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Breakfast or dessert: Healthy chocolate cherry drop biscuits

24 Apr

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I initially envisioned this as a cookie recipe, however the texture of the result was more akin to a biscuit: just a bit crisp on the outside, and soft and pillowy on the inside. The shape in the image above is cookie-like, but that was a result of me sort of shmooshing the batter into a cookie shape out of stubbornness. I recommend you just drop the batter as the recipe instructs. It will puff a bit, but not really change shape or spread as it bakes. If you really wanted to go nuts and play with shapes, I think it would make a dense, but fantastic, muffin or coffee cake.

The reason for the softer biscuit-y texture I attribute to the proportion of wet to dry ingredients. For the time being I’m continuing to indulge my natural sweetener experimentation, which I only possess in the form of various syrups and liquids. The thing I miss about white sugar is the way it caramelizes when baked. I am eager to try this recipe with dry natural equivalents, like natural maple or date sugar, where the excess water has been removed, leaving only the powdery sugar crystals. However, it is prohibitively expensive for me to play too much with those at the moment. But enough talk…

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Healthy chocolate cherry drop biscuits
My own recipe

Ingredients

¼ c. maple syrup
24 drops liquid stevia
1 c. all natural dried tart cherries, chopped*
½ c. almond meal
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil**
¼ c. 2% plain greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ c. oat flour
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c. dark chocolate chunks (or nuts if you’d prefer a healthier option)***
2 eggs

* I used a food processor to make almost a cherry paste, which I hoped would add fruit flavor to the overall batter, however it was largely masked, so I’d advise simply chopping so that you retain the flavor of the mixed-in cherry chunks.

**If you’re strongly opposed to a (very slight) olive oil scent/flavor, I think you could omit it entirely, and maybe double the yogurt.

***I will probably get some side-eye for calling these healthy when there’s a cup of chocolate chunks, but look at alllll the other ingredients and tell me, is that so bad??  Plus, as always, I recommend using the darkest chocolate available (I use 72% discs).  In my world that’s a healthy choice.

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

1)Add your maple syrup, chopped cherries, stevia, almond meal, evoo, vanilla, and eggs to a stand mixer with paddle attachment, and mix thoroughly (or by hand if no mixer).
2)Add greek yogurt, baking soda and salt, and mix thoroughly.
3)Add the flour, in small additions, mixing to incorporate.
4)Add chocolate chips and mix to incorporate.
5)Drop by large tablespoonful onto parchment lined baking sheet.
6)Bake for 8-12 minutes until edges start to become a golden color. (watch carefully as the bottoms will be susceptible to burning before the outside).
7)Let cool and enjoy!

If you want just a few at a time, consider freezing the dough, wrapped tightly in plastic, and pressed into a rectangle, cutting off chunks as you need them, and baked according to the same time/temperature. I always do this now, and the batches baked straight from the freezer are almost like scones since they retain their shape and get slightly crisp on the outside while the inside stays soft (Almost underbaked, but in a yummy way. Refrigerate these if you have leftovers).

Sneak attack: Better for you brownie cake

11 Apr

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I’m on a roll, guys.

I just couldn’t hold back with this one.  I have repeatedly tried to come up with a healthier brownie recipe that is just as swoon-worthy as the not-so-healthy variety, and while some of my attempts have met with success, they never quite achieved the element of swoon I was going for.  Either not sweet enough, or too dense, or just “meh”.  I might have turned the corner with this one though.  I had a hard time deciding whether this fell into the brownie category or the cake category (hence my cop-out hybrid title).  It’s a cake-like brownie, because of how deliciously moist and fluffy it is.  Can’t complain.  In my next attempt I might try playing with the proportions of flour, leavener, and egg, to see if I can get a fudgier consistency.  Another idea is to melt the chocolate chips into the batter instead of mixing them in whole.

Why the sneak attack?  Secret ingredient: BEETS!!  Note that I do not have a natural love of beets.  They will always taste at least a little bit like dirt to me.  But in this recipe, the earthy flavor is totally buried and undetectable, so the beets instead lend only their color (like red velvet cake!), moisture, and nutrients.

