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.
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
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
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.