Classic monkey bread tastes like pecan rolls or cinnamon rolls, smothered in a caramel or buttercream frosting, but it's much simpler to make. Baked in a fluted tube pan, it's pretty enough to serve at a brunch, yet a fun dish for kids. Monkey bread often relies on convenience breads. Whip it up the night before and you've got even more time in the morning for other things.
If you've got the time, make your dough from scratch for the best flavor. You'll also have more control over how much fat and sodium go into the dough -- refrigerated biscuit doughs are high in sodium and also contain trans fats. To make the monkey bread the night before, simply make your favorite yeast roll recipe. Allow the dough to rise once, punch it down and shape it into rolls. Place the rolls in a greased fluted tube pan, along with any seasonings and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The rolls will rise slightly as they sit in the refrigerator. Pull the monkey bread out of the refrigerator and set it in a warm place. Let it rise for about an hour, then poke a finger in the dough. The bread has risen enough if the indentation remains. Bake the monkey bread for 30 minutes or until it's golden brown.
Frozen yeast rolls work well for making monkey bread and taste almost homemade. To use these rolls, grease a fluted tube pan and toss the frozen rolls with any seasonings or sugar and butter. Instant butterscotch pudding can stand in for sugar and makes a caramel sauce as it bakes. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The rolls will thaw in the refrigerator. The next morning, set the pan in a warm location and let the rolls rise until they've almost doubled in size. Bake the monkey bread for 30 minutes or until it's golden brown.
Using refrigerated biscuits is the fastest way to make monkey bread. You can have hot, chewy bread straight from the oven in 20 minutes or less. Because refrigerated biscuits contain baking powder instead of yeast as a leavener, they don't rise when stored in the refrigerator overnight. They may actually become a bit soggy and flat. It's best to make monkey bread made with refrigerated biscuits immediately before you serve it, although you can combine the sugar, cinnamon and other spices ahead of time. You can also make a frosting glaze the night before and refrigerate it.
Whether you use homemade dough, frozen rolls or refrigerated biscuits, monkey bread can go beyond the classic cinnamon and brown sugar favorite. Use butter, rosemary and dill to make flavorful dinner rolls or add cheese, pepperoni and marinara sauce for a main dish pizza bread. Try pureed pumpkin or bananas, or add a handful of chocolate chips.
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."