Browsing articles in "Breakfast"
Sep 29, 2017

Coffee Caramel Monkey Bread

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Oh, hello! I’m hoping you are either visiting because you’ve always visited and listened to me talk about all manner of life and baking, or that you’ve landed here after watching the Today show. Welcome!

As soon as I get back from New York, I’ll be diving into the fall and holiday chapters of the new book, and testing lots of great recipes to share with you. One of the best things about creating this new book is that the timeline of developing the manuscript is allowing me to bake my way through the year–we just finished a season of light cakes, ice creams, summer fruit pies, cobblers, dessert salads, and way more. And now, after a solid week of unwavering, sweaty, snappy-retort-causing 90-degree-plus temps in Chicago–the heat seems to have finally broken, and from beneath it I can feel some great baking inspiration rising.

And hey, speaking of rising, how are you feeling about yeast-raised doughs at this point in your baking life? (Heyyyy-ooooh! Tip the bartender on your way out!) For the longest time, they scared me in a totally irrational way. It all seemed way too touchy and volatile, and generally way too easy to mess up. So I either avoided yeast doughs altogether, or stuck to the plethora of no-knead bread recipes available on the internet. But now it’s different. I’ve learned that the trick to great bread is to just keep making freaking bread. Lots of lots of bread, much of it bad. And then suddenly, it will stop being bad. You’ll learn what the silky texture of a dough really means and when you achieve it, and if it’s not feeling silky and buoyant, how you must continue to work it to get it there.

You also learn that if you’re me, against all your old-fashioned homesteading dreams, even just 10 minutes of hand-kneading is incredibly boring and that you get better, quicker results from using a mixer for the heavy lifting, and finishing the kneading with just a few minutes by hand, to enjoy the feel of the dough when it’s really in its kneaded prime. And I feel great about that discovery. It’s brought a whole lot more joy to my bread-making life, I’ll tell you that right now.

One of the most adorable and delicious ways to use a homemade white bread dough is monkey bread, that midwestern classic. For me, it’s evocative of many a Chicago-suburbian slumber party in my school days, bake sales and church basements and snow days at other people’s houses (my mother is many things, but she is not a baker. Except for this and this, and these two things are perfect).

The good news is that you don’t need to make from-scratch bread dough to bake up a great monkey bread. Now this doesn’t mean that I think the Pinteresting trends of using canned biscuits and what not are a grand idea in this case. To me, the genuine article when it comes to monkey bread means that the dough is yeasted. So when I’m short on time or the will to live, I use frozen bread dough, either in 1-pound loaves, or the frozen individual dinner rolls that are designed to have a rise time before baking–the rolls are especially great because they require only a crosswise snip with kitchen scissors to make them just the right size.

From there, you can go many different ways–simply rolling the dough balls in butter and then cinnamon-sugar and stuffing them into a bundt pan, or you can gild the lily by dousing the whole buttery, spicy, sugary lot in a sweet caramel syrup to make it even more irresistible. I’ll give you zero seconds to guess which method I prefer.


Coffee Caramel Monkey Bread

A few tips for success: First, cold dough will cut and shape much more easily. Second, if the bread begins to billow out of the pan during baking, just carefully and gently press it back down into the pan while it’s in the oven–sometimes the caramel syrup can steam underneath the dough and send it upwards. And lastly, be sure to allow the bread to settle in the pan for about 20 minutes before turning it out.

Serves 10-12

For the dough:

2 pounds (907 grams) frozen white bread dough, thawed but still cold
1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/75 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the caramel:

1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) strong brewed coffee
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/75 grams) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup (8 ounces/225 grams) dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Spray a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray and set it on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut the dough into small pieces and roll into 1-inch balls.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Lightly coat the dough balls with melted butter, then toss them in the sugar to coat. Fit the dough balls into the pan. Cover the pan with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.

In a medium saucepan set over high heat, combine the coffee, butter, brown sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for two minutes, until slightly thickened. Immediately pour the caramel over the risen dough. Bake until puffed and golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before inverting onto a platter and serving warm.

Oct 25, 2016

Apfelkuchen from Classic German Baking


WELL, HELLO! Here we are, another October all over again. Can you believe it? It’s been a busy couple of seasons around here–some TV and video projects, contributing for The Splendid Table (hi, dream job), and developing book #4. Oh, and that not-so-small detail of mothering a a third-grader (!) and a finally potty-trained (!!!) 3 1/2-year-old whose personality is basically Male Sybil on Steroids. There’s a lot to take in. I’m sure a lot of you feel me. In fact, can we all just go somewhere? Like a retreat in Big Sur where we all have our own private, sparkling clean bedrooms and bathrooms and we just breathe deep all day, and then convene in the evening over a case of wine and our favorite new cookbooks? Excellent. I’m bringing that one, up top, and seeing if the author wants to come with us.

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Dec 16, 2015

Winter Fruit Kuchen


As awesome as it is to bake loads of holiday cookies, boil up sticky sugar syrups for Christmas candies, and otherwise revel in the creation of seasonal desserts and edible gifts for the entire month of December, I have a particular soft spot for Christmas morning baking. Just the thought of frosted windows, a glowing tree atop a mound of glossy wrapped presents, Bing Crosby on the stereo, the pitter-patter of cozy jammied feet scurrying down the stairs, and the smell of spicy-sweet breakfast treats wafting from the kitchen make all the holiday rush worth it. Oh, the joy of Christmas morning!

Granted, that moment lasts all of about six minutes until someone pulls someone else’s hair, or trips over said cozy jammied feet landing square on the poor dog, or knocks a mug of coffee onto the carpet while tearing at wrapping paper like a clown on fire. But that’s why God gave us coffee in the first place, and the allowance to eat all the pastries we want for breakfast on Christmas day. The promise of homemade baked goods, preferably something yeast-risen, will buoy us all through the madness.

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Sep 23, 2015

Big Sur Bakery’s Scones


When you’ve decided to move out of the house that you’ve lived in for six-plus years and are surrounded by boxes and crunchy packing paper and millions of pounds of tiny plastic toys and two kids’ worth of baby clothes and ugly maternity clothes and unread magazines (and God only knows what’s lurking under that forgotten area under the basement steps), what’s the most obvious thing to do? Spend three days trying to make a freaking scone recipe work, of course! HAHAHA OH GOD PLEASE SEND XANAX UNTIL MID-OCTOBER.

Needless to say, I’ve been tired these past couple weeks. Tired and anxious and overwhelmed, and trying not to lose my mind. What I’ve learned is that even people who think they don’t save anything (like me) can still hoard unused and/or unusable junk in every imaginable corner. (Apparently my approach to maintaining order in my house while starting to write my third book when the baby was just three months old was to just keep shoving everything in the garage to avoid making decisions–brilliant!) I’ve also learned that once you have more than one kid, quarterly purges are necessary. I’ve decided this is my new life plan. At least until my kids get their own houses to fill up with their own useless junk. In the meantime, I’m the one that has to do the household purging, and so I used the testing of a scone recipe as the distraction to keep from throwing myself off the overstuffed roof.

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May 8, 2015

Sugar and Spice Popovers


Fellow moