One of the things I like best about the holidays is family food traditions. For example, for Thanksgiving we make a feast! Turkey, dressing (those not from Ohio might call it stuffing), mashed potatoes and gravy, baked corn, green bean casserole (yes, the French’s onions recipe), 7-up salad (my mom’s recipe from when I was a child), and this year, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. For over 30 Thanksgivings, a family breakfast favorite has been monkey bread. We got the original recipe from my sister-in-law Sandy Estep. I have no idea where it came from. Anyway, for the Ballard-Reisch family, Thanksgiving breakfast means monkey bread. We invite you to join us in this tradition.
3 loaves – Rhoades white frozen bread dough
1 cup granulated sugar (plus up to ¼ cup additional as needed – see below)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (plus 2 teaspoons)
1 ½ sticks (3/8 lbs butter) – (Real butter is the best. We prefer Kerry gold.)
What to do:
Thaw loaves in the refrigerator, in the plastic bag they come in. (Or you can make bread dough from scratch. I used to do that, but I often take the easy way now.) Once thawed, remove from the bag and return to the fridge in a covered bowl. Let rise. When dough has risen, kneed it to release all the yeast and air bubbles. It will return to roughly the volume of the original dough. Let dough rise a second time, and again kneed to release the yeast and air bubbles. We typically do this overnight so that the dough is ready to go on Thanksgiving morning.
Mix 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon together in a soup or cereal bowl.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Tear the dough into approximately 1 teaspoon chunks; roll into balls.
Drop balls into cinnamon and sugar mixture. Coat all sides thoroughly. I use a spoon to scoop the mixture around the dough balls.
Drop the balls into a greased (We use Pam.) bundt pan. (The bundt pan, because of it’s center opening, helps cook the dough balls thoroughly, but you can also use an 8×8 inch glass baking pan.) ((My favorite of the moment is a silicone bundt pan.))
Melt butter in a 1-quart saucepan.
Once cinnamon and sugared dough balls have been put into the bundt pan, measure remaining mixture. You will need at least 1 cup. Add sugar to make 1 cup and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Melt over medium high heat in a sauce pan for approximately 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Sugar mixture will get clumpy, then eventually smooth out and melt fully.
Once sugar has melted, stir in melted butter. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat. (If the butter and sugar mixture won’t mix together, try using a whisk.)
Pour mixture over dough balls in bundt pan.
Bake for 1 hour or until dough balls are cooked thoroughly (or to your desired doneness). Some Ballard-Reisch’s prefer fully cooked dough balls. Others like them slightly doughy.
Turn out onto a round plate.
Add 1 cup chopped nut pieces of choice (I prefer pecans, but others like walnuts) to cinnamon and sugar mixture when you add the melted butter. The melted sugar and butter will coat the nuts. Pour over the dough balls as noted above. Bake as noted above.
Make a caramel or salted caramel topping – You may keep or omit the cinnamon in this step. Your choice. When sugar mixture and butter are melted and combined, slowly add ½ cup heavy cream. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Add ½ teaspoon salt to mixture and stir for salted caramel. Drizzle over dough balls. Bake as above.
Serve with butter and a large glass of milk or your favorite cup of coffee.