon/sugar mixture was cloves.  At first, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that.  The rolls smelled so different from traditional cinnamon rolls while they were baking and every so often I’d get a whiff of the cloves and realize that was the difference.  I was pleasantly surprised when I ate one though…the cloves were subtle, but just there enough to add a little extra punch to the flavor.  I’m not sure I’d add them every time, but it was a nice deviation from the norm.

I’ve grown tired of the amount of butter that all this baking we’ve been doing has used, so I decided to skip brushing the dough with butter before sprinkling the sugar on it….instead, I used the technique we learned with the cinnamon loaf and just sprayed it with water.

My roll turned out a little longer than the 18″ the recipe called for, and I wondered if I had maybe not made it fat enough when I wound up with three extra rolls and they still didn’t fill the pan.  They looked much better after rising, but there was still space to spare in the pan. And maybe it’s because I don’t have any good, sharp knives in my kitchen, but I don’t know why anybody would want to slice the rolls with a knife when we all know that using dental floss is such a slick little trick for slicing cinnamon rolls (we all know that, right?).

I know Amanda will probably drive all the way from California to throw tomatoes at me when I say this, but I REALLY don’t like cream cheese.  Nothing ruins frosting for me like cream cheese, and since the glaze for these cinnamon rolls called for cream cheese, I opted to use a different glaze recipe.  The end result was delicious and we all enjoyed a roll (or two) after lunch.

The recipe says to dump the rolls out of the pan to cool before adding the glaze. Unless I were going to serve these right away to enough people to eat them quickly, I’d leave them in the pan. We found that they dried out pretty fast just sitting on a cooling rack.

Valerie was this week’s host….check out her blog for this great recipe!

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Bake 52 Week 28: Fresh Fruit Tart

July 11, 2012

We skipped last week due to the holiday.  A few die-hards made 4th of July desserts, but I enjoyed the week off :).

We’re picking back up this week with a fresh fruit tart, which looked sooooo yummy to me!  I’ve never made a tart before, so I was excited to try this recipe out.

The day I was planning to bake was HOT….triple digits hot…and my A/C froze up on us, so I couldn’t bear the thought of turning my oven on when my house was 85°.  I waited until late that night when it cooled down some to whip up the tart crust and get it in the fridge, hoping that the A/C would thaw out overnight and I’d be able to bake the next day.  Thankfully it did!

The recipe said to take the chilled dough out and let it sit for about 10 minutes before rolling it out.  I learned quickly that if you’re not fast with working with tart dough, it will make your life miserable.  After the 10 minutes were up, it was still a bit firm and difficult to roll….but less than a minute or two later, it was so soft that it kept cracking and tearing while I attempted to roll it out.

I did lots of patching to fill in the places where the dough had torn or pulled away.  I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal in the long run because it would be filled with yummy goodness after it’s baked anyway.  I didn’t get a picture of the unfilled, baked crust, but it turned out just fine.

Aside from my struggle with the crust, the remainder of the tart went together quite easily.  I was unable to find either apple or red currant jelly at the store, so I just used the raspberry preserves I already had in my fridge.  I think the point of the jelly is to give the fruit a nice sheen, so probably anything you have on hand would work.

This tart isn’t a quick dessert to make, due to various cooling/chilling times needed, but the end result is REALLY pretty!  And I’m sure glad that I bought an extra package of raspberries, because Emmy and I nearly consumed an entire one ourselves after assembling the tart!

If nothing but the presentation of this recipe counted, it would score a 10!  See what I mean?  PRETTY!

Since presentation isn’t everything, we of course had to dig in for a taste.  28 weeks into this project, and I think it’s probably one of my favorite dessert recipes yet!  It was SO yummy!  The crust was like a delicious, crispy sugar cookie….the cream filling was perfectly sweet….and the berries were divine!  I was pretty full after one piece, but Emmy gobbled up two big ones in no time flat!  Even Ryan, who has become my least willing to try new things, liked his (with the exception of the raspberries, which I knew he didn’t like anyway).

Amanda was this week’s host and she hit a homerun at our house….check out her blog for this awesome recipe!

