Sourdough Cinnamon-Sugar Monkey Bread

sorry for the lack of items ot show scale...this is roughly the size of a standard angel food cake

Giant Interactive Sticky-Bun Hurrah!

Earlier this year, I posted the recipe for a savory cheesy garlic monkey bread, with a note about the name (to recap: it’s either a reference to the monkey puzzle tree or the process of assembling the loaf or the process or eating it, no one really knows). This one is more like what most people call “monkey bread,” with the pieces of dough covered in cinnamon and brown sugar, which caramelize in the oven until the whole thing resembles a giant sticky bun.

Most recipes start with refrigerated biscuit dough, which is a bit easier and quicker. However, if you have a sourdough starter that needs regular feeding & culling, you can use it to make a soft, slightly-sweet yeast-risen dough that works just as well. Depending on how active your starter is and how long you let the dough rise, the final product can have as much or as little sourdough flavor as you like (longer rise = more sour). I think a little tanginess is a nice counterpart to all the butter and sugar. Someone at the potluck I took this to asked if there was any alcohol in it, I think because the sourdough starter gives it a mildly boozy flavor. Speaking of which, adding a shot of whiskey or rum to the butter probably wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

I went with

Like basically all kinds of monkey bread, you assemble it by dipping small pieces of the dough in melted butter. In this version, the buttery pieces get a second coating of brown sugar and cinnamon (although you could substitute cardamom or ginger or cloves or whatever else you like—Alton Brown recommends rosemary). For a little extra sticky-sweetness, you can sprinkle a few tablespoons of brown sugar in the pan before filling it with bread. For a lot of extra sticky-sweetness, you can combine more brown sugar and melted butter and pour half in the bottom of the pan before filling it with the bread and the other half on top just before baking. If you want it sweeter still, you can drizzle the finished loaf with a powdered sugar glaze or cream cheese frosting. mini-loaf advantages: every piece is a "top"piece with lots of caramel

This recipe makes slightly too much for my tube pan, so I put the overflow in a regular loaf pan. Tube pans are ideal for monkey bread because they provide lots of surface area—fluted tube pans are even better. However, any kind of pan will work. You could use a 9×13 baking dish, or a few cake pans, or a large soufflé dish, or make individual serving-sized portions in muffin tins or ramekins, just adjust the baking time accordingly (see recipe).

Other combinations that might be tasty: rosemary & raisins with a lemony cream-cheese frosting, ginger and clove in addition to the cinnamon with tart apple pieces, cardamom with dried pear pieces & sliced almonds, maximum caramel with vanilla bean in place of the cinnamon and an extra pinch of salt, or Chinese five-spice with currants & walnuts. Nothing wrong with classic cinnamon, raisins & pecans, though.

this is a little misleading. there were more leftovers, but they stayed at the potluck I took this to; it does tend to disappear quickly

Recipe: Sourdough Cinnamon-Sugar Monkey Bread (adapted from Linda Wan, browneyedbaker, Alton Brown, and Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 2 cups refreshed sourdough starter (100% hydration)*
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose or bread flour (sub whole wheat, if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar, honey, or other sweetener

*To substitute packaged yeast, dissolve 1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) of yeast in 1 1/2 cups warm water with the sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until frothy and then combine with the rest of the ingredients. Increase the flour to 4 1/2-5/12 cups

Coating:

  • 8 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (or other spices/herbs as desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Optional additions: 1/2-3/4 cup dried fruit and/or nuts, 2-3 Tablespoons extra brown sugar for lining pan

Sweeter options:

Maximum caramel topping:

  • 8 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Cream-cheese frosting:

  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar (plus more as needed)
  • 2 Tablespoons milk (plus more as needed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flavor extract (optional)

Method:

1. Make Dough: Combine all the dough ingredients (only 3 cups of the flour at first) and mix until combined. Add more flour as necessary to form a dough that will clean the sides of the bowl and sticks to itself more than it sticks to you—I start mixing with a spoon, but finish with my hands. Continue mixing/kneading in the bowl for a few minutes, just until it’s evenly combined. You can turn it onto a floured surface and knead longer if you like, but it’s not necessary.

