Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cinnamon Braided Monkey Bread [Zack]

We had guests staying with us this past weekend (the mountain climbers/beef jerky friends). While they were still asleep, I got the crazy idea to try to bake a monkey bread. I had seen the name pop up multiple times in the last few weeks and I guess it was stuck in my head.

I googled how to make Monkey Bread, but I didn’t have the requisite bundt pan. I therefore deviated from the normal recipe of tearing dough into balls, coating them in sugar, and packing them into the bundt pan. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make a braided bread, so this was my first attempt.

Our guests were beckoned awake by the yeasty, cinnamon-y, and sugary smells coming from our oven. I was very proud of my bread creation because I had minimal help from Lauren (I am still a novice at baking).  Funny enough, Martina exclaimed, “Oh, this bread looks just like the bread they have all over my hometown Prauge!” So, instead of impressing our guests with something new, I guess I was able to remind her of  home!

It reminds me of a Mitch Hedberg Joke:
"I wish they made a cinnamon roll incense because I don't always have time to make a pan. Perhaps I'd rather light a stick and then have my roommates wake up with false hopes. "


The first step is to get your yeast going.  Put 1 cup of warm water (warm to the touch) into a glass with the brown sugar and honey.  Give it a mix and leave it alone for 10 mins.  It should look like this:

While your yeast is activating, mix together your AP flour and 1.5 tsp salt in a large bowl.  Add your yeast mixture plus the rest of the water, and the olive oil into the bowl.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and doesn't stick to your hand.  If it is too sticky, add more flour, if it's too try, wet your hands slightly and keep mixing.

Once it's a smooth ball, wash out your big bowl, dry it, and coat it lightly with olive oil.  Put the dough back in, spin it around in the oil, cover it with a dish towel, and let it rise until doubled.  It should take about an hour.

When it has risen, it should look like this:

Punch the dough back down, form it into a ball again, and quarter it.

Roll each quarter into a ball, then roll out long snakes with your hands until they are 1 inch wide.

Your 4 snakes should be roughly the same length.

Now comes the girly part:  you need to learn to braid the strands together.  I can handle braiding 3 strings, but the 4th threw me for a loop.  Luckily Google had my back.  I'll explain it simply.  Lay the strands next to each other and pinch the far-away ends of each of the strands together.  Start by crossing the outside 2 pairs over each other.  Cross the right strands over the left ones:

Then, cross the two middle strands over each other, but this time, do left over right.

Tighten up the strands, but don't pull so hard that you over-stretch them.  Repeat the process: cross the two outer strands, right over left.  Then the middle two, left over right.  Keep going until you run out of runway.

It's really not that difficult folks.  Mine somehow came out presentable.

When you get to the end, cut the strands so they are even, pinch the ends together, and tuck the end slightly  under.

Now comes the fun part.  Melt 1T of butter in a sauce pan.  Put a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking tray and paint the foil with the melted butter where the bread will rest.  Carefully transfer the bread to the baking tray.

Generously paint the bread with the butter so you can get your brown sugar and cinnamon topping to stick.

Don't be scared, really paint that sucker.  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle it on top of the bread.  Don't be dainty!

Let the bread rest and rise for 30 minutes while you heat up your oven to 350F / 175C.  Pop it in the oven and bake until it's golden-brown and the sugar has caramelized on top.  It will take about 20-25 minutes.

Let the bread rest for 10 minutes, then slice it with a serrated bread knife so you don't lose the shape.

Serve warm with a pad of butter and dip it in your morning coffee like Mike Koulermos.

2 packets of yeast
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups warm water
5 to 6 cups AP flour (or 00 flour is even better)
1/4 cup olive oil
1.5 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon
2T brown sugar
1T butter (melted)

Since baking is more of a Lauren activity, here is a Euro Laurie jam:  Disclosure - Latch
Latch by Disclosure feat. Sam Smith on Grooveshark

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