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Monkey Bread Loaf

Monkey Bread Loaf

Monkey bread is nothing like monkey bars. It is much more like cinnamon buns, except that the dough is shaped into little balls which are all coated in sugar, piled together and baked. Once the bread is done, the delicious balls of dough can be pulled off – presumably like a monkey – and eaten one by one.No one is exactly sure how the bread got its name, though there are several theories. Never having seen a monkey eat a bread like this one before (nor, in fact, any breads at all), I can’t speak to the validity of the name, but I do like it better than the alternate name, which is “pull-apart bread.”

The first well-known recipe for monkey bread appeared in the New York Times in the 1970s, but it was reportedly popular with home cooks during the 60s as well. It can be made with a yeasted dough, as I did here, and is frequently made with refrigerated biscuit dough for the sake of convenience.

I used a simple buttermilk bread, which I lightly sweetened, for this recipe. There are two options for coating the bread before baking. For a more decadent recipe, as indicated in the instructions below, the balls should be dipped in melted butter before being dredged in sugar. A lighter version of the bread can be made by dipping the dough into milk before the sugar. The purpose of the butter (or milk) is simply to help the sugar adhere to the bread. Granted, butter adds flavor, but the sugar is the key ingredient and all you need to do is make it stick.

Once it has been baked and cooled, the bread should not last long. The sugary puffs encourage nibbling and the loaf will be gone before you know it. The bread itself is very soft and moist, while the sugar coating is caramelized on the sides and bottom of the bread and crisp on top. Don’t skimp on the sugar and, if you want to make a bigger bread, double this recipe and bake it in a well-greased bundt pan.

Note: If this doesn’t look as gooey as other monkey breads, don’t worry. The bottom is plenty gooey, I just chose to put this loaf out top-side up because the crisp sugary layer looked too pretty to put face-down even though monkey bread is usually served that way.

Monkey Bread
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1 package)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, warm (110F)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 – 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter (or warm milk)
1 cup brown sugar and white sugar, mixed

In a large bowl, combine yeast and buttermilk. Let stand for about five minutes, then add 1/4 cup sugar, salt and 2 1/2 cups of flour. Mix well and add remaining flour a tablespoonful at a time until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a lighlty greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Place melted butter into a small bowl and put the sugar mixture into a fairly shallow bowl.
Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Divide into about 16 pieces (a few more or less is ok) about the size of golf balls. Roll each one gently into a ball. Dip each ball into melted butter (or warm milk) and generously coat in sugar. Add more sugar to the mix if you run low at any point. Put dough into pan and repeat with each ball, stacking them up as necessary. Sprinkle a tablespoon ot two of extra sugar on top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes, or until the dough just barely reaches the top of the pan.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Bake bread for about 30 minutes, until browned on top (you can check the internal temperature, which should be about 190-200F with a meat thermometer, but otherwise try baking for 30 minutes). Turn bread out immediately onto a plate and serve. Bread can be left inverted, with caramel on top, or turned so the crisp, sugared side faces up.
Makes one loaf.

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  • suburban housefrau
    June 8, 2006

    The recipe says 1/4 cup sugar, but the directions say 1/2?

  • Anne
    June 8, 2006

    *sigh* Yet another recipe I have to bookmark. 🙂

  • Stef Noble
    June 8, 2006

    I subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated, and they sent me a free copy of their offshoot, Cook’s Country, which happened to have a recipe for Monkey Bread. I made it a few weeks ago and it’s definitely worthwhile. My mom and sister happened to be visiting and my sister was raving about it. It far surpassed any of the biscuit dough quick recipes, so the time involved. was worth it.

  • Haalo
    June 8, 2006

    It is a small world! I just made this a couple of days ago! It’s a little different – it’s the version that uses currants.

  • Ellie
    June 8, 2006

    Cinnamony and sugary bread…mmmm!!

  • Meredith
    June 9, 2006

    I make monkey bread every year for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner but instead of adding extra sugar to the dough and dipping the dough balls in cinnamon sugar, I make a savory version with garlic and lots of fresh hearbs. My family won’t let memake anything else now.

  • Rebekka
    June 9, 2006

    oh my gosh, sounds so yummy.

  • jenjen
    June 9, 2006

    wow I always wondered what monkey bread was after hearing it mentioned in some movie. We don’t have it here is Australia, well we probably do but we don’t call it monkey bread.
    Sounds interesting, I am definitely going to make this one!

  • Anonymous
    June 12, 2006

    I am from the land of Monkey Bread and I have always seen it traditionally include both cinnamon and nuts. Usually, butter is melted with the cinnamon, nuts and brown sugar and this mixture is poured over the balls of dough and the end product is much gooier and stickier than the bread pictured. It can be likened to a pecan roll in flavor and texture. Yours looks good too but definitely not the norm here in the midwest.

  • Nic
    June 12, 2006

    Anonymous – The bottom of the bread is very sticky and coated in caramel. I just chose to photograph this side up because it made for a better picture.

  • Sarah
    September 23, 2008

    This looks very delicious! I actually tried making it today but, perhaps due to the weather, didn’t have enough flour for it. I added some rolled oats and threw it in a buttered loaf pan, then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Once it’s out of the oven I’ll brush some butter on it. Anyway, I’ll still make the original recipe sometime soon, but all is not lost as my bread smells amazing!

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