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Bake 52 Week 26: Black and White Cookies

June 27, 2012

I have been baking ahead in anticipation of our big baby day (I always go early, so better to be prepared even though we’re really praying for full-term this time!), and it’s a good thing because our computer crashed in the meantime, so I’m glad for a handy phone app and already typed up recipes! I have no excuse for the lack of pictures though.

These cookies looked really fun, but I admit some trepidation over the fact that I get really annoyed when I see a picture of a perfectly frosted cookie in a cookbook and then try to replicate that myself. I guess I’m just messy with frosting. But really, the worst part was that no matter how far apart I spaced the cookies on the baking sheet, they spread out and baked right into each other, so none of them turned out nice and round and smooth on the edges. They just weren’t pretty. Oh well.

It almost pained me to even frost the cookies…I ate one plain and it was soooo yummy! Putting chocolate on something so wonderful was hard.  And once they were frosted (which turned out to not be as hard a job as I thought it would), they no longer beckoned to my taste buds, so I didn’t try a totally finished product.  The kids ate them up and enjoyed them, and Joseph said they were good, but carried a pretty subtle flavor….I think he would have liked something with slightly more kick. He took what was left to work and the concsensus there was that as far as presentation goes (in spite of their lack of a pretty shape) these were pretty impressive.  However, most seemed to be a little underwhelmed with the flavor….not bad, just too mild.

If you want to try them out, the recipe and detailed instructions are on Janet’a blog!

Bake 52 Week 25: Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread

June 20, 2012

I’m kind of glad that I’ve had a bad experience with a recipe that I’ve chosen so that I don’t feel so bad not liking someone else’s recipe.  This cornbread was a doozie for us.  I had high hopes.  I actually quite like cornbread, though we don’t eat it often.  The recipe called for using a cast iron skillet, which I don’t have, so I just used a heavy casserole dish.  That seemed to work just fine, though I imagine that the outer crust would have been crustier with a skillet.

The recipe itself was actually pretty easy.  Just a few ingredients and quick to put together.  It was fun to watch as I poured the batter into the hot dish and see the edges start baking up before it was even back in the oven.

While the bread was cooling, it dawned on me that I hadn’t put any sugar in the bread, so I quickly pulled out my recipe book to make sure I hadn’t missed it.  Whew…I hadn’t!  But that was the point that I started to become a little leery about how this bread would taste….and for good reason.

It’s important to note that the cornbread I’m used to is slightly sweet.  So imagine my surprise when I took a bite of this bread and felt like I might as well be eating cornmeal right out of the container.  Bland, bland, bland.  There seriously was no flavor at all.  Not even a little butter helped.  And it would have taken more honey than my taste buds can handle to sweeten this stuff up to the point that it would have been edible.  My kids all took one bite and screwed their faces up.  Not even Joseph was impressed enough to have more than one piece.  Needless to say, the rest of the bread went into the trash, which is a shame because it was actually quite pretty.

I’m not sure what southerners do with their cornbread…Joseph said maybe it would be good sitting in a bowl of stew…but this one will definitely NOT be going on my to-bake-again list.  I think I’ll stick with my Lehi Roller Mills mix for next time!

Jen was this week’s host…and I’ll forgive her for offending my taste buds (I at least tasted the final product, which is more than I can say for some recipes!).  I hope everyone else liked it better.  If you’ve got a great use for flavorless cornbread, head on over to Jen’s blog for the recipe!

Bake 52 Week 24: Cinnamon Swirl Bread

June 13, 2012

I’ve made various cinnamon swirl bread recipes over the years and none of them have quite captured me. Usually they turn out too dry, or the cinnamon/sugar ratio isn’t quite right.  Even the cinnamon burst loaf from Great Harvest is a little dry for my taste.  Finally, this recipe combated both of those problems!  I’m pretty sure I ate the bulk of the loaf myself, but my kids did proclaim the next morning that it made the best toast they’d ever had and they wanted it everyday….and I agreed!   It turned out perfectly gooey in the center and not dry at all.  The one downside to a rolled loaf like this is that it tends to unroll once you’ve cut a slice, which can get a little messy for eating.  Toasting it helped.

 

One of the ladies I visit teach was having a birthday just a few days after I made these loafs, so I packaged one up for her.  It made such a cute and easy gift!