Beets and chocolate are not a new combination to the food blogosphere, and several sources helped inspire the idea, however other than the not-so-secret ingredient, this recipe is entirely my own. Others out there look equally delicious, but still include butter or processed sugars, and I wanted to see if I could have success with healthier substitutes. See for yourself!

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Ingredients:

1 c. beet puree (I got this from two medium beets, roasted or boiled until fork tender, and pureed in a blender)*

¼ c. extra virgin olive oil

¼ c. honey (mine was the creamed variety, but I think liquid would be fine)

¼ c. agave

1 tbsp. chia seeds

¼ c. almond meal

16 drops liquid stevia

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

¾ c. oat flour (or whatever flour you have/prefer)

½ c. cocoa

½ c. chocolate chips (Optional, but I can’t resist. Good quality dark chocolate is best, I use a 72% disc that I buy in bulk at a local market)

 

Instructions

1)Prep your beets by roasting or boiling until fork-tender. (This part takes the longest. I left my beets whole and it probably took an hour of boiling, so I’d recommend cutting them in smaller chunks first)

2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3) Puree the beets in a blender (I had to add a couple splashes of milk to get things going), and measure out a cup. It should be a similar consistency to applesauce.

4) Add the beet puree to a mixing bowl, along with the olive oil, honey, agave, chia seeds, vanilla, stevia, and salt. Stir to combine (I used my KitchenAid).

5) Add the almond meal and eggs. Stir to combine.

6) Add the baking soda, flour and cocoa, a little at a time if necessary, stirring to combine.

7) Stir in chocolate chips (or nuts, etc).

8) Pour into greased pan and bake for 15 – 20 minutes if using a 9 x 13 pan, or 25+ in a smaller pan, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.*

*I got nervous looking at the amount of batter, and ended up using a 9”x13” pan because I was afraid in a smaller pan the edges would burn before the middle was ready.  This was probably unnecessary. They came out perfect after exactly 18 minutes in my oven, but are on the thin side. Next time I will take my chances on my 8”x8” so I have a thicker final product.

UPDATE April 2014: I made a version of these using sweet potato puree with half a cup of dark chocolate chips melted into the batter (instead of stirred in whole), baked in a 8 x 8 pan for about 25 minutes, and can confirm that these alterations baked well. Texture was not as fudgy as a traditional fudgy brownie, but solidly more brownie than cake, and totally delicious.

A Winter’s tale, part deux: Heart healthy chocolate chip cookies with olive oil and oat flour

18 Feb

Hello, gentle readers.

Hallelujah

Hallelujah

This is something of a continuation of the Winter’s lament from my last post. As previously mentioned, I’ve been obsessed with chocolate chip cookies lately. One day I made the mistake of doing the butter math in my head, and came to the conclusion that I’d consumed well over a pound of butter so far this season, in homemade cookies alone. Paula Deen would be proud, but me? Not so much. As a runner, I often excuse my sweet tooth because I run off a lot of those calories and try to eat balanced meals for the most part (sometimes “balance” means salad for lunch so I can have pizza for dinner, but you get the idea). While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with splurging on dessert if you have an otherwise healthy lifestyle, I think I’ve been taking it too far with my cookie game. Hence, this post.

I’ve always heard that olive oil is a more heart healthy fat because it’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol (for more science speak, read on here). Olive oil also has a pretty distinct taste, but I had seen it incorporated into cake recipes and other sweet treats, so I figured there had to be a chocolate chip cookie out there somewhere that used EVOO instead of butter. I also wanted a cookie that didn’t rely on AP flour, which doesn’t really provide any nutritional benefits. I often use whole wheat flour, but it can overwhelm the other ingredients with its hearty flavor and grittier texture. Enter, oat flour. Look for oat flour sold in bulk at specialty markets and Whole Foods and it’s super cheap and easily replaces AP flour in most recipes, with the added benefit of lots of fiber and protein (Bob’s Red Mill also sells it pre-packaged).

The final result? A cookie that is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, and leaves you feeling full and satisfied. For recipe, see below.

