First off, a warning. This takes some time...like...a lot of time. It's totally worth it though, and with the cold weather coming, well, this is going to be a staple for the night we decide to stay in and watch all those old Christmas movies with Oliver (remember Frosty and Rudolph!). It's worth it, but it's definitely for those special weekends where you've got a day to devote. Oh but is it worth it!
Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes + cooling time
1 cup whole milk, warm
1/3 c water, warm
4 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp honey
3¾ c bread flour
2¼ tsp (1 envelope) instant or rapid rise yeast
2 tsp salt
7 tbsp butter, melted, plus extra for the pan
1 tbsp vanilla extract
¾ c granulated sugar
½ c packed light brown sugar
¾ c pecan pieces, toasted and chopped fine (optional)
2 tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
For the dough:
1. Whisk the milk, water, 3 tbsp of the butter, and honey together in a large liquid measuring cup. Mix 3½ cups of the flour, the yeast and the salt together in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the milk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.
2. Increase the mixer speed to med-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (If after 5 minutes the dough still looks really sticky, add the remaining ¼ cup of flour, 1 tbl at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but still sticks to the bottom).
3. Turn the dough onto a clean counter and knead by hand to more a smooth, round ball (about 1 minute). Place the dough in a lightly oiled (vegetable or canola) bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours.
Trick: If your house is cold or drafty, my favorite thing to do is place the dough in the oven with only the oven light turned on, that works wonders!
For the monkey bread:
1. Lightly grease a large tube or bundt pan with butter. Combine the butter and vanilla in a shallow bowl. Toss the sugars, nuts, cinnamon and salt together in a separate bowl, then spread out over a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter, divide it into 36 even pieces, and cover with plastic wrap. Working with one piece of dough at a time, rough into a tight ball. Roll the balls in the butter mixture, then roll in the cinnamon sugar to coat and arrange evenly in the prepared pan. Drizzle any remaining butter and sugar mixture over the top. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Bake the monkey break until golden, 40 minutes.
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then use an offset spatula or knife to loosen the edges of the bread from the pan. Flip out onto a serving platter, but be very careful because that caramel is HOT. Let it cool slightly before serving.