Sunday, April 17, 2011

Healthier Spiced Pumpkin Monkey Bread!

As a child, I LOVED making monkey bread with my siblings and my dad. He would make a homemade biscuit dough and cut it up into little pieces. We found it so fun to roll those pieces into balls and place them in cinnamon sugar; but what we loved even more was eating the finished masterpiece. The smell that emits from a kitchen that has just produced monkey bread is a very distinct smell. If you've ever smelled it, you know how amazing it is.

I was missing that smell; and (as always) was trying to figure out how I could make a healthier version of my childhood favorite. I knew that monkey bread can be made with both biscuit dough or yeasted dough, so it had me thinking. What if I subbed in one of my favorite whole wheat bread doughs for the classic brioche-style dough that is typically used?

I knew that using a simple bread dough instead of an enriched dough might mess with the texture; so I wasn't sure which dough base I wanted to go with.

And then it hit me. Why not use my favorite whole wheat cinnamon roll dough? Since it is an enriched dough, it will impart the same texture and on the plus side it has very little fat and over 2/3rds of the total flour is whole wheat flour.

This dough manages to stay light and airy besides the lack of butter and the use of dense flour. The secret is 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree! Besides its amazing health benefits, the pumpkin does wonders to this dough.

I got the recipe from Good Life Eats but will copy the ingredients for the dough from her post (with a couple slight adjustments)-

1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm milk
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (not pastry)
1 cup white bread flour or all-purpose
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

I just put all the ingredients in my bread machine, hit the dough cycle button, and walked away for about an hour. Well actually, I usually put everything in except the 1 cup of bread flour and will add it gradually as it is mixing to see if I need it all. This time I think I may have needed even more flour! The dough was a little "wet".

Once it was done, I rolled the dough out and cut it into small pieces. It doesn't really matter the size; but the smaller they are, the larger sugar coating per amount of dough ratio. Does that make sense?
Roll em into balls if you want; they're all going to get misshapen in the end though, so don't get too finicky.
Now to assemble the rest of the ingredients.
You will need:
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Mix all of those ingredients together in a bowl.
 In another bowl, melt 1/2 cup of, get this...Brummel & Brown butter! That's right, instead of a whole stick of real butter, I substituted Brummel & Brown just to see how it would go.
You'll also want to grease a bundt pan with a little non-stick cooking spray.
And you're all ready to assemble!
First, place a dough ball (only a few at a time) into the "butter"-

Make sure it's coated and then roll it around in the sugar/cinnamon mixture-
Place the finished dough balls into the bundt pan.
Once you've finished with all the dough balls, drizzle the whole thing with the extra "butter" and any extra sugar you might have left (I didn't have any sugar mixture left).
YUM! I'm so glad I substituted the Brummel & Brown for butter in this thing, because it uses a lot of butter! With over half the amount of fat and calories, it makes a bit difference nutritionally in the final product. Also, it worked great as a coating for the dough balls and creating a sugary syrup once it was all baked.

Now, you can either let it rise for about an hour and bake it up OR you can cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. Since I wanted fresh out-of-the-oven monkey bread in the morning, I went with the latter approach.

The dough will rise a little in the refrigerator but will still need to warm up and rise a little in the morning. I decided to go with the technique that Alton Brown used in his overnight monkey bread recipe.

First, fill a shallow pan 2/3rds full with boiling water. Place the pan onto the bottom rack of an oven that is turned off. Take the monkey bread out of the fridge and place it on a rack above the boiling water and close the oven door. Let it rise for 30 minutes, or until it looks puffy.

Then, remove the pan of water and the monkey bread and turn on the oven to 350. Once the oven is to temperature, place the monkey bread on the center rack and bake until golden which will be around 20-30 minutes.

My dad helped me with the baking portion because he gets up early in the morning. He tested for doneness with a thermometer to see if the bread had gotten to an internal temperature of 190 degrees, and took it out at around 22 minutes.

All done!
Usually, one would flip the bundt pan over and remove the monkey bread, but I guess my dad got a little too excited and just dug right in straight from the pan. Oh well!
It wouldn't be a bad idea, either, to drizzle the finished product with a little cream cheese glaze...mmmm.
My plate-
This monkey bread was super flavorful with the addition of cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom in the dough itself. You can faintly taste the pumpkin, but it's really just there to help with the rise and contribute an amazing color.
The Brummel & Brown coated the dough beautifully in a sugary glaze. A dollop of tart greek yogurt was the perfect accompaniment to the super sweet bread.

My only complaint is that it was too sweet. And even though that's not surprise to hear me say that (since I can't handle things being too sweet, especially in the morning) even my sweet loving brother thought it seemed more "like a dessert". Of course, the too-sweet factor didn't stop the monkey bread from being devoured in one day :D

Next time, I think I'll cut the amount of sugar in the dough in half. I could probably decrease the sugar to 1 1/2 cups total for the coating, but too little sugar and there won't be enough to coat the balls! Another way to make it less sweet would be to make the dough balls bigger. The bigger they are, the less sugar is used per amount of dough.

Either way I decide to do it, there will be a next time!

Monkey bread or pull-apart bread...which way do you call it?
Ever since I can remember, it's always been monkey bread!

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