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Caramel Monkey Bread

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Makes one 8-in-round bread

  • by from Simply Great Breads

Gooey caramel poured into the bottom of the pan creates just enough stickiness to hold together the nut-and-sugar-coated balls of sweet dough. The result is a pull-apart treat that is fun and festive to eat. It is hard to resist getting your fingers seriously sticky as soon as you see it in its glossy, bumpy glory.

You’ll wind up with more caramel than you’ll need. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, and gently reheat it in a small saucepan when you want to dress up some ice cream.

For the dough
  • 17.64 oz. (4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-1⁄2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1-1⁄4 tsp. fine sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 cup room temperature milk (70°F to 78°F)
  • 1⁄3 cup room temperature water (70°F to 78°F)
  • 1.21 oz. (2-1⁄2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
For the coating
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
For the caramel
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 1⁄4 cup heavy cream
Make the dough

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Combine the flour, granulated sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the milk, water, butter, and egg. Give the mixture a few turns with a rubber spatula to moisten all of the ingredients, and then mix on medium speed until smooth and shiny, about 2 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl or dough-rising container, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until it has doubled in volume, 1-1⁄2 to 2 hours.

Make the coating

Place the melted butter in a bowl and combine the brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in another bowl. Set aside.

Make the caramel

Combine the sugar and water in a deep, heavy pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent the sugar from crystallizing (don’t worry if your sugar does crystallize—some crunchy bits in the bread won’t be noticeable). Boil the syrup without stirring until it turns an amber color, 5 to 7 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally for even cooking.

Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the cream with a long-handled wooden spoon. The mixture will bubble up (thus the need for the deep pot and the long-handled spoon). Keep stirring until the caramel is smooth. Pour a thin layer of the hot caramel into the greased springform pan so that it coats the bottom of the pan. (Let the leftover caramel cool, and then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container; warm the caramel in a microwave oven or on top of the stove.)

Assemble the bread

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces. Dip the balls in the melted butter and then roll in the cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture. Place the balls in the prepared pan. You will have 2 layers and a few extras to place on top. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake until deep brown and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Then run a sharp paring knife around the perimeter of the bread, release the sides of the springform pan, and let cool for another 20 minutes on the rack. Serve warm. Caramel Monkey Bread is best served on the day it is baked.

Photo: Ditte Isager

Holy #*@&. Let me start off by saying I approached this recipe a little differently. I prepared all the ingredients exactly as listed, but instead of using a spring form pan I used a bunt cake pan (mine is silicone, so I don't know how well this would work with a metal pan) I poured the caramel sauce into the bottom, then did as the recipe said places the pieces of dough on top. Baked at 350 for 35 minuets and when I took it out I immediately inverted it to let the caramel goodness seep into all the nooks and crannies. I had zero issues with the caramel sauce, aside from the fact that it might be officially married to the bottom of my favorite pot. I suggest to anyone who had any issues with this recipe to try again and make sure you do everything exactly as directed. I know caramel usually has butter in it. I know it seems like the sugar isn't gonna dissolve. Trust me, the entire time I was cursing off internet recipes and saying prayers that I didn't ruin Easter breakfast tomorrow when I serve this to my insanely critical family. I know how you feel. But I PROMISE you will be in gooey cinnamon heaven if you just have hope. The only problem now is that I've eaten so much of it I'm gonna have to figure out something else to serve tomorrow!

I'd make this again, but forget about the "making carmel".

The bread was tasty. Ran out of the cinnamon/nut mixture. But the "caramel" came out predictably bad. The sugar kept recrystalizing and never turned amber. I was very surprised it was granulated sugar and not brown sugar in the recipe. Also 2 cups sugar to a forth of a cup water seems and is WAY imbalanced. There isn't enough water to dissolve the sugar & turn amber before to boils off and you have plain old sugar again. Also, butter is needed for caramel. Don't bother with this recipe's caramel instructions. Oh, and with the cream, it doesn't bubble up more than an inch, so if you do try the "caramel" part of the recipe a standard pot is fine.

I think the caramel sauce is missing some butter! As the previous person said, the sauce hardened as soon as it hit the pan. I was unable to spread it over the bottom. The sauce tasted like just what it was...sugar, not caramel at all.

Terrific dessert - my family of four devoured the entire thing in a few hours. I'm an experienced home bread baker and was impressed with the ease of preparation and the texture and taste of the finished product. I will certainly make it again. I baked it in a non-stick Bundt pan rather than a spring-form pan, and substituted walnuts for pecans. Some instructions were lacking (how exactly does one go from a single large ball of dough to 1/2" pieces?), so I cut the dough in two, formed each half into a long roll and pinched pieces off - I found 1" balls to be a better size and less time-consuming than making 1/2" ones. The small bread balls work nicely to allow people to take whatever size of serving they please. One note: the caramel, which was smooth and translucent in the saucepan, hardened on contact with the baking pan into a thin layer with the texture of sponge toffee. I baked it as directed, but it remained stuck to the baking pan after the 15-min. cooling period, so the promised delicious gooeyness was missing from the finished product. No matter! It got rave reviews anyway. I'd be happy for feedback on what may have happened with the caramel, though. Although I used the wet-pastry-brush trick, I suspect a little crystallized syrup on the sides of the pan caused the rest to crystallize as well.

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