My mom used to make a version of monkey bread for me when I was little in her trusty bundt pan that we bought together at a yard sale. We didn’t even bother removing the bread from the pan after it was done; we’d pick away at it while it was still piping hot. What’d normally ensue was a sticky, messy situation involving stacks of napkins and usually a run to the washing machine afterward.
I’m perplexed as to why it’s called “monkey” bread. My most astute guess is that monkeys eat by picking at their food, which is how a monkey bread is usually eaten, by being pulled apart. Oh, of course, opposable thumbs! Surely, this bread would make a monkey’s mouth water, all that doughyness, each surrounded by a crunchy cinnamon-sugar crust. I suppose the addition of mashed ripe bananas to the dough makes this even more appealing to our primate friend, and to us! It makes the bread moist, and doesn’t interfere with the rise at all.
This time when I made the bread, I used the same pan that my mom had used years ago. It turned out beautifully, without a hitch. And once again, I found myself barefoot in the kitchen, caught red-handed with sticky fingers.
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, February 1999
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 ripe mashed bananas (3/4 cup)
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup caramel ice-cream topping
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1. In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup of the flour and yeast. In a saucepan, heat and stir milk, 1/4 cup butter, 2 Tbsp sugar, corn syrup and salt until just warm (120F). Add this to the dry mixture. Stir in banana and egg. Beat the batter for about 3 minutes on high. With a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining flour, working into a lump. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 6-8 minutes into an elastic dough. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled (1 1/2 hours).
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto your work surface and roll out into a large flat rectangle. Cut dough into 1-inch pieces. You will end up with about 40-50 small lumps. Gently knead each piece into a ball, tucking edges beneath. Roll each ball in the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar, and place in the prepared pan. Repeat this with the rest of the dough, gently stacking the balls up in the pan. Cover, and let rise until nearly double, about 45 minutes.
4. Sprinkle remaining pecans on top. Stir together caramel topping and maple syrup; drizzle on top. Bake for 35-38 minutes until the bread is golden brown on top. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, and invert onto a serving dish. Spoon any remaining topping or nuts over the bread. Serve warm.