Every Christmas morning for as long as I can remember, my mom would make her version of classic Monkey Bread using Pillsbury dough, with at least a stick of butter and a cup of sugar (if not double of both). I have such fond memories of the bread that I set out to recreate it with the King Arthur Flour Classic Monkey Bread Mix ($12.50, williams-sonoma.com) and its accompanying baking mold ($29.95, williams-sonoma.com). This mix is not about saving time or saving calories; start to finish the process was approximately 3 1/2 hours, including waiting time (and lots of cleaning). For a good laugh, I calculated that the entire preparation is 4160 calories; there are 48 hand-rolled balls of dough, making each ball about 87 calories. Butter, sugar, and sweet dough: you can't get better than this.
Rolling 48 balls of dough, and plenty of sugar, after the jump.
Making the Dough
Without an electric mixer, the dough process was done by hand, which was slightly frustrating. The dough requires kneading for 10 to 15 minutes and I didn't have the patience for that, stopping short at the five minute mark (didn't seem to make a huge difference). Leaving the dough to rise on the kitchen table proved useless because of the cold outdoor temperatures; letting it rise in a closed, inactive microwave, however, worked according to plan.
Preparing the Dough for Battle
The next step included cutting out 48 squares of dough—mindless and meditative work—rolling into balls, dipping in butter, coating in sugar and chopped walnuts, and stacking in the mold. For one last step before baking, you caramelize sugar and maple syrup, pour it over the stacked dough, and allow it to rise once more for about a half hour. At this point I could've refrigerated the mold and just let it rise the next day, but when you have warm sugar and butter staring you dead in the eye, you can't just cover your creation in foil and forget about it.
Butter, Sugar, and Dough Are Simply Irresistible
After 35 minutes of baking, the bread came out of the oven, gleaming of butter. Once slightly cooled, I turned the mold over and grabbed my first bite. Though there was way too much glaze dripping down the sides and the slightly denser texture of the dough wasn't how I remember it on Christmas morning, the subtle maple flavor, cinnamony punch, and slight crunch of the walnuts made me giddy and nostalgic.
This dough is definitely not canned Pillsbury—King Arthur Flour is high-quality goods—and making it almost from scratch is rewarding, especially after that first bite. I'll take the Pillsbury version for its familiarity or the King Arthur version this holiday season, though I wouldn't force anyone to devote an extra two hours to making the dough. My mom doesn't have the time and I bet the rest of us don't either. But I'd recommend giving the Classic Monkey Bread Mix a shot if you have a helping hand or two in the kitchen. Just promise me you'll only make it one or two times a year, split amongst friends, and served right out of the oven.
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