Rebekah was this week’s host….hop on over to her blog for a yummy, must-try recipe!  Thanks for such a great recipe Rebekah!  We loved it!

Bake 52 Week 23: Coconut Macaroons

June 6, 2012

This week’s pick was pretty quick and easy–my kind of recipe! Just a handful of ingredients and steps and you have yourself a cute little cookie.  I’m not a big coconut fan though. It’s more a texture thing than a taste thing….and yet, I can manage to burn through an entire box of Samoas by myself in no time flat.

I shaped a few of these cookies in haystacks and dipped the bottoms in chocolate, trying to match the picture in the book. They didn’t turn out so hot. My haystacks weren’t very pretty and when I tried to dip them in the chocolate, they kind of suctioned themselves to the bottom of the bowl and the tops would fall off when I tried to pull them out. I finally resorted to just spreading some chocolate on the bottom and calling it good. The rest were just the little round ball cookies and they were a breeze.

Had these been more of a regular cookie with ground up coconut to add flavor, I think I would have liked them. But the whole cookie was coconut, which was just too much for me.

Emily was this week’s host, and even though these aren’t cookies I’d ever make for myself, they are simple and pretty and I will likely make them again to share with friends.  Check out her blog for the recipe!

Bake 52 Week 22: Rustic Carmelized Onion Tart w/Blue Cheese and Walnuts

May 30, 2012

Well…..

I decided to use up one of my 3 unexcused absences this week.

Michelle was this week’s host, and I commend her for picking something totally different than anything we’ve done thus far in Bake 52.  I rolled it around in my mind for weeks, trying to decide if I’d attempt it or not.  In the end, I decided that while I’m sure I would learn something in the process, the only person in my family who would eat it was the one person who is in a weight loss competetition and doesn’t need an entire (or two, if I made the full recipe) tart, no matter how much I know he would have liked it.  Typically I don’t have a problem making things that I know my family won’t particularly care for, because I can always send it to work with Joseph, where it will be quickly be gobbled up and appreciated.  However,  this particular recipe called for it to be eaten warm, and while I could get up in the middle of the night to make it in time for him to take to work, I’m not sure anybody would be up for onions and blue cheese at 6 am.

So, there it is.  No good excuse…which is why I opted to go unexcused….but I hope you’ll check out the other blogs to see how everyone else liked it, and stop by Michelle’s for the recipe!

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Bake 52 Week 21: Multigrain Bread

May 23, 2012

This week’s host was my neighbor Jen and she went with a super healthy recipe because she is super healthy and fit. The morning that I made this bread, she dropped her kids off for an hour so that she could enjoy the nice weather and go for a run. Did you catch that? An HOUR! That’s about 60 minutes longer than I ever care to run! And she knows me well enough that she predicted right off that I would be leaving the seeds out of my bread. As far as I’m concerned, putting seeds in bread would be the same kind of sin as putting nuts in other baked goods.

I was just slightly skeptical about how I would like this bread. Multigrain bread is typically on the heavy side and I like my bread a little lighter. It was a really easy recipe to whip up though and even easier to eat up. It’s quite possible that I ate at least 1/3 of the loaf myself. It’s OK though…I did it for the baby 😉

As I mentioned above, I opted to leave out the seeds.  I also put my oats in the food processor to make them a little smaller.  I figured my kids would be more inclined to eat them that way, but it didn’t really matter because most of the oats fell off whenever I cut a slice anyway.  The end product turned out really pretty.  The dough rose really well and made a pretty shape.  I shaped my loaf the way I typically do (pinching all the edges to the center, flipping over, and patting into a nice loaf shape) rather than rolling it the way the book suggested.  I used to make my loaves that way and I just don’t think it makes quite as pretty a loaf.

As I predicted, this was a pretty heavy loaf of bread.  I also made my regular whole wheat loaves that day and there was  HUGE difference in the weight between the two.  I’m afraid that for me, the multigrain would be a little too heavy to use as sanwhich bread, but it makes DIVINE toast!  Especially with a little peanut butter!

I will definitely be making this bread again.  I’m not going to hold its weight or the fact that it should have seeds against it….really, the only thing wrong with this recipe is that it only makes one loaf.  You should totally give it a try!  Visit Jen’s blog for the recipe!

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