I’m not sure why monkey bread is called monkey bread, but it sure is fun to eat, pulling apart sections of bread. Usually monkey bread is sweet, with a sticky topping. But we’re going to the savory side with this one. Pesto in the dough and on the top and bottom of the bread, and a liberal sprinkling of cheese in the layers makes this a bit of comfort baking heaven. I apologize in advance if your grocery foraging situation is still wonky. As long as I don’t want beans or rice, I can usually find what I need now, although I have to go to the more expensive grocery stores for flour.
This post is a little lengthier than normal because I wanted to dive into some baking tips that apply to not only this recipe. With all the new found baking going on right now, I figured it would be helpful. Especially to new users who are maybe not very familiar with the Ankarsrum mixer, or making yeast breads. I also make it a point to further explain a recipe in the write up and touch on any crucial points I discovered during recipe testing.
I tested this out with both store bought and homemade pesto (Whatever You Have Pesto) and both worked just fine. Now pesto has raw garlic in it (at least my homemade version does.) Raw garlic actually inhibits or can sometimes even kill yeast. While the amount of garlic in the pesto isn’t enough to kill the yeast, it definitely prolonged the usual time it took during the first rise by about 30-45 minutes, and about an extra 15-20 minutes for the second rise. So don’t worry if the dough seems to be sluggish at first.
I often get asked how long and at what speed should I knead my dough? How do I know if it is done? There isn’t one formula for all recipes. It depends on the type of dough you are making, and also on the type of flour you are using, as some flours are higher in protein (gluten) than others. Also, whole grain flours work against gluten development because of the bran and germ in them. They actually cut at the gluten strands.
The windowpane test is often a good indicator, but not always. The windowpane test is basically this: you pinch off a piece of dough slightly larger than a marble, and start to work it with your fingers like you are making a mini pizza. If your gluten is fully developed, you’ll be able to stretch it out thin enough without ripping where you’ll be able to see through it. Whole grain doughs don’t always windowpane test so well, and high hydration doughs that are going to do a long cold proof, or go through lots of folds and stretches will often not pass windowpane test after initial mixing because they are going to continue to develop as they proof. And sometimes, people just can’t get the hang of it. So here is another indicator of dough well mixed: look and feel.
So familiarize yourself with the look and feel of dough. Practice the windowpane test, but be aware it doesn’t always work, especially with whole grain doughs. If a recipe says knead 10 minutes but your dough looks and feels ready after 8, or maybe doesn’t look ready at all, then trust your instinct. My flour might have been different than your flour and that could make all the difference of a couple minutes of kneading time.
Also, when using the roller/scraper for mixing dough, after the ingredients are mixed together, the arm will be locked in place using the knob at the back of the machine. This allows the dough to be gently kneaded with the roller as it passes by it. The arm will still be able to freely move towards the center of the bowl though, so don’t be alarmed if it is moving around.
Once the dough has gone through the first rise, it is time to shape and place in the pan.
If you don’t have a kitchen scale, then just guesstimate, each dough ball is going to be a little smaller than a golf ball. And if you don’t have a bench scraper or dough cutter (I’ve had this old plastic one since culinary school) just use the flat plastic scraper that came with the Ankarsrum. When portioning out dough it is always better to cut it than tear it into pieces, because the tearing does more damage to the gluten development than cutting it does.
For forming the balls of dough, here is what to do: place the portion of dough on your LIGHTLY floured surface. You do not want a lot of flour, or the dough will just slide all around. In fact, you want the dough to slightly stick to the surface as you form it. Place your pinkie finger and thumb around the dough, on the floured surface. These two fingers will never leave the floured surface. Your other fingers will form a cage around the ball of dough, but not fully touching it, more just guiding it. Begin to move the dough around the surface in a circular motion, not slowly but not super fast. Just a nice medium circular pace and the portion will roll up into a nice little ball.
A bundt pan is ideal for monkey bread because the hole in the middle of it ensures that all the dough is going to fully bake through. Each roll is always touching a side of the pan, so no underbaked surprises in the middle.
I like to place the balls of dough in a zigzag pattern. One touching the outer edge, the other touching the inner edge of the pan. All the way around the pan. Then top with cheese and repeat.
Dough rises best in a warm humid environment. To speed rising time up, I will often place an empty loaf pan on the bottom of my oven (not turned on) and place the covered dough on one of the racks above it. Bring enough water to a boil to fill the bread pan, fill bread pan with boiling water, and quickly shut the oven so the dough has a nice steamy environment to rise in. I do this for both the first and second rise. Just don’t forget to take the pan of water out before you start preheating the oven.
This bread will need to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing. And this is where that well greased pan comes into play. After 15 minutes, you should be able to run a butter or table knife around the inner and outer edge to loosen any little bits of golden cheese, and then flip it out onto a cooling rack. The top, which is all golden and crusty will become the bottom. And the soft pillowy bottom covered in pesto is now the top. And whichever part you prefer, one thing is for certain: this recipe will have you reaching for seconds.
Let us know if you have any questions or comments. There is a whole wheat version at the end of the regular recipe. Happy baking!!
Pesto and Cheese Monkey Bread
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
Inactive Time: 3-4 hours
2 large eggs, room temperature
390 g. (1 1/2 cups) buttermilk, room temperature
86 g. (6 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
210 g. (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp.) pesto, divided
9 g. (2 1/4 tsp.) instant dry yeast
720 g. (6 cups) all purpose flour
4 g. (1 tsp.) kosher salt
170 g. (6 oz.) shredded cheese: Cheddar, Asiago or Gruyere are ideal
Add the eggs, buttermilk, butter and 120 g. (1/2 cup) of the pesto to the stainless steel bowl with the roller and scraper. Mix on medium speed (3 o’clock) until combined.
Turn speed down to lowest setting, add in the yeast, gradually add in the flour and then the salt. Slightly increase speed to medium-low, between 2 and 3 o’clock. Once flour has mixed in, lock arm in place about 1 inch away from the edge of the bowl. Set timer to knead for 10 minutes. Check consistency of dough, it should be elastic and slightly springy.. Knead for another 2-3 minutes if needed. Form into a large ball, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, approximately 2- 2 1/2 hours.
Generously grease a 10 cup Bundt pan. Spread remaining 90 g. (6 Tbsp.) pesto on the bottom of the pan.
Turn dough out onto a lightly flour surface. Using a kitchen scale, weigh out 57 g. portions of dough. If you do not have a kitchen scale, each portion should be slightly smaller than a golf ball once rolled. Roll into a tight ball and place one layer in the pan, alternating between each ball of dough touching the inner and outer edge. Sprinkle first layer with half of the cheese. Arrange the remaining balls on top. Dollop with remaining 90 g. (6 Tbsp.) of pesto and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover and let rise until dough has almost risen to top of pan, approximately 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350º F. Uncover risen dough and bake for 35-40 minutes, until top is golden brown and crusty.
Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Gently run a butter or table knife along the inner and outer rim to loosen up any bits of crispy cheese. Place a cooling rack on the top of the bread and then carefully flip pan over and pull Bundt pan up, giving it a whack on the bottom if needed to release bread from pan.
Let cool for at least 15 more minutes before serving.
Yield: 1 large Bundt loaf
WHOLE WHEAT VERSION
-Replace all purpose flour with 675 g. (6 cups) whole wheat flour. If milling at home, use a hard white or hard red wheat.
-Follow recipe above, except when kneading, reduce the speed to between 1-2 o’clock instead of 2-3 o’clock.