Notes: The recipe calls for light brown sugar, but if you like a deeper caramel flavor, dark brown sugar is a good sub here.
Texture-wise I found that bread flour is a must. In testing I found that using just one egg makes for a drier dough which necessitated less additional flour during kneading and resulted in a lighter bread even if it's not quite as eggy as traditional challah. To keep the bread parve you can sub margarine for butter and use water in the glaze icing.
Lastly, make sure your instant yeast is lively! I tend to buy a one pound bag which admittedly takes me awhile to go through. At the proofing stage if you're seeing sluggish bubbling after 5 minutes, it's probably time to get new yeast. I've tried this with yeast that was on the verge of expiring and fresh stuff and the difference in the rise was enormous.
This recipe is adapted from my favorite challah recipe, the Ima Challah found on Food52 and my favorite monkey bread recipe, which comes from America's Best Lost Recipes by the Editors of Cook's Country Magazine.
About the author: Alexandra Penfold is mild-mannered literary agent by day, food ninja by night. Never one to skip dessert she's the Brownie half of Blondie & Brownie, a Midtown Lunch contributor, and co-author of New York à la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks. You can follow her on Twitter at @BlondieBrownie.
- Yield:Serves 8
- Active time: 1 hour
- Total time:4 1/2 hours
- 3/4 cup warm water, divided
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoons sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon instant (powdered) yeast
- 3 cups (12.75 ounces) bread flour
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup firmly packed (8 ounces) light brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) confectioners sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium bowl add 1/2 cup warm water. Stir in sugar and sprinkle yeast on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to proof for 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together flour and salt. In a medium bowl whisk together remaining 1/4 cup of warm water, honey, vegetable oil, and egg.
Add yeast mixture to flour then add egg mixture. Stir with a large spoon until just incorporated, about a 30 seconds to a minute. Then fit mixer with the dough hook attachment.
Beat the dough on medium for several minutes, adding in a few tablespoons of flour until it pulls away from the sides (it will still be stuck to the bottom). Once dough it pulling away from the sides, remove from mixer and transfer to a well floured surface. Knead the dough for five minutes by hand, dusting lightly with flour as needed, if it gets too sticky (dough will be slightly tacky, but shouldn't outright stick to your hands).
Transfer dough to a well oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Prepare a medium bowl with melted butter. In another medium bowl whisk together brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. Coat a Bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Once dough has doubled, remove from bowl to a well floured surface. Pat the dough out into an 8- by 8- inch square. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 8 strips horizontally and 8 strips vertically, giving you 64 little squares of dough. Roll the dough squares in your hands to make little balls.
Use a fork to lightly dip each dough ball in the melted butter then roll in the brown sugar mixture. Layer the prepared balls in the Bundt pan, staggering the layers over the seams (this will allow the cake to bake into interlocking pieces). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm place. Let rise until the dough balls come within a 1/2 inch of the top of the pan, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Move oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 350°F. Unwrap the pan and place into the oven. Bake until the top is firm and a deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let the monkey bread cool in the pan for about 5 minutes.
While the monkey bread is cooling, prepare the glaze: in a medium bowl whisk together confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla (you can add an additional splash of milk to thin the glaze, if desired.) Invert the pan over a serving plate. Let monkey bread cool an additional 10 minutes then pour glaze over the top allowing it to drizzle down the sides. Serve immediately. Store the leftovers (if you have any!) covered in an airtight container. It's best warm, but it will keep for up to a day.