new favorite ::::
After having a love-hate relationship with monkey bread, I felt it was time to change its wayward course. The typical buttery, cinnamony mess that I am most familiar with trying as a child was certainly welcome then, like mini cinnamon buns, dripping in sugary icing. More recently, I’ve found variations less than appealing, however.
We tried a savory buttery version at a high-end restaurant in Chicago a few years ago — only to find the middle undercooked and doughy. I made a rosemary garlic version that was so dense with butter, it turned off Eat and I felt sick after eating it. Some of the sweet cinnamon versions I’ve encountered are so sweet that my teeth hurt after eating them.
My version, while still a butter-laden dough, is much less buttery and way more sesame. There is no butter-dipped dough sequence. There is no sugary mess, though one may argue the sesame seeds are just as bad. I opted for a fairly wet dough, rolling the balls of dough in toasted sesame seeds, placing even in a pan to rise, drizzling with butter, then baking. It’s a great centerpiece. It’s fun for the kids. You can tell them it’s made of monkeys, and they may become intensely curious and focused with each bite. And for the adults, it’s an unexpected variation on an old favorite.
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- 3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
- 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup hot water (about 120 degrees F)
- 1 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled to warm
- Toast sesame seeds until they are golden brown. Stir once or twice while toasting.
- Measure 2 cups of flour into a mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid mixer to mix and knead) and add in yeast and salt. Stir to blend.
- Pour in hot water and melted and slightly cooled butter. IMPORTANT NOTE: pour the butter in gradually, tablespoon by tablespoon, only after the mixture is developing into a dough.* Beat with paddle attachment (or wooden spoon) for about 2 minutes.
- Add the balance of the flour, ¼ cup at a time, mixing between additions. Change to a dough hook, if using a stand-up mixer.
- Knead in bowl until it cleans the side of the bowl and loses its stickiness. If using your hands, use a well-floured surface to knead for about 10 minutes. (If too oily and wet, you may have added the butter too quickly — it’s okay, but the gluten won’t form right.)
- Allow to rise for about 2 hours at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap. The dough should double in size.
- Break the dough into somewhat consistently-sized balls, 1-2-inches in diameter. Dough is sticky and may not form tight balls; that's okay.
- Dip one side into the toasted sesame seeds then place each seed-side up, into a buttered large loaf pan. Continue until all of the balls are coated and in pan. Place balls in an even layer, but haphazardly.
- Cover and allow to rise for 40 minutes.
- Start preheating your oven 20 minutes before you plan to bake, to 375 degrees.
- Sprinkle top with sea salt and bake in middle of oven for 50-60 minutes. Top will be golden brown when done.
- Allow to sit in loaf pan for about 10 minutes to cool before removing. It is a little fragile (sesame seeds may dislodge and the bread crumb may separate a little), so take care when removing from pan. The butter content helps it slide right out. Drizzle top with a little melted butter (though the sesame seeds may flake off -- a butter atomizer may be the trick to prevent this) and serve warm. Present on a platter like a centerpiece so that all at the table may pull off pieces of bread with an audience.
- If cold, reheat in oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes before serving. This bread freezes well if wrapped tightly in foil.