Monkey Bread Muffins

That’s right—monkey bread, individually sized, with caramel sauce. These tasted better than I expected. And honestly, as much as I believe caramel sauce makes everything in the world taste better, this monkey bread was so good, you could actually skip the sauce, and still be filled with perfect joy. This was a recipe we tried out on Friday. My kids were home sick (I can’t actually remember what was wrong with them), and my daughter had asked me to make bread.

Rather than make just one loaf, I doubled the recipe, and went to town making up different kinds. My daughter was still insisting on plain white bread, so I made that. Then my five-year-old insisted I make a cinnamon swirl bread, so I made one of those, and then I remembered how I was dying to make monkey bread, so I made that, too. (Have you ever had a problem where you couldn’t stop yawning? I’m having one right now. It’s like—chronic. I. Can’t. Stop.) Anyway, there’s no real secret to monkey bread. It’s simply a combination of four of the best things on the planet: freshly baked bread, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I used my basic white bread recipe to make the dough, so it isn’t too fussy: no eggs, no milk. And if you use rapid rise yeast, the dough will be ready in a flash.

Monkey Bread Muffins

1 scant tablespoon instant or rapid rise yeast (1 packet)
3 1/2 cups (350g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more, if needed
1 1/4 cups (295mL) warm water (110 degrees)
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
a bit more oil for when the dough rises
1 stick (112g) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Caramel Sauce, Recipe Follows

1. In an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook and set to low speed, mix together yeast and 3 cups of flour. Pour in the water, oil, honey, and salt. Mix on low speed for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Add up to a 1/2 cup more flour if needed. Place in an oiled bowl, and cover. Let rise in a draft free place for 20-45 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
2. Butter jumbo muffin tins generously. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out into a rope. Use a knife or a bench scraper to cut off bits of dough the size of large grapes or ping pong balls. Mix brown sugar with the cinnamon. Coat each piece of dough in melted butter, and then in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place the balls of dough into prepared muffin tins, until half filled (Any extra dough can placed in other muffin tins, or oven safe containers). Cover, and let rise until double in bulk.

3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Invert onto a platter (Squish any escaped pieces of bread back on), and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce

Please read all these directions a couple times before starting, and get all your ingredients set out before hand.  Kick all other family members out of the kitchen, and best of luck.  Caramel is very simple, but it requires good timing.  Remember, I burned my first batch, so you might want extra cream on hand in case that happens.  Experience is the best teacher for this.  Give yourself plenty of time,  and don’t be discouraged if it isn’t perfect at first.  Once I got the hang of it, I made an extra batch which came out as well as the one before it.

3/4 cup heavy cream (make sure it is heavy cream, or heavy whipping cream, not regular whipping cream)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (220g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (65g) water
1 teaspoon butter

1.  Measure out cream into a liquid measuring cup.  Stir in vanilla and set aside within an easy reach of the stove.
2.  Stir sugar and water in a medium pot with tall sides.  Set over medium-high heat.  As the sugar dissolves and begins to boil, you may swirl the pot to mix the boiling sugar water.  DO NOT STIR WITH A SPOON.  This will make the sugar crystalize.

3.  As the sugar syrup boils, watch very carefully for the color to change.  You are looking for a nice, warm amber color, about the shade of cinnamon sticks.  Don’t let it get any darker.  (Even if it doesn’t look burnt, it can taste burnt.  If it starts to smoke, you’ve let it go too far.)  On a side note, my candy thermometer did not reach far enough into the pot to get an accurate reading of the syrup, but with such a small amount of syrup, the temperature changes pretty quickly anyway.  It’s best to watch it and wait for it to turn the right color.

4.  As soon as it turns the proper amber color, pull the pot off the heat.  Whisk in the butter, and then pour in the vanilla-cream mixture.  It will now bubble violently.  Whisk carefully but briskly.  The caramel will start to solidify a bit., but keep whisking.   Put the pot of caramel over low heat and whisk carefully for a minute or two until smooth.  Pour into a heat proof jar, and allow to cool.  Can be refrigerated for up to a week.

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