Homemade Monkey Bread with Caramel Sauce
Sticky, cinnamon-spice pull-apart Monkey Bread with Caramel Sauce. It’s much easier than you think!
Monkey Bread made completely from scratch. Monkey see, monkey do.
Stumbling upon quaint little bakeries while venturing through new parts of town are what I like to call “happy accidents.” I’m a foodie. Actually, no. I’m a dessertie.
Fate was by my side last week because I was instantly inspired to make my own monkey bread at home after spying one in a local bakery.
Monkey bread is a sweet, sticky, gooey pastry often baked in a bundt pan and served for breakfast or as a decadent snack. The bread is made with pieces (or balls) of sweet yeast dough baked together with melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar. It tastes like cinnamon rolls, but better. To eat it, you tear the bread piece by piece – sort of like how little monkeys pick at their food.
In short, monkey bread is heaven on earth.
Today I’m bringing you the best of the best. It is a completely from-scratch recipe for monkey bread. A warm, extremely doughy, cinnamon and sugar spiced, butter-laden confection just begging to be dug into. I completely covered the bread in pecans (optional!) and an easy homemade caramel sauce because… why not? Go big or go home.
Reasons to make this monkey bread right now:
- The balls of dough are beyond soft.
- Softer than any sweet roll I’ve ever made before.
- Fluffier than any piece of homemade bread I’ve eaten before.
- Stickier than any sticky bun I’ve tasted.
- Each ball of dough is hand-rolled into melted butter and cinnamon sugar.
- Each piece is dripping in caramel and glazed pecans.
- Save time by making it the night before.
I like to call this monkey bread “sticky bun cake.” Because it truly tastes like sticky buns rolled into little balls and baked together like a cake. And that’s essentially what it is, anyway!
It might look tricky, but this is truly not that hard to make. Here’s how I did it:
Start with 1 standard package (2 and 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast. For my monkey bread, I used Red Star Platinum. I am in no way compensated for saying this but I swear by Red Star, especially their superior Platinum line. Guaranteed fluffiness and volume. It will also save you time.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water. Once you stir the yeast around in the water and allow it to foam and dissolve, add the rest of your ingredients: 1 and 1/4 cup of 2% milk (lukewarm at 110F – 115F degrees), 1/3 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 eggs, salt, and 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Beat with a handheld or stand mixer until a soft dough forms. Then, manually stir in more flour to form a firm dough. I used 5 cups of flour total. Then you’ll knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic; about 6-8 minutes of kneading. The dough is SO soft and easy to work with- you are going to love it.
Form dough into a smooth ball and place it into a greased bowl, turning once so that the top is greased. I sprayed a bowl with cooking spray as my grease. Cover the dough and place in the refrigerator to let it rise overnight, or for about 8 hours. I made this monkey bread late Friday evening and was SO eager to wake up on Saturday morning to get started on the next step.
You’re going to wake up to a very cold and puffy ball of dough. It will double in size. Mine was extra puffy because I used Red Star Platinum yeast. Here comes a fun step: punch the dough down and watch it slightly deflate. Don’t punch it too hard, just a gentle punch to redistribute the air pockets inside and make the dough easier to divide into portions for the dough balls.
This part is also fun: melt 1 stick of butter in a small bowl. Set aside. Mix together 1 cup of sugar and 1 hefty Tablespoon of cinnamon in a shallow bowl. That’s a lot of cinnamon, yes. I am no stranger to cinnamon; I completely LOVE the stuff. I probably ended up using 1.5 Tablespoons total. Go by your taste preference.
Tear off small pieces of dough and roll into a ball. One by one, dip the dough balls into the melted butter and then generously roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. I heavily coated the dough balls because I wanted a ton of cinnamon/sugar in each bite.
Aim for about 40-45 balls of dough. The dough balls are not enormous – about 1.25 inches in diameter. You need to make sure you have enough to fill the bundt pan, so be modest with their size. Begin to layer them into the pan with some chopped pecans. The pecans are optional but I love the extra texture they bring. Rolling each ball of dough took me about 20 minutes. Not so bad!
