Back in September, I had the chance to visit the beautiful city of Seattle. I loved Seattle! I want to go back soon. While I was there (among other things) I drank a lot of great coffee and ate a lot of delicious food. One of those memorable meals was at Dahlia Lounge, one of several Tom Douglas restaurants in and around Seattle.
Delicious monkey bread muffins, adapted from the famous Seattle Dahlia bakery.
I’d heard that no meal at Dahlia Lounge would be complete without a sampling of their great desserts, most of which come from Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Bakery. We enjoyed both the famous Coconut Cream Pie and the Donuts, which come to the table fresh and warm in a paper bag and the server shakes them in the sugar. They are then served with vanilla mascarpone and jam for dipping. To.Die.For. Both desserts more than lived up to their reputation.
Flash forward a few months and I discover that Tom Douglas has published a new cookbook – The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness In Seattle – including recipes for all the bakery favourites like that pie and those donuts. I was so anxious to get my hands on it, I couldn’t even wait to put it on my Christmas wishlist. I ordered it right away. And since it arrived, I’ve been pouring through it trying to decide what I would bake from it first.
The Donuts seemed liked an obvious choice, but I was intrigued by the Monkey Bread. Made from the same brioche dough as the donuts, the dough is chopped and topped with a great streusel and baked into individual servings. And as if that wasn’t enough, they’re served with a warm caramel sauce for dipping. How could I not try that?
To say these were great would be an understatement. So indulge me for a moment while I gush about this Monkey Bread. First, the brioche was beautiful. The sour cream/sugar/cinnamon mixture that the dough bits get tossed in made for a wonderful moist bun with the sweet cinnamon weaving it’s way through. Finally, the cinnamon vanilla streusel that tops it all delivers both crunch and a salty note, which is perfect with the sweet caramel dip.
All that gushing said, this is a two-day baking adventure (mostly passive), that while lengthy, is not difficult. It’s the kind of recipe that you will work through a bit tentatively the first time around, but once you go through the process once, the second time will be a piece of
cake monkey bread.
Much of the process for making these can be done ahead. (I believe they would also freeze well, if you wanted to make them well ahead). These are perfect for a special brunch, for a sweet gift or maybe as a Christmas morning treat. I’d say they are perfect for anytime, but they are far too dangerous to have around on a regular basis ;)
- Brioche dough:
- 70 g. (1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp.) milk, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. active dry yeast
- 207 g. (1 1/3 cups) bread flour
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt (*less if using table salt)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 70 g. (5 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
- 121 g. (1/2 cup) sour cream
- 60 g. (1/4 cup) sugar
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- Dreamy Caramel Sauce:
- 250 g. (1 1/3 cups) sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Cinnamon Vanilla Streusel:
- 6 Tbsp. (50 g.) all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and broken into 3 or 4 clumps
- Day before baking, make the brioche dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the milk and yeast. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
- Add the flour, sugar, salt and eggs to the bowl and using the dough hook, mix on medium speed (4 or 5 on a Kitchen Aid mixer), until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and wraps around the dough hook. Be patient! This could take 15 or 20 minutes. Pour yourself a coffee and check on it occasionally, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times.
- Once the dough is ready, remove it from the dough hook and place it onto the bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer back onto medium (still with the dough hook) and start adding the butter a Tbsp. at a time, waiting until the butter is fully mixed into the dough before adding the next Tbsp. Repeat until all the butter is mixed into the dough. (If the butter sticks to the side of the bowl, just stop the mixer and push it down).
- Remove the dough to a greased bowl (a silicone dough scraper really helps here), cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 3 hours. When the dough has doubled, remove to a lightly floured surface (again, a plastic dough scraper is handy as the dough is soft and sticky still) and punch the dough down to remove any air bubbles. Re-grease the bowl, return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Next day: Prepare a baking sheet by covering with a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface (something that you can cut on). Using a bit of flour as necessary to prevent sticking, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 3/4-inch squares. This works out to be a lot of little squares that will quickly get sticky as the dough warms, so work quickly to scatter the dough pieces onto the parchment lined baking sheet (I used a spatula to scoop up a bunch at a time and spread them out on the pan. Try to arrange in as much of a single layer as possible, but don't sweat it. The squares are easy to break apart once they are frozen. More important to get them into the freezer before they soften too much and melt together). Place the baking sheet with the dough pieces into the freezer until they are frozen solid, about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the caramel sauce by placing the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Have your heavy cream measured and ready next to pot. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves, about 3-4 minutes. Once the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, do not stir any more. Allow the mixture to boil until the syrup turns a deep amber colour. (You can use the pot handle to gently move the pot and swirl the mixture a bit but do no stir). Watch it closely. As soon as the syrup has coloured nicely, immediately remove from the heat and add the cream. Stand back as it may sputter. Do not stir until the mixture settles. Once settled, return the pan to low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until any solids of caramel have melted. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until needed. (Can be re-warmed in the microwave as needed).
- You should also prepare the streusel by placing all the ingredients into a food processor and pulsing a few times until the mixture looks shaggy. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. (You can also do this by hand by combining the ingredients in a bowl and using your finger-tips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients).
- When you are ready to assemble the buns, using a 12-cup muffin tin or two 6-cup tins, place 6 tulip parchment liner into alternating holes (leaving every other one empty, to allow room for the dough to expand).
- In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar and cinnamon. Remove the dough pieces from the freezer and spoon into the bowl. Toss the dough pieces in the sour cream mixture until the pieces are well coated. Divide the dough pieces evenly between the 6 tulip parchment liners. Let stand to rise at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, about 2 1/2 hours. When the dough is about risen, pre-heat your oven to 375° F. When ready to bake, top each muffin with the streusel mixture, using all of it (it may seem like a lot, but use it all up).
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 24-26 minutes, until the dough is cooked and they are golden brown on top. Allow the cook in the pan for 5 or 10 minutes, then remove the muffins to a cooling rack to cool. Serve with a small bowl of warm caramel sauce for dipping.