Friday, July 31, 2009

Monkeying Around the Kitchen with The King and Sara

Late last week, I was catching up on the never ending task of clearing my RSS Reader. I admit I had a two fold purpose for this: downsizing my reads/culling dead links and looking for something fun, interesting yet easy to bake for the office on Monday.

I was doing this while watching some stupid show about whiny people in Miami on Bravo (too lazy to turn the channel) and chatting with my bud, Sara on Skype (I call it multi-tasking but I think the almost-twenty-something intern in the office calls this entering the 21st Century) when I saw that the gals in the test kitchen at King Arthur Flour had made Monkey Bread (aka Pull Apart Bread aka Bubble Bread). A quick send of the KA link to Sara, a "OMG!! Yummmmm" back from Sara, a simulataneous "Let's bake that together" reply, and I had a date on Sunday with my wife.

Sunday was one of those hot, stormy and steamy days we seem to be having in the last part of July here in Connecticut and Sara is dealing with in British Columbia. She was already a bit ahead of me as I was running late from a morning 9 holes at the golf club that seemed to drag on forever, especially when you are digging through thigh high weeds for your ball as many times as I was. By the time I got going, her Monkey Bread was ready to go in the oven.

We chatted while I made the dough. I decided to make whole wheat Monkey Bread, partly because I have been on a how to incorporate more whole grains into my baking kick lately and partly because it was time to turn over the whole wheat flour before it goes rancid in the heat.

After making the dough and letting it rise, which it did in record time because of the heat, I divided it into little chunks

Whole Wheat Monkey Bread Balls

rolled the chunks into little balls, dipping the balls into water and then cinnamon and sugar, and placing the dough balls into a 8" deep sided casserole dish

Monkey Bread Balls Ready to Rise
to rise. The recipe calls for an 8" cake pan but all mine were dirty from testing a German Chocolate cake recipe earlier in the weekend.

I did the final rise in the fridge overnight because I wanted to bake the Monkey Bread in the morning so it would be warm and gooey when I took it into the office. Just like the dough, the monkey bread rose nicely in the fridge.

Monkey Bread Balls Risen

In the morning, I pulled the dough out of the fridge to come to room temperature, baked it, and flipped it out onto a dish to take to work,

Whole Wheat Monkey Bread

sprinkling some more cinnamon and sugar on top to melt while the bread cooled a bit.

I do have two little beefs with the King Arthur recipe as written. Don't read too much in my beefs either because I still love their flour and recipes but even the King can sometimes go a bit astray.

First, if you add all the flour, the way the recipe says to, you will get too stiff a dough. Both Sara and I experienced the same result and had to add a little more water to our doughs; a bit more than an 1/8th a cup. If this was true on a humid and moist day in the middle of the summer, it would be worse on a dry winter day, when I typically have to add a bit more water to my doughs. Additionally, since I was using whole wheat flour, which typically results in a stickier dough, even with small amounts, I was surprised how dry the dough was. There was no way the dough would have been supple enough after rising to make the dough balls.

Just to check and make sure it wasn't me, I made the dough again in the middle of the week to verify if it was the liquid/flour ratio in the recipe or distraction on our part because we were giggling and all that other nonsense Sara and I do when we get together to bake. This time I cranked the AC to get the humidity in the kitchen down to a normal 52% and I used the regular AP flour called for in the recipe. I also let the dough rest for 10 minutes to fully absorb the liquid. I had the same result, stiff dough that wouldn't take the rest of the flour without adding more water.

My other problem was with the amount of cinnamon and sugar that the recipe makes. I had to make more when I still had five dough balls to coat. That probably was me more than the recipe though because I really coated my dough balls with cinnamon and sugar. I still didn't have enough to put a lot of extra in the pan to make a good gooey coating. If I made this recipe again, I'd triple the amount.

And I will be making the recipe again because it was huge hit in the office.

Have you ever seen those video clips in nature shows of a feeding frenzy of sharks?

If so , you will know what the kitchenette at the office looked like when I pulled the foil off the plate. The Monkey Bread was gone before I could even get my computer started. Everyone enjoyed the cinnamon and sugary balls and one person even asked when I was going to make it again.

Soon, very soon, I promise...

Whole Wheat Monkey Bread

adapted from King Arthur's Baker's Banter blog

You can make this either by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook.

2/3 cup of water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup AP flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbsp cinnamon (I used two types, Mexican and Vietnamese)

Place water, oil, egg, salt, sugar and yeast in large bowl or bowl for stand mixer. Stir to combine.

Add 1/2 cup of AP flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour, reserving 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour to add as needed when kneading. If you are using a stand mixer, use the dough hook to combine this flour or if by hand, you will probably need to switch to your hand to finish combining the AP flour and the 1 cup of whole wheat flour.

Knead the dough for about 5 - 7 minutes until a soft and supple dough is formed.

Place in a large, greased container to rise until double, about 30 - 45 minutes on a warm day or about an hour on a cooler day.

Gently punch down risen dough and divide into little chunks dough, about 1 1/2" in diameter. Roll into ball form, dip into water and then coat with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Sprinkle any remaining cinnamon and sugar over the dough balls, reserving about 3 Tbsp to sprinkle on top after baking.

Place coated dough into a greased 8" deep cake pan or casserole dish. Cover and let rise until it is really puffy and almost to the top of the pan.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven or until the internal temperature of the bread is 190 degrees.

Remove from pan by tipping pan upside down on a plate. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon and sugar on top to melt while the bread cools a bit.

Allow the bread to cool for about 10 minutes before serving because the hot cinnamon and sugar coating will be extremely hot and could burn.