Friday, December 6, 2013

Savory Garlic, Herb, and Cheese Monkey Bread

Were you ever relegated to the "kids table"?

This was a fairly common practice at Nanna's: the plastic patio furniture would be brought into the house, a cloth would be set, and that's where we grandkids would eat, sometimes accompanied by fun-loving Aunt Mary.

Though we were separated from the adults, it certainly wasn't a punishment. I actually have rather fond memories of those dinners at the kids' table, where we could, well, be kids. Plus we had everything we could possibly want that was at the adults' table, including access to our own personal bread basket.

I have particularly fond memories of Nanna's bread basket, always filled with homemade rolls, since my love for carbs came early and honestly. Sometimes she made regular dinner rolls, sometimes crescents, other times there'd be cloverleaf pull-aparts, but my favorite was when she tucked herbed monkey bread into the basket.

Coated in a blend of Italian herbs, this savory version of monkey bread was always a treat.

Unfortunately, like many of Nanna's recipes, I didn't have much to go on when I tried to recreate this childhood favorite: just her basic roll recipe and my memory of herby deliciousness. So, I played around with a combination of herbs and garlic and added some cheese for good measure. 

The results? Just as good as I remember.

Garlic, Herb, and Cheese Monkey Bread
Adapted and inspired by Nanna

Yield: 16+ pieces, depending on how you size the rolls

Prep Time: 3 hours (includes 2 rises); Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

For the dough:
3- 3 1/4 cups (13.5-14.625 ounces) all purpose flour, divided
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 egg

For the coating:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3-4 cloves of garlic, grated with a microplane
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of flour with dry yeast, salt, and sugar. Heat milk and butter to 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit. Add warm milk mixture and egg to flour mixture. Using a mixer, beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Then, by hand, stir in the remaining 2 cups of flour to form a stiff dough. Add remaining 1/4 cup if needed. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/4 hours.

Combine all ingredients for the coating, except mozzarella, and stir to combine; set aside.

Turn risen dough out onto a floured surface; sprinkle more flour on top. Gently knead until no longer sticky, about 2-3 minutes. Shape into a ball and divide into 4 sections, then divide each quarter by 4 again, for a total of 16 pieces. [If bite size rolls are desired, divide each quarter into 8 pieces instead, for a total of 32 pieces.] A clean kitchen towel can be placed over the dough that you are not working with.

Take a piece of dough and gently stretch it out, then tuck the corners in on itself to create a ball. Pinch the ends and then roll the dough ball in a circular motion to help it keep its shape. Gently toss the dough ball in the butter-herb mixture and place in a greased bundt pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Tuck cubes of mozzarella between dough balls as you go. When finished, cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before turning the bread out on a serving dish.

-The dough is quite sticky after its initial rise. Flour is your friend here!
-The blend of herbs I've included is just a jumping off point. This savory monkey bread would be great with any number of combinations. I think I might try Herbs de Provence next.

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