Monkey Bread in Jars

I’m coming off a high… sugar and altitude related.

For a post busy season de-stresser, I took a long weekend trip down to Denver to visit Becky (you’ve seen her on here before) and her husband Brent.

Becky and I had discussed from the day I purchased my ticket that we would be doin’ some serious work in the kitchen. We made 3 desserts including meringues, marshmallows, and pumpkin cupcakes (many of which you will see shortly here), salmon with miso sauce, and this…

Monkey bread… in a jar. It is to die for.

And all that dark stuff on the bottom??? It is indescribably good. Off the charts. Gooey, cinnamon-y, out of this world.

This was the first time either of us had really experimented with yeast. We had our reservations. But man oh man, we sure did get excited when it started working.

Excitement in the kitchen seems much more normal and less psycho when it isn’t talking to yourself.

On top of not being considered crazy there are so many benefits to having a partner-in-crime in the kitchen.

 Including a dough-kneader.

And someone to help you take and stage the food photography.

Sometimes I get so focused on getting things done in the kitchen I forget to have fun. After this Bake-a-thon weekend, I remembered how much fun being in the kitchen can be.

Yeast in action, part 2. After the yeast activates and is incorporated into the dough and the dough is kneaded, it is set to rise for about 1-1.5 hours or until doubled in size.

Disclaimer, we started this process at 9 PM. I would not recommend this, as there are multiple “stop and let the dough rise for 50+ minutes” in the instructions. That being said, we wrapped this bad boy up around 1 AM.

Doin’ work.

Once the yeast doubles, place on a clean surface to roll out.

The original recipe did not state how thick to roll out and a “large rectangle” is not nearly specific enough for 2 CPA’s. So we went with approximately 1/4 inch and it turned out great.

Using a pizza cutter, slice up the dough into small squares, roughly 1-2 inches in size.

Take those darlin’ little squares and dip in melted butter (oh em gee), then a cinnamon-nutmeg-brown sugar mixture (oh yeah) and “plop” into the jars.

Also, this is a highly recommended snack time. Instead of a “plop” into the jars, just “plop” right into your mouth.

The buttery sugary squares need to rise for another 50 minutes but then are ready for the oven. 25 minutes later and you are ready to experience heaven on earth.

Here’s how to do it:

Monkey Bread in a Jar

Ingredients:

12 tbsp butter

1 cup milk, heated to about 110 degrees F

1/3 cup water, heated to about 110 degrees F

1/4 cup sugar

1 (1/4th oz) package dry active yeast

3 cups flour

2 tsp salt

1 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

Warm the milk and water in the microwave until it feels like warm bath water. Combine the warm milk, water, yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl. Let sit for five minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt and 1/2 tsp cinnamon together in another bowl. After five minutes, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on medium high speed using a dough hook attachment for about eight minutes, or until dough becomes a smooth ball. If you don’t have a dough hook, you can knead using your hands, just keep kneading the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. (It may still be very slightly sticky as you form the ball but don’t let that scare you, as long as it has a smooth appearance after the ball is formed.)

Spray a bowl with cooking spray and place your dough ball inside. Cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise for about an hour. You want the ball to double in size. (This could be anywhere from 50 minutes to 1.5 hours.)

After the initial rise, roll out dough to a large rectangle approximately a 1/4 inch in thickness. Using a pizza cutter, cut one inch squares of dough out of the rectangle.

Melt four tablespoons of the butter and use it to grease eight 8-oz glass jars (OR four 12-oz mason jars or three 16 oz jars).

Melt the remaining butter and pour it into a small bowl. In another small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Dunk each square of dough in the melted butter and then into the brown sugar. Drop it into a greased glass jar. Fill each jar only half way full then set the jars in a warm spot to rise for another 50 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place jars on a baking sheet two inches apart and bake for 25 minutes, or until dough has cooked through. Serve warm!

Meringues 101… and 201

This all started way back in March… when there was this little thing called March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament, and of course related bracket challenges.

There was one bracket in particular for the bridal party of the wedding I was in this past July. The Best-Man surprised the bride and groom by putting an unknown gift from their registry as the prize.

I usually participate in multiple brackets most of which end in me losing big due to my unfailing hope in the underdog. Not this time. I actually WON the bracket challenge, by picking the favored winner.

What was this prize you ask?!?

That’s right, an egg separator. I was stoked. Yeah yeah, I can use the eggshell to separate but that doesn’t make me nearly as happy.

You know all those books from childhood. If you give a mouse a cookie, if you give a pig a pancake, if you give a moose a muffin. The list goes on and on (and on).

So this? This is what happens when you give a cook a smiley egg separator…

Ok, let me re-phrase…. this is what happens when you give an amateur baker an egg separator and said amateur decides to make meringues for the first time.

When I initially attempted the meringues myself… it failed miserably, as evidenced above. I’ve never felt more of a failure in the kitchen when my meringues didn’t turn out not just once but twice!

So, I knew it would be the perfect thing to try when I was in Denver during our phase 2 of the 1st annual Cook/Bake-a-thon.

With a little hand-holding, guidance from a more experienced meringue maker and a new recipe… IT WORKED!

Oh-so-glossy and ready for the oven.

But, stiff peaks are no easy achievement. It’s a lot of concern and questioning, “Is that stiff peaks?… Well, maybe… let’s give it 2 more minutes….” And then the cycle repeats 2 minutes later.

Then you just have to make the game-time decision and get them on the sheet and ready to bake.

For guidance on what a stiff-peak looks like… I recommend google images or the Kitchn has a great tutorial. Also highly recommended, find someone else who knows what they are doing.

… And then after a little/long time in the oven… it’s magic. Meringue magic and success!

Here’s How to Do It:

Lemon Infused Meringues

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

6 egg whites

1/2 tsp. Lemon Zest

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar

Pinch of Salt

Directions:

Heat oven to 275ºF. Line cookie sheet with heavy brown paper or aluminum foil.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Add in the vanilla and lemon zest and beat to combine.

Drop meringue by 1/3 cupfuls onto cookie sheet. Shape into about 3-inch circles, building up sides. Bake 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave meringues in oven with door closed 1 1/2 hours. Finish cooling at room temperature.