2. First Rise: Cover the bowl and let rise 2-24 hours (1-2 hours if using instant yeast), or until doubled. The rising time will depend on how active your starter is and how sour you want the dough to be. As soon as the dough is doubled in size, you can assemble the loaf; however, if you want a lot of sourdough flavor, you should let it rise at least 8-12 hours.

a nearly no-knead dough after ~12 hours

3. Prepare Pans: Generously butter your baking dish(es). Sprinkle with additional brown sugar or pour half of the “maximum caramel topping” into the bottom.

4. Assemble: Melt the butter for the coating in one bowl. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt or other spices in another bowl. Divide the dough into pieces roughly the size of ping pong balls, either by pinching pieces off one by one, pressing the dough into a rectangle and cutting it crosswise with a knife or bench scraper, or forming a long rope and snipping pieces off with scissors. Roll each piece into a ball between the palms of your hands, dip it in the butter, roll it in the sugar & spice mixture, and the place them in the prepared pan(s) just barely touching each other or with a little space between them. If using fruit and nuts, sprinkle them in between the layers of dough balls.

if you use the cutting method, there will be some smaller pieces in the corners, which is fine--I like to put smaller pieces towards the inside of the tube pan and larger ones on the outside

5. Second Rise: Cover the pans and let rise 2-8 hours, or until doubled in size again. Alternatively, refrigerate for up to 24 hours and remove from cold storage 1-2 hours before baking to return to room temperature.

assembled risen again

6. Bake: Preheat the oven to 350F for 15-20 minutes. Uncover the risen dough. If using “maximum caramel topping, pour the remaining half over the risen dough. Bake for 15-50 minutes, depending on the size of your pan. Smaller portions/more surface area = less baking time, larger vessel/less surface area = more baking time. Individual servings in muffin tins may only take about 15-18 minutes. The single layer in my regular loaf pan took 20 minutes. Two layers in a 9×13 pan will probably take around 30-35 minutes. My tube pan with three layers took 45 minutes. A very large soufflé dish may take 50 minutes or longer. It’s done when the top is very brown and the internal temperature is 190F or a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Invert: Let cool in the pans, on a rack if desired, for 5-10 minutes. Gently cut around the edges of the pan(s) with a knife, and then invert onto a serving plate. If icing, combine the ingredients for your desired topping and drizzle with a spoon or from a plastic zip-top bag with one corner snipped off.  

this is why you do not fill the tube pan to the top just inverted, ready to serve, and I think it's pretty even without icing

Blue Sky Cake with Pop Rocks and Crème de Violette

apparently the blue meth is a fictional device; people do sometimes color meth, but that's a sign of impurities added to create signature brands, not the sign of a non-Sudafed precursor

In honor of the premiere of the final season of Breaking Bad, I made a mousse cake inspired by the signature color of Walt & Jesse’s meth. The base has Blue Razz Pop Rocks coated in a mixture of white chocolate & almonds. The center is a lemon mousse with a hint of Crème de Violette. The mirror is mostly white grape juice with a little more lemon juice, Luxardo Maraschino, and Crème de Violette set with gelatin. On top is a whipped white chocolate ganache studded with more Pop Rocks and blue hard candy. It’s the bluest, fizziest thing I’ve ever made, not that it has much competition.

the color's a little hard to see here, but it's the only screenshot I could find of Jesse breaking the sheets of glass

this is a better shot of the color

Blue Sky meth (aka Big Blue aka Blue Magic)

shattering a sheet of candy that looks like glass is really funanyone know what the "meth" in the show is actually made of

Blue Sky candy (no street name)

Pop Rocks!

I’m pretty sure meth doesn’t fizz, but I’ve been wanting to incorporate Pop Rocks into a dessert for years. They’re a little tricky to work with because they’re activated by moisture—any moisture, including the moisture in the air. Leave a package open for long enough, and they’ll get flat and gummy. The only way to get them into a dessert with their fizziness intact is to coat them in fat.

For the crust, I used Heston Blumenthal’s method, which involves incorporating them into a chocolate & nut base. It worked well. The pop rocks retained a substantial amount of fizz, even 30+ hours after the packages were first opened. You could use the same technique with any kind of chocolate, nut, and flavor of Pop Rocks to make fizzy truffles or molded chocolates. For the ganache, I coated them with cooking spray and powdered sugar and hoped the fat content of the chocolate and cream would protect them, at least a little bit. It wasn’t quite as fizzy as the crust, but the moisture in the cream didn’t kill the effect completely—there were still a few reactive candy pieces in every bite.

