Here is what I know about my husband Eric’s eating habits.
When he was little, he had a phase of six years in which he was not enthused about meat. Over the course of his four high school years, he ate his body weight in Totino’s pizza rolls. Now, he is just about the easiest person to cook for, having only turned his nose up at one meal in seven years together – my first attempt at roasting a chicken. I didn’t eat it either.
And while he’ll eat just about anything happily, it’s not often that he craves things. Especially dessert. Whereas, I have literally woken him up to tell him how desperately I needed one of those ham & gruyere croissants from the cupcake shop up the block. (Let’s blame those 3 a.m. feedings, mmmkay?)
And so when he came home from a Saturday morning of errands with Owen asking if I’d ever though of making an apple cinnamon pull-apart bread because the one he’d grabbed from a coffee shop display window blew his mid-morning-coffee mind, I went to work.
I got my google on and read a bunch of monkey bread recipes, then a bunch of the apple persuasion. I was having trouble finding any that started with a from-scratch dough, and while there is nothing wrong with using canned dough (hello again, 3 a.m. feedings), I wanted this one to be totally homemade. I was taking notes when I came across this recipe from Barbara Bakes, and as I compared the notes I was taking with her recipe, I realized she’d done the work for me.
So other than a slight change (less milk; more cider in the dough), I used her recipe, and ohmygoodness, it’s pretty fall fantastic. We’re going to speak in terms of pillows here because there’s really no other way to describe the soft airy goodness that is one of these monkey bread pieces. It’s gooey and cinnamony and then just as you reach to grab another, you get the apple. There are tiny bits of caramelized apple all mixed in with the dough, plus the cider mentioned above, so the apple is definitely there.
It’s not often that I tell you to use exactly an ingredient; I’m all about substitutions, but friends, I’ve talked about this before: I’m pleading with you to use Honeycrisp apples in this recipe. They provide just the perfect amount of sweet plus tanginess so their apple sweetness doesn’t get lost in the sea of cinnamon-sugar you’re surrounding it with. I know it seems like such a waste to bake with them, but I am telling you – they are a game changer.
Ooooh and one more teensy weeny note: in Barbara’s recipe, she called for unsweetened apple juice. But if you can get your hands on some, I really suggest using the strong stuff: hard-pressed cider. It just gives you more apple bang for your apple buck.
Okay back to the monkey bread. Eric took one bite and literally slapped the table, proclaiming that this was exactly what he had in mind. And then because this recipe is not over-the-top enough, I decided to whip up a cream cheese glaze (cinnamon roll style) because it’s pretty and I felt like the cream cheese added a richness to all that sweetness that was pretty perfect.
I’m not going to lie to you. I made this recipe twice in two weeks, and while it is an overnight recipe, it is not something you want to make every weekend. It’s a bit involved, by the time you let the dough rise and then roll it into 64 balls. But like apple pie, it’s something that you definitely want to make at least once a year…it’s the way to impress your boyfriend’s mom, the key to your teenager’s heart after a fight about why that shade of purple eye shadow can only be worn by women of the night, your ticket to satisfying a very rare craving from your husband.
I adapted these recipes just slightly. For the monkey bread, I used pressed apple cider instead of unsweetened apple juice and I used more of it and less milk than the recipe on Barbara Bakes. Additionally, I used a modified, thinner version of the cream cheese glaze from The Messy Baker in place of glaze Barbara Bakes called because I wanted a little richness from the cream cheese.
3 Honeycrisp* apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup milk
1/3 + 1/4 cup pressed apple cider (or unsweetened apple juice)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 – 4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
Brown Sugar Coating:
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Cream Cheese Glaze:
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-6 tablespoons milk
*You can make this with any baking apple (though Granny Smith would be too tart); I love baking with Honeycrisps. They offer the perfect amount of sweet and tart for this recipe!
1 1/2 lbs. apples
3/4 c. milk;
1/3 + 1/4 c. apple cider
apples - 10 mins med high heat; freezer for 10 on dinner plate
heat milk mixture - 90 secs high, checking every 30 secs for temp
Caramelize the Apples:
In a large bowl, combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and all the liquid is evaporated, 10-15 mins.. Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet or plate and pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool.
Make the Dough:
In microwave safe bowl, heat milk, apple juice, sugar, salt and butter to 120° to 130° (about 1 minute on high). Stir to dissolve sugar.
Stir in the yeast and 2 cups of the flour until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Pour in another 1/2 - 1 cup of flour and knead in the bowl until combined. Turn out onto a floured countertop and knead until smooth, incorporating more flour as needed.
Preheat oven to 200*F.
Place dough back in bowl and add the cooled apples. Knead the apples in to the dough, adding more flour as necessary to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. It will be really sticky at first, but keep adding flour as you go. Form into a round bowl.
Coat a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. TURN OFF THE OVEN, and place the covered bowl in the warmed (but offed!) oven. Let rise for about 2 hours until doubled in size.
Form Monkey Bread Pieces:
Thoroughly grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with non stick cooking spray. Use a greased paper towel to get in ALL of the nooks and crannies!
Make brown sugar coating: Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Place melted butter in second bowl.
Punch down the dough and pat into an 8-inch square on a floured surface. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces. With floured hands, roll all of the dough pieces into balls.
Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl. Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan, staggering the dough balls to build layers.
Allow to Rise Overnight:
Cover Bundt pan tightly with 2 layers of plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.
Approximately one hour before you want to bake your monkey bread, remove it from the refrigerator and let the dough come to room temperature and begin to rise. (It will rise a little in the refrigerator overnight.)
Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan for ONLY 5 MINS (no more!), then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
Make and Decorate with Glaze:
Beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches a pourable (but not super thin) consistency. Place glaze in small ziplock and snip a tiny piece off the corner. Once monkey bread has cooled for a few minutes, squeeze glaze out of bag over the monkey bread ring.