When is a bread not a bread? When it’s a monkey! Life has been pretty stressful for me lately, with some hard decisions still left for me to make, so my partner Dave and I decided to spend a recent evening just monkeying around.
We dipped balls of risen, yeasted dough into melted monkey butter (not really; Dave griped when I suggested buying organic cultured butter, even), then into monkey filling (ground chocolate, ground pecans, and sugar), and layered them into a bundt pan and allowed them to rise again before baking. It was not unlike building a croquembouche, in fact.
Pulling off balls of soft pastry covered in caramelized crumbles of ground chocolate and pecan to devour was a ton of fun. It would be even better as a party treat, since Dave and I can’t demolish a whole monkey bread on our own before it goes stale. (At least, we shouldn’t. Which didn’t stop us from scraping caramelized monkey filling out of the bundt pan to nibble on while waiting for the monkey bread to cool.)
I usually use cookbook recipes as a starting point, adapting them to my own tastes. This time, I directly followed the recipe from The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. No changes, no adaptations, just the comfort of following directions from a cookbook that I know that I can trust.
(from The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg)
For the dough
1/4 C warm (but not hot) water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1 C whole milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C granulated sugar
4 C all-purpose flour
For the filling
2 1/2 oz. pecans (3/4 C when coarsely chopped)
4 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate (also 3/4 C when coarsely chopped)
1/2 C granulated sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Create the dough.
Combine the water and yeast and set aside for about 10 minutes, or until foamy. This is basically to wake it up and give it a nice head start.
Heat the butter and milk together just until the butter melts, then mix into the egg yolks until combined. (If you are using a stand mixer, as I tend to, use the paddle attachment and keep the speed on low.) Mix in the salt, sugar, and foamy yeast/water mixture until combined. Add 2 C flour and mix until just incorporated, not worrying about the last few lumps. Add the rest of the flour (another 2 C) and mix for 30 seconds, then raise the speed to medium and keep on mixing until the dough is smooth. This should take about 5 minutes. The dough will still be sticky at this point.
Butter a large bowl, then transfer the dough into the bowl. Flip it around a bit to coat it with the butter. Lightly cover and leave it to rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Create the filling.
Grind the pecans, chocolate, and sugar together in a food processor until sandy in texture.
Build the monkey bread.
Prepare a bundt pan by buttering and sugaring it.
Prepare that melted butter and keep it nearby in a small bowl.
Pull off small pieces of dough, rolling them into balls about the size of a golf ball. Coat each monkey ball in melted butter, then in the filling, then place it into the bundt pan. Fill the bundt pan with coated monkey balls that way until all the dough is used up, trying to keep the top layer fairly flat, as it will be the bottom when you flip the thing out in the end.
Cover and allow to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size or until it is terrifyingly close to overflowing your bundt pan and the dough doesn’t really bounce back when you poke it.
Bake and devour the monkey bread.
Preheat your oven to 350º.
Brush the top of the monkey bread with any remaining melted butter (if you have any, that is, else don’t worry too much about it).
Bake 40-45 minutes, until the top is dark brown and a cake tester inserted into the center (of a doughy bit, not through the empty center of the pan, of course!) comes out clean.
Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack, remove the pan, and let cool for another 15 minutes before serving.