Okay everyone, there’s something I need to get off my chest.
I. Love. Food.
I absolutely love it. I love everything about it. I love the act of eating. I love the sheer variety of foods to eat. I love the challenge of creating your own. And I especially love the joy around food.
I work at the Blackbird Bakery and one of the things I love most is when people tell us how good our food is. When their faces light up and they say things like “I haven’t had an almond croissant that good outside France,” or “That was the best muffin I’ve ever had.” Something as simple as a really tasty muffin can make someone’s day, and that makes me so happy. I love when people gather at the bakery and chat over sandwiches and turkey pies, or start their day off on a positive note with a cheesy breakfast sandwich. There is something magical about how really good food can change our whole day.
I have a friend who is a chef in Vancouver and primarily does catering for films. On a recent visit he told me how much he dislikes food, and how much he’d prefer it if there were a pill he could take instead of eating food. That made me so sad. Growing up I always had joy around food. I have so many happy memories around the making and eating of food, especially with family. I can close my eyes right now and conjure up the joy I would feel walking into my house after school and being greeted with the warm smell of freshly baked banana bread. Our family of seven had dinner together every night and I can still hear the buzzing conversation of all of us sharing our days over chicken cacciatore or my mom’s amazing chili. For me, food, family, and joy go hand in hand (in hand).
So recently when I learned we’d be having a quick visit by my partner’s parents I knew I wanted to make a special dinner. It felt like a perfect opportunity to break out the fall flavours and use up some items in my freezer and pantry. I pulled out a chicken I had gotten from a friend here in Pemberton and made Maple Rosemary Chicken from the New York Times Cooking, with a simple rice pilaf that wouldn’t overpower the flavour of the chicken, and some roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon (because why do I only make this dish at Thanksgiving? It’s amazing.). But the thing I was most excited about was something tasty for dessert, and I wanted to make something that would shine. Something I hadn’t done before, because experimenting with food is fun. Continuing with the fall flavour theme, I decided to go for Maple Pecan Monkey Bread that I adapted from another NYT recipe, paired with a simple cream cheese icing. I’m happy to share it with you here:
Maple Pecan Monkey Bread
1 tbsp yeast
3 tbsp warm water
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
Maple Brown Butter:
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup pecans, toasted
1.Mix the yeast in a small bowl with 3 tbsp warm water. Add 1/2 tbsp maple syrup. Let sit 5-10 minutes to rise.
Note: I tend to use Fleischmann’s traditional dry active yeast in my recipes, which requires a little proofing. If you are using instant yeast you can skip this first step and add the yeast directly into the flour/salt mixture, and add the warm water when you add the eggs.
2. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed using the paddle attachment to blend. Add the eggs, remaining 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, and yeast/water mixture. Use the paddle attachment until the dough starts to come together.
3. Switch to the hook attachment and continue mixing on low. Add the softened butter in small chunks, a few pieces at a time, until fully incorporated. Continue mixing, stopping and scraping any stray pieces of butter on the sides or hook as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. This may take up to 10 minutes. Turn the dough into a buttered bowl and cover with a clean towel. Let rise until doubled in size, approx. 90 minutes.
4. When you’re ready to assemble, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the dairy solids turn golden brown and the butter smells nutty. While stirring add the maple syrup and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring, then remove from the heat. Set aside while you get your dough ready.
5. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Butter a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan. Turn your dough onto a clean work surface and roll into a thick rope, approx. 2 inches in diameter. Cut this rope into eight even pieces, and then cut each of those pieces into eight, until you end up with 64 small dough balls.
Note: I didn’t have a Bundt pan so I used my tall tube pan that I use for angel food cake and it worked fine. You don’t need any flour for your work surface because of the amount of butter used in this dough. It should be soft and slightly greasy, but not sticky.
6. Gently roll a piece into a small ball and dip in the cinnamon sugar, rolling it around until evenly coated. You can do multiple dough balls at the same time, but avoid overcrowding to ensure they are evenly coated with the sugar. Place the sugared balls in the pan and repeat until you have a single layer. Scatter some of the toasted pecans on top. Repeat this process until all the dough balls and pecans are in the pan.
Note: Because I was using the large tube pan, I was only able to make two layers of dough balls. It doesn’t look like much, but when we do the second rise the dough balls will expand dramatically.
7. Drizzle the maple brown butter all over the tops and sides of the dough balls. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm spot until puffed and the dough comes to about an inch below the top of the pan, approx. 30-45 minutes.
8. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Uncover the pan and bake until golden brown on top, approx. 35-40 minutes. Put the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Place a large plate on top of the pan, grip both together, and quickly and carefully flip. The monkey bread should come away easily from the pan. Serve warm or room temperature.
And there you have it. Maple pecan monkey bread. I was very pleased with the way this recipe turned out. The edges are crispy and sweet, and the inside is soft and fluffy. A perfect combination. You could jazz this recipe up with some caramelized apples or bananas, or chocolate, or use almonds or hazelnuts instead. This would be a great recipe to make with kids, who can help roll and dip the dough balls. You can serve this warm with just butter, or a little more maple syrup drizzled on top. I used a basic cream cheese icing, made with butter, icing sugar, cream cheese, and heavy cream. The possibilities are endless.
Happy cooking everyone, and enjoy the joy!