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Chocolate chip cookies with olive oil

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:
2 ¼ cup oat flour (or flour of choice)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-2 cups chocolate chips*

*To each their own. I used a bag of Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chunks, they melt great. I think next time I will add almond slices and chia seeds.

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine sugars, vanilla, olive oil, salt, and baking soda. Beat in the eggs one a time. I strongly recommend a stand mixer as the dough is unusually dense/sticky and tough to work with by hand. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl, and around the bottom, to thoroughly combine. Gradually beat in the flour and stir in the chocolate chips.

*A note (novel) on resting the dough: I am a firm believer in the power of letting your cookie dough rest before baking (for more on the science behind this and other aspects of cookie baking, check this out). I found that to be especially beneficial here because of the distinct flavor of olive oil. In order to reconcile my gotta-have-it-now attitude toward CCCs, and the benefits of resting my dough, I’ve gotten into a habit of baking only one small tray right after I’ve made my dough, and then refrigerating or freezing the rest for at least a day. When I made my first tray of these cookies following this protocol, the results satisfied my craving, but I was not terribly impressed because they had a distinct aftertaste (probably exaggerated by the fact that I slightly overbaked them, leaving the crisp edges tasting slightly bitter). When I made the remaining batches a day or two later I was a complete convert. I couldn’t taste the olive oil at all, made sure not to overbake them, and they were the most perfect chewy texture and rich balanced flavor.

Place spoonfuls of dough a couple inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or greased sheet). Apologies for not having any photos of the dough before baking.

Bake for 8-11 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges and set. Watch carefully at the end of baking time as these overcook quickly, so it’s better to take them out a bit early if you’re unsure. Allow to cool for a bit to set up, and enjoy!

A Winter’s tale: Sweet potato brownies

13 Feb

Let’s pretend it hasn’t been almost a year since I did this…

Did someone say "yum"?

Did someone say “yum”?


If you are in the Northeast, you know we have been having a particularly brutal winter. As you might expect, this weather does not lend itself to healthy eating habits. For me this means that for the past couple months I have been obsessed with chocolate chip cookies. Seriously obsessed, I think about them all the time and about how I will get my next fix. If I wanted to right now I could share a recipe for the most delicious browned butter chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever eaten, but I can’t do it. I’ve made three batches of said cookie and have eaten 95% of the results myself. I have no portion control when it comes to CCCs. Which is why you’re getting this post instead, about a healthier alternative to a fudge brownie. With no butter/oil and only natural sweeteners, they are packed with nutrients and fiber that will leave you with little baker’s remorse. I will not lie and say that they are as rich/amazing as a brownie packed with real butter and sugar, but armed with the realistic expectations I just gave you, they are pretty damn good, and provide much less guilt if your Winter habits mirror my own.

The final result is definitely chocolatey, though I would up the ante even more next time with additional cocoa powder, maybe a dash of espresso powder, and nuts or raw cacao nibs for texture (or chocolate chips if your desire for a healthy dessert only gets you so far). The texture is super moist and fudgy, and for me falls somewhere in between a fudge brownie and a chocolate bread pudding. Very yummy. Recipe below.

Sweet potatoes mixin'

Sweet potatoes mixin’


Adding the chocolate

Adding the chocolate


Sweet potato brownies
Adapted from Deliciously Ella

Ingredients:
2 medium to large sweet potatoes
2/3 of a cup of ground almonds (almond meal/almond flour)
1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour or flour of choice (I’ll try oat next time, and I might add another 1/4 cup)
1 egg
2 oz chopped unsweetened chocolate (I used two Baker’s squares)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup pure maple syrup + 1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Stevia extract (dropper-full)*
Chocolate chips for topping (optional)
*the original recipe calls for 14 pitted dates to sweeten the batter, which I didn’t have, though I think it would be great.

Instructions:
Heat up the maple syrup with the milk for about 20 seconds in the microwave to warm it, then add the chia seeds and stir. Leave out while you prepare the recipe so that the chia seeds have time to absorb some liquid.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, then peel the sweet potatoes. I wrapped mine in foil and baked at 375 for an hour or so, but still had to zap them for a few minutes after that. You want them very soft so that they’ll mix into a creamy consistency, so next time I’ll probably chop them into large chucks and steam them instead of baking whole.