Crème de Violette!

I'm a little surprised this cocktail isn't more common. It's really delicious.

Crème de Violette is a liqueur made from violets that plays a small but crucial role in the classic cocktail The Aviation, which I had for the first time recently at The Last Word. The liqueur itself is a deep purple, but when combined with lemon juice, gin, and maraschino liqueur, it’s the color of a clear blue sky. I was hoping it would have the same effect in the cake, but instead I got shades ranging from pale lavender to a truly unappetizing gray, so I ended up using food coloring anyway.

In terms of flavor, Crème de Violette is (unsurprisingly) sweet and floral. Beyond that it’s hard to define. It’s not quite like lavender or rose or jasmine or orange blossom, but it’s more like all of those than any fruit or herbs I know. If you’re think floral scents belong only in toiletries, you might find it off-putting. Even though I like floral scents in food, I wouldn’t want to drink it straight. However, I think it can be an appealing and enigmatic accent. It obviously works well with gin and lemon and cherries—the Aviation is a great cocktail. I can also imagine pairing it with other citrus fruits and berries, melon, honey, chocolate, or nuts.

If I had known it wouldn’t supply the color I wanted, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to track it down. Any other clear or pale liqueur, juice, or flavor extract would have worked just as well, and flavor-wise, I think it might have been better to stick to white chocolate, lemon, & almond.
 
ugly pictures! dropped my bounce flash. sad face.the crust was a little hard to cut through; individually-molded cakes would make for a prettier presentation 

Things That Went Wrong

  • My first attempt at making candy included lemon juice and Crème de Violette, and it started to darken and caramelize at 250F, long before it was hot enough to set properly. I’m not sure if the problem was the lemon & liqueur or if I was cooking it over too-low heat. I pulled it off the heat at 270F because it was threatening to burn, at which point any discernable violet/blue color had been completely obscured by the amber of burning sugar. Amber + blue food coloring = bottle-glass green, not sky blue, so I started over without the extras & cooked it over higher heat.
  • half toasted, half untoastedFor the crust, I initially used the ratios provided by the Blumenthal recipe, but there wasn’t nearly enough chocolate to coat all of the pop rocks and it only covered about 1/2 the springform pan. I threw together another batch and didn’t bother toasting the almonds for the sake of speed. I liked the color & flavor of the half with untoasted almonds better and adjusted the recipe to reflect the total amount of chocolate & nuts used to cover the 9” pan base.
  • White grape juice was the first nearly-colorless substitute I came up with for the strawberry juice in the recipe for the mirror. It was only as I was pouring the simmering grape juice over the bloomed gelatin that I realized I could have used champagne instead. Champagne might have needed more gelatin to set, but I bet the ratio I used in the Jell-O shots for NYE 2012 would have worked. Sad missed opportunity to reference Jesse, Combo, and Skinny Pete’s night at the strip club in “Mas.”
  • I intended to pipe the ganache on top in some kind of decorative manner, leaving at least part of the mirror exposed, but I over-whipped the ganache so it was a little grainy and weepy and not in good shape for piping.

Despite all that, it turned out mostly the way I had imagined: strange, fruity, fizzy, and very blue. It was designed more for looks than taste, but the flavor combination was kind of weirdly compelling. All hail King Heisenberg!

candy, before breakingRecipe: Blue Sky Cake

Ingredients

Hard Candy (from Allrecipes)  

  • 3 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon flavoring oil (I used almond)
  • 2-3 drops food coloring

Fizzy Chocolate Nut Crust mixing pop rocks into chocolate(adapted from Heston Blumenthal via Chubby Hubby

  • 1 cup (6 oz) blanched almonds
  • 1 cup (6 oz) white chocolate chips
  • 11 packages of Pop Rocks (I used Blue Razz)

Blue Lemon Mousse (adapted from Gordon Ramsay via Almond Corner and Hidemi Sugino via Chubby Hubby)

