Well, since then my standards have changed just a little bit, to where the use of refrigerated biscuit dough would be tantamount to culinary murder (sorry Gramma!). So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon (and when I say "stumbled upon" I really mean actively searched out...because I'm pregnant and I crave things) a recipe on smitten kitchen for homemade monkey bread...sans Pillsbury! She takes her version from Cook's Illustrated and adds a cream cheese glaze, which I omitted because 1) I was craving the Monkey Balls from my childhood, which did not include a glaze, and 2) I didn't have any cream cheese on hand. The result was an even better version of the one my grandmother made. Glory! And I polished most of it off by myself...because I'm pregnant.
Monkey BreadAdapted from smitten kitchen
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, divided (2 tablespoons softened, 2 tablespoons melted)
1 cup milk, warm (around 110 degrees)
1/3 cup water, warm (also around 110 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise, instant or bread machine yeast
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 teaspoons table salt
Brown Sugar Coating
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I added an extra 1/2 teaspoon, because I love cinnamon)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick or 4 ounces), melted
1. Adjust oven rack to medium-low position and heat oven to 200°F. When oven reaches 200, turn it off. Butter Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.
2. In large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast.
To proceed with a stand mixer, mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form a smooth, round ball.
To proceed by hand, mix flour and salt in large bowl. Make a well in the flour, then add the milk mixture to the well. Using a wooden spoon or dough scraper, stir until dough becomes shaggy and is difficult to stir. Turn out onto lightly floured work surface and begin to knead, incorporating shaggy scraps back into dough. Knead until dough is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Shape into taut ball and proceed as directed.
3. Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray or a tablespoon of neutral oil. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with more cooking spray or roll around to coat in oil. Cover bowl with plasti-crap and place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
4. Place melted butter in one bowl. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a second one.
5. Flip dough out onto floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces. Gently roll each piece of dough into a ball. Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl (a fork helps). Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers. Cover Bundt pan tightly with plasti-crap and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.
6. Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350°F. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown and caramel might begin to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes (mine didn't bubble, but it was definitely done). Cool in pan for 5 minutes (no longer, or you’ll have trouble getting it out) then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Basically, you just pull the thing apart with your fingers. I was a tad impatient and probably dug into it too soon because I burned my fingers more than once, but it was divine!
In the immortal words of Julia Child: Bon appetit!