Now it’s time for some caramel. The caramel is beyond easy to make. It’s the same homemade caramel sauce I used for my Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls. PS: You could make my homemade salted caramel instead.
You’re going to use this homemade caramel sauce twice in the recipe. First, you’ll pour half of it over the balls of dough before putting the bread into the oven. Then, you’ll pour more on top of the monkey bread before serving.
While it’s baking, the sticky caramel seeps in between all of the dough balls and pecans, allowing everything to stick together. The dough balls will expand quite a bit as well – you’ll be alarmed by how puffy they get! That’s what makes this monkey bread so fluffy and soft.
And it smells like homemade cinnamon rolls baking. That’s essentially what it this monkey bread is anyway.
Once the monkey bread is finished in the oven, allow it to cool for about 5-10 minutes. Then, invert it onto a large serving plate and cover with the rest of the caramel sauce (you’ll have to heat the caramel for about 30 seconds in the microwave). Watch as the extra caramel topping drizzles down the sides and in between all of the cracks and crevices. This monkey bread is out of this world!
You can either cut this bread into large uneven slices or let everyone pick off the gooey pieces themselves – you know, like monkeys. That’s what we did! Before you know it, the entire thing will be gone. Ooey gooey success! Eat it warm for breakfast, snack on it all day, have more for dessert, and then again at midnight. Monkey bread is acceptable any time of day. For real.
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Homemade Monkey Bread with Caramel Sauce
Be sure to read all of the instructions before baking.
- 1 standard package (2 and 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast (such as Red Star Platinum)
- 1/4 cup warm water (110F-115F)
- 1 and 1/4 cups warm 2% or whole milk (110F-115F)
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups all-purpose flour (measured correctly)
Easy Caramel Sauce
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons heavy cream (no substitutions)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir it around a bit and let it sit for about 2 minutes. Add the milk, melted butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and 3 cups of flour, Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. By hand, stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough. About 5 cups total.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-7 minutes. Do not over-knead, which will lend tough and chewy bread. The dough is ready when it is smooth and when you can poke it with a finger and it springs back. Form dough into a smooth ball and place into a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. I greased the bowl with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- Make the caramel sauce: The caramel sauce can be made ahead of time (up to 1 week) and heated in the microwave for 30 seconds before using. To make the caramel, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow to bubble for 3-4 full minutes, no more. Set aside.
- Make the cinnamon-sugar topping: In a shallow bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar. In a separate small bowl, melt the butter. Set aside. Spray a 10-12 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Punch the cold dough down very gently to allow the air bubbles to release. Pull apart pieces and roll into balls, about 1.25 inches in diameter. You will need 40-45 balls total, so be modest with their size. Dip each ball, one by one, in the melted butter and then generously roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat them well. You may need more cinnamon-sugar depending how heavy you coat each ball.
- Arrange 20 dough balls into the bundt pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the pecans. Top with remaining dough balls and pecans. *If you did not use Red Star Platinum yeast, cover the pan and allow dough balls to rise again for about 45 minutes at room temperature. If you did use Red Star Platinum yeast, move ahead to the next step and bake right away.
- Preheat oven to 350F. When you are ready to bake, warm the caramel sauce up for about 30 seconds. Stir, and top the dough balls with 1/2 of the caramel sauce. Reserve the rest to pour on top after it is baked.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cover loosely with foil if the top browns too quickly.
- Cool for 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a large serving plate. Warm up the caramel sauce again and drizzle over the bread before serving. You can either cut the bread into generous slices or let everyone pick off the gooey pieces themselves. Monkey bread tastes best served on the same day, but will stay fresh for 3 days if stored covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
- Make ahead tip: This recipe is designed to be made ahead! In step 2, you'll see that the dough needs to rise for at least 8 hours or overnight. The caramel sauce (in step 3) can also be made ahead of time.
If you like salted caramel, try my homemade salted caramel sauce instead of this caramel sauce!
Dough recipe from Taste of Home Baking
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Pretty much anyone with working tastebuds will LOVE this stuff.
I covered my Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls with the same caramel sauce from today.
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