  • 5 leaves of gelatin or 1 package powdered gelatin
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Crème de Violette (or other liqueur)
  • just after folding the meringue into the gelatin-cream mixture and adding some color3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • a few drops of blue food coloring

Blue Mirror (adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

  • 2 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Crème de Violette
  • 1 Tablespoon maraschino liqueur (like Luxardo, not Grenadine)
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • mirror poured on top of mousse--many of the bubbles went away as the gelatin set1 1/2 packages unflavored gelatin (1 1/2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 1/4 cups white grape juice
  • a few drops of blue food coloring

Whipped White Chocolate Ganache with Pop Rocks

  • 8 oz white chocolate (about 1 cup chips)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 packages Pop Rocks (Blue Razz)
  • cooking spray
  • powdered sugar

Extras: 2 packages Pop Rocks for garnish

Method

meth cake 023CANDY: 

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine everything but the flavoring oil and food coloring in a pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Insert a candy thermometer and continue cooking without stirring until it reaches 290 F (the hard crack stage). If sugar crystals form on sides of pan, wipe them off with a brush dipped in water.

3. Remove from the heat, add flavor and color and stir just until mixed. Pour into the prepared pan and let cool completely.

4. Crack into pieces (I used the back of a cleaver), wrap in waxed paper or toss in a small amount of powdered sugar, and store in an airtight container.

CRUST:

1. Generously butter a 9” springform pan and line it with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom.

2. Toast almonds, if desired. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the blanched almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes, or until fragrant and just beginning to color. Toasted or not, blend them in a food processor until they form a smooth paste.

3. Melt the white chocolate in a pan held over simmering water. Gently stir in the Pop Rocks. Then, fold in the almond puree.

4. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

toasted almond puree; you could probably sub almond butter if you didn't want to bother with this step combining the chocolate, pop rocks, and almond puree

MOUSSE:

this was the color of the gelatin mixture--depressing grey instead of Aviation blue, but once mixed with the cream and meringue, it basically looked white1. If using gelatin leaves, soak them in cold water. If using powder, sprinkle it over 1/4 cup cold water.

2. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it will hold soft peaks and refrigerate until needed.

3. Warm the lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the gelatin, gently wringing out the leaves if using them. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved, and then add the liqueur.

4. Combine the sugar and water in a pot, bring to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and remove from the you can see the drip along the side where I poured the sugar syrup--you want to avoid the tines of the whisk or they'll spray the syrup all over the insides of the bowlheat when it reaches 235 F (soft ball stage).

5. Whisk the egg whites until foamy, and the continue whisking as you drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites. Keep whisking until stiff peaks form. 

6. Fold the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture. Then fold in the meringue. Add coloring if desired

7. Pour the mixture on top of the chocolate base and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

MIRROR:

1. Place lemon juice, liqueur, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.

2. Pour the juice into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour over the gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Tint with food coloring if desired. Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water and stir until the mixture is syrupy and just beginning to thicken.

3. Gently pour it over the mousse, tilting if necessary to create a thin, even layer. Refrigerate until set.most of the larger bubbles created by stirring the gelatin mixture will escape before the gelatin sets, I'm not sure how to get rid of the smaller bubbles

GANACHE:

don't do what I did and overbeat it, as soon as it will hold soft peaks, stop whipping 1. Heat the cream until there are small bubbles around the edges of the pot. Add the chocolate and let it soften, and then whisk until smooth.

2. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and let it cool completely (~6 hrs or overnight).

3. Whip with a whisk or electric beaters/stand mixer until fluffy.

4. Spread the Pop Rocks on a baking sheet in a thin layer and coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and toss to coat. Then, gently fold them into the ganache.

UNMOLDING, DECORATING, & SERVING:

Warm a knife by running it under hot water for a few minutes and use it to cut around the edge of the springform pan. Release the mold and remove it. Slide the cake onto a serving plate (or not, I just left it on the springform base). Fill a zip-top or piping bag with the ganache and decorate as desired. Top with the hard candy. Refrigerate until ready to serve. For the cleanest cuts, run the knife under hot water before & between slices. Sprinkle a few additional Pop Rocks on the plate before serving.

using a thin knife also helps this mirror turned out a bit thick--if I did it again, I might halve the recipe