I did not grow up with things like monkey bread or pull-apart bread or other fascinating pieces of American culture people have managed to turn basic cinnamon rolls into (I had cinnamon rolls, homemade ones, we were not savages). So I had an idea about monkey bread until very recently, and that idea was that it had something to do with monkeys and therefore was banana flavoured.
It turns out this is not true at all.
Monkey bread has nothing to do with monkeys. It has to do with the feeling people have when they pick something apart with their hands, which is that they are like monkeys, but I can tell you from careful observation that monkeys actually would just pick up a whole loaf of monkey bread and eat it straight like god intended, because it doesn't need to be peeled and monkeys are all business when it comes to food.
That was a bit of a divergence. This is about monkey bread or pull-apart bread, and brief expedition I took into the genre.
I've been working my way through types of cooking lately: I had a couple of weeks where I worked on pretzels. I did a madeira layer cake with lemon curd and passionfruit-strawberry jam filling, plus a Swiss meringue buttercream that is inevitably going to lead me down a Swiss meringue pathway very soon.
I'd gotten started on this path with a simple idea: I could make fast cinnamon rolls by using my rolled biscuit recipe -- my goal for 2016 was to get good at making biscuits and that worked out like a charm -- and spreading the dough with cinnamon sugar and butter.
That worked great! But the quick icing I made came out too runny and sticky, so I began to explore frostings of various kinds. As part of those frostings, I also looked into other kinds of rolls to drizzle those frostings over, but to be honest I like the impulsive bake of the biscuit rolls.
So my idea was that right now I could explore pull-apart breads and end up with monkey bread because monkey bread has bananas in it. Except of course it doesn't. So unless I am willing to reinvent the genre (I probably am), I've reached the end of that road.
I made this bread: Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread. I don't have instant yeast because I don't have a bread machine (any more; I had one in architecture school but ended up giving it away because I mostly used it to make dough and I already have a Kitchenaid for that). So I made some minor changes to how the ingredients went together to proof the yeast properly.
Mine came out looking like this:
It kind of collapsed in the middle which was OK, but I didn't have the right platter to put it on so I had to kind of lay some plastic wrap down under that end.
For the icing, I did a simple powdered sugar and milk icing. I watched a dozen videos on this online and discovered a couple of things:
1. You need to make way more than a reasonable person would ever use, because the ratios are touchy and you have to keep adding a little more sugar and a drop more milk to get the texture right.
2. It comes out better when you use a mixer to beat the heck out of it.
That was the trick. I made about four times as much of the stuff as I drizzled on the top of the bread, and the consistency was perfect. It stayed white and distinct, so it was a graphical element and not just general stickiness.
The bread was also really good. We ate it with friends the next day and between four of us ate the whole thing. My next foray, I am guessing, will have to be banana-flavoured.