Once soft, add them to a stand mixer and beat on medium-high until it’s a smoooth consistency. Add the chopped chocolate while the sweet potatoes are still warm, so it melts and blends in. Add cocoa powder and mix. Add chia seed-syrup-milk mixture, 10 drops of stevia extract (or healthy sweetener of your choice, to taste), and the egg. Beat to incorporate. Mix in baking powder and salt. Lastly mix in flour. (This is the point where I forgot to add cacao nibs, so do so here if you’re so inclined).

Spread batter into a greased 9 x 9 baking dish and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until you can pierce with a fork bringing it out dry (or dry-ish, might take a bit longer). Allow it to cool for about ten minutes. If you still need a bit more richness, like I did, sprinkle dark chocolate chips on top, and press gently into the surface. Cut and enjoy!

Triumphant return: Vanilla cupcakes with chocolate ganache filling and caramel buttercream frosting

26 Feb

cupcakefinishedaerial
I am continually working on this thing we call follow-through. I am sorry to have been absent for so long. I apologize to my 2-3 followers. A small group but no less important. I’m honored that anyone cares what goes on in my kitchen.

This baking adventure was inspired by a lovely piece of news I received recently that a close girlfriend of mine is getting married. (Get ready guys, it’s starting!). Said friend is doing this wedding on the quick and on the cheap, and as such I am lucky enough to contribute something to the big day…cupcakes! Myself and another friend of the brides will be baking a cake (other friend) and cupcakes (me) for the reception and I could not be more excited. I have three months to prepare and have been given no parameters as of yet, aside from deliciousness. My first test batch came this weekend and already we have a contender. I adapted this recipe from the food network website and it was a lesson in always reading the recipe all the way through before executing. It was downsized from a restaurant version and the quantities in the frosting and ganache were completely insane. Of course I didn’t realize this ahead of time and it turned into quite the debacle, but who am I to complain about leftover caramel sauce, frosting, and chocolate ganache?? So anyway, I made due and it was so crazy worth it I cannot appropriately describe. Without further ado, recipe after the photos…

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.


Holed.

Holed.


Dollops.

Dollops.


NOMNOMNOM

NOMNOMNOM

Vanilla cupcakes with chocolate ganache filling and caramel buttercream frosting

Adapted very loosely from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/coconut-cupcakes-with-chocolate-ganache-filling-topped-with-caramel-buttercream-frosting-and-toasted-coconut-recipe/index.html
*don’t be like me, read through this whole recipe and plan accordingly for time

For the cupcakes:

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache Filling, recipe follows (recommend making a few hours ahead or the day before, the cooling time is a b*tch)
Caramel Buttercream Frosting, recipe follows (again, best make the caramel sauce early)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a regular-size cupcake pan with 18 cupcake liners.

For the cupcakes:

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the mixer with a paddle attachment, or using an electric hand mixer, add oil to the dry ingredients and mix on low until fine crumbs are formed. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract and mix on low until combined. Stop and scrape the bowl and paddle, and then mix on medium speed until smooth and uniform (a minute or two).

Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely after baking.

To assemble: core each cupcake with an apple corer or a melon baller to create a pocket for the filling (a small spoon and some chutzpah will also work fine, it doesn’t need to be pretty). If you have a pastry bag, put the ganache filling into it and fill each cupcake (I don’t have pastry bags so I spooned it in gently and that worked fine as well). If the ganache is very soft at room temperature, as mine was, I recommend putting the cupcakes in the fridge for a few minutes at this point so that it temporarily firms up and doesn’t smear and discolor the frosting. When you and the ganache are ready, pipe the caramel buttercream frosting on top of the cupcakes in a circular motion with a pastry bag until completely covered. Or, do like I did and spoon a glob on top of each one and then spread it gently from the center to the outer edges of the cupcake. Once frosted, drizzle with leftover caramel sauce. Devour.

