Start to Finish: 1 hour
Servings: 6
Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Monkey bread delivers bite-size blasts of cinnamon-sugar goodness in a fun, pull-apart loaf. The ideal baking pan for monkey bread is a Bundt cake pan or angle food cake tube pan. You can also use a springform pan. This monkey bread — inspired by a “Cook’s Illustrated” version — gets its intense flavor from a coating of cinnamon and brown sugar that goes on before you pour the cinnamon-sugar glaze on the assembled loaf.


Ingredients

Dough
* 1 cup milk
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup granulated sugar
* 1 package dry active yeast
* 1 egg
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 4 cups all-purpose flour

Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Coating
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup light brown sugar
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Glaze
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup light brown sugar
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
* 1/2 teaspoon orange zest, optional

Prepare the Dough

Heat milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it feels warm to the touch but does not simmering simmering. Turn off the heat.

Stir in granulated sugar, using a wooden spoon. Add yeast, stirring briefly to dissolve it. Transfer the saucepan to a cool burner. Let the mixture stand in the saucepan for about 5 to 10 minutes so the yeast can proof.

Beat an egg with a fork in a small bowl until the yolk and egg white blend together. Pour the beaten egg into the saucepan after the yeast appears frothy and the milk mixture cools. Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon to incorporate them — it does not need to be a perfectly uniform mixture.

Place the dough hook attachment on an electric hand mixer or stand mixer. Beaters or paddle attachments are acceptable if you do not have a dough hook.

Pour the yeast mixture into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add salt. Start mixing the ingredients on the lowest speed setting.

Add about 1 cup of flour to the bowl. Wait until all of the flour is incorporated before adding another cup of flour. Continue adding flour and mixing the dough until all of the flour is incorporated.

Increase the mixer’s speed to “Medium,” beating the dough until it has a uniform consistency and there are no lumps, approximately 5 minutes.

Spray a bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a dark, room-temperature environment such as an unheated oven or microwave. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.

Prepare and Apply Cinnamon-Sugar Coating

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Microwave butter in a small bowl to melt it. Blend brown sugar and cinnamon in a second bowl. Set both bowls aside.

Spray a bundt cake pan or a tube pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl of dough. Punch down the dough to expel excess air.

Pinch a small piece of dough — more than the size of a grape but less than the size of a golf ball. Roll the dough between your palms to form a ball that is about 1 1/2 inches wide.

Drop the ball of dough into the bowl of melted butter. Scoop the ball out of the butter, using a fork. Hold it over the butter for a moment so that the excess drips through the tines and back into the bowl.

Place the ball of dough into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll it around the bowl with the fork until the entire ball is coated in the mixture.

Transfer the ball of dough to the pan. Repeat the process until all of the dough is balled, coated and in the pan. Do not pat down the balls of dough or smash them together. Minimal space between the balls is necessary to allow the glaze to coat the bread.

Glaze and Bake the Bread

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the ground cinnamon and brown sugar, stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon until the brown sugar dissolves. Add vanilla extract or orange zest for flavor, if desired. Use fresh cinnamon and brown sugar to make the glaze — not the ingredients with which you coated the dough balls.

Pour the glaze over the balls of dough in the bundt pan, distributing the mixture as evenly as possible.

Place the pan in the oven. Bake the bread until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, approximately 30 to 35 minutes.

Allow the bread to cool for about 5 minutes before removing it from the pan. Place a serving plate onto the pan, top-side downward. Hold the pan and plate together, and then turn them over to transfer the monkey bread to the plate.

Serve the monkey bread while it is still warm.

Substitutions and Topping Tips

Substitute 3 to 4 cans of biscuit dough for the homemade dough, if desired. Cut each unbaked biscuit into quarters before rolling the pieces into balls and dredging them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Avoid flaky biscuits because the dough separates while baking and won’t yield the balls of bread that are characteristic of monkey bread.

White sugar can be substituted for brown sugar in the cinnamon-sugar coating and the glaze.

Sprinkle 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans in the greased pan before you add the coated balls of dough, if desired.

Top the finished monkey bread with a powdered sugar icing, if desired.
Add milk, cream or water to 1/2 cup powdered sugar until the mixture is thin enough to pour.
For a flavor twist, add orange juice, apple juice or apple cider to the powdered sugar. Alternatively, flavor the topping with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or maple extract.

Blend 1/2 cup cream cheese with the powdered sugar before adding the liquid ingredient to prepare a cream cheese icing.

Drizzle the icing over the monkey bread after you transfer it to a serving plate.

Serve monkey bread with apple- or banana-based fruit topping or your favorite jam, if desired.

Allow diners to pull apart servings of monkey bread. Alternatively, slice and distribute portions, based on your preference.

Warnings

Exercise caution when handling hot sugar, which can cause severe burns if it comes into contact with your skin.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil if the bread starts to brown too fast while it is baking.

Do not allow the monkey bread to cool in the pan longer than 10 minutes. Some of the sugar will crystallize as it cools, making it difficult to remove the bread from the pan.