Notes: Don’t you dare discard the cored cake pieces! Reserve them in a small bowl and make your own cake balls as a bite size dessert snack! Directions: mix reserved cake bits with leftover buttercream frosting (you won’t need much, but when I did this I didn’t measure I just added until it “looked right”, probably about 1/2 cup. Mix it with a spoon or your hands until it’s about the texture of cookie dough. Then roll into balls and either dip into leftover ganache, or melt some chocolate in a double-boiler and dip to coat completely. I used the ganache, the only downside being that the ganache doesn’t harden at room temperature, so you can’t really coat the balls, you just dip and refrigerate for a delicious, if messier, treat. Sooooo good!

Chocolate Ganache Filling:

1 cup (8 oz.) semisweet dark chocolate (I used the Baker’s squares)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces unsalted butter

Melt the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Stir the mixture constantly until melted and smooth. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat to cool completely. Notes: This will take awhile. You can speed things up in the fridge, or keep it in the fridge overnight if making ahead of time, just know that it will firm up and will need to be (very gently) heated just before you’re ready to use, just enough so that you can stir it easily. It should be about the consistency of chocolate pudding when you fill the cupcakes.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting:

Caramelsauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

Buttercream:
2 sticks butter
2.5-3 cups powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
1/4 caramel sauce

Stir 4 tablespoons butter, heavy cream, brown sugar, white sugar, and vanilla together in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave at 1 minute intervals, stirring between intervals. The caramel will be thick and bubbly when done. Add salt and stir. Let cool completely to incorporate into the buttercream. It might separate a bit, but just stir until uniform when ready to use. Note: This is where I really got screwed when I made these because the original quantities in this recipe were FOUR TIMES what I have listed here. I ended up with about 6 cups of caramel when the frosting only calls for 1/4 cup. But I digress…

In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer (or stand mixer with whisk attachment), whip the 2 sticks soft butter until creamed. Add the powdered sugar and 1/4 cup cooled caramel and mix until the ingredients are evenly incorporated and the frosting is smooth and creamy. This frosting is extremely sweet and a little goes a long way, so you’ll probably have extra. Be warned!

New favorites: Oatmeal banana cake with salted caramel topping

22 Dec

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Guys.  New favorite.  And I’m proud to say it’s pretty much the product of my own kitchen intuition, kitchintuition if you will.  Actually, the banana cake part of this recipe is part accident, part intuition.  I spent a little over a month in Italy last Summer while finishing up grad school, and found myself limited in both the supplies and the appliances that I was familiar with, however I couldn’t just not bake for five weeks.  I found a trusted banana bread recipe and took it to the market with me, however my Italian is pretty much nonexistent and I couldn’t find either brown sugar or baking soda or powder.  I also didn’t have a loaf pan.  I ended up buying white sugar only, and a few disposable tart pans (secret: anything I baked during those five weeks came out of those tart pans).  With that and the bananas, flour, and butter at home, I was able to improvise, and the result was this amazingly moist, dense (but soft) cake, that me and my two roommates demolished in less than 24 hours.  After that I kept thinking of all the ways I could dress it up once I was back in familiar grocery store territory.  What you have here is the first of what I’m sure will be many variations. Recipe to follow after the pics.

 

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Banana Oatmeal Cake:

3 overripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of flour

¾ cup quick-cooking oats

Mini chocolate chips for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and oats, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered tart pan or spring-form cake pan lined with foil (I used one with a 10-inch diameter. If using the mini chocolate chips, sprinkle a layer over the top of the cake now (I’d recommend enough so that you are mostly seeing chips on top), and press gently into the batter.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Caramel Topping (+assembly):

1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon heavy cream (*optional if you don’t have it)
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sea salt for sprinkling

In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, then add cream and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for 2-3 more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add vanilla, and then quickly pour it over cooled banana cake. It will begin to set as soon as it is poured, so quickly spread it over the top of the cake (it remains pliable, but hard to spread evenly once it cools).  Sprinkle fairly generously with flaky sea salt over the top.  Et voila! Socks will be knocked off.

**Other possible additions to try: adding a layer of chopped nuts or toasted coconut, making a chocolate or peanut butter ganache instead of caramel sauce, adding a leavener for a more traditional fluffy cake, etc, etc.

 

Best brunch: Pumpkin monkey bread

20 Nov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to apologize for a couple things in advance.  First of all, I am already repeating myself. If this dough recipe looks familiar, that’s because it comes to you from my inaugural post of ancient times (read: three weeks ago, or, ancient, in an online forum).  BUT I had a good excuse.  My roommate and I hosted a potluck brunch over the weekend.  What kind of hostess would I be if I didn’t make the thing that I knew would guarantee me years of future brunch gatherings?  For real, this thing has the power to make and solidify friendships.  You’ll see.  However, once you make monkey bread, you can never un-make it.  You can never go back to the days when you didn’t know how good it was, and you can never again balk at the quantities of butter and sugar that would give pause to the likes of Paula Deen.  In most of my kitchen forays I really do try to go easy on that kind of thing.  I’ll cut back if I think a recipe is too heavy-handed, or I’ll experiment with healthier substitutes to achieve similar results.  This is the one recipe for which I will put my hand on your book of choice and swear that I will never try to make it better or healthier that it is (or isn’t…).  All of that is probably why I only make this about once a year.

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Now, when I describe this brunch dessert to people, the reaction is either that it’s been a much-loved staple in their family for years, or that they’ve never heard of it at all.  My own connection is the former, and in fact for a long time I thought this was some kind of secret family recipe unbeknownst to the rest of the world.   I have many memories of helping my grandma make this when I was little (she would let me carefully cut the dough with kitchen scissors, which I thought was about the most fun use of scissors ever).  My grandma was a great cook, but I think also valued expedience, which is probably why she always used store bought biscuit dough as the base for this.  In the spirit of tradition, the first several times I made this on my own I also used the store-bought dough.  This I felt the need to put my own spin on it by making the dough fresh and incorporating pumpkin.  In doing so I hope to establish my own tradition and encourage others to have fun with it as well.  Adding toasted coconut?  Spiced apples?  Other glazes (cream cheese, maple, chocolate)?   The possibilities are endless.

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

(Why is it called monkey bread?  It is formed with small balls of dough, ideal for pulling apart with your hands, much like a monkey would do.  I’ll also add that, as with monkeys, social decorum goes out the window when this treat starts being devoured)

Dough:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but 2% or whole would be great, warmed (if you have to yank your finger out when you touch it, let it cool a bit)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
½ cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup (packed) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups pumpkin puree (I used canned)
1 large egg
Oil for coating rising bowl

Glaze:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) + , melted
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon, in separate bowl

Instructions:

Melt your butter. In a separate bowl, combine your warmed milk and yeast and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugars, salt and spices. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-milk mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix until combined. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run it for 5 minutes on low.

Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a draft-free place; it should just about double.

After the dough has risen, dump/scoop/smoosh it onto a well-floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough as close as you can into a square, it should be about 1/2-3/4 inches thick, but don’t stress too much about it. Now, with a pizza cutter, cut your dough vertically in 1” slices, and then horizontally in 1” slices, so that you have little dough cubes/rectangles.  Don’t worry if they’re not perfectly even or you have tiny corner pieces mixed in, I even prefer them to lack uniformity so that the final product is a hodgepodge of mismatched shapes.

In the next step we need to coat our dough balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  You can either do this in batches by shaking the dough and sugar in a large ziplock bag, or you can use a large bowl or pan to toss them until they’re coated. 

Now place the dough balls in a 9 x 13 pan or on a cookie sheet, covered with plastic wrap.  If you’re doing this the night before, you can put them in the refrigerator now and remove them an hour before baking the next day to finish rising (they may be more moist in the morning, but that’s fine). If not doing ahead of time, let dough rise for another 45 minutes.

When the 45 minutes are almost up, heat the oven to 350°F. While preheating, spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray. Melt the ½ cup butter for the glaze, and add brown sugar, stirring vigorously to combine.  Add pumpkin puree and stir.  Now add your dough to the bundt pan and pour the butter/sugar/pumpkin mixture over the top. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until puffed and golden (I used the toothpick test in a few different places to make sure it wasn’t still doughy in the middle).

Let cool for 10 minutes and then turn over onto a plate to serve.  Watch the other monkeys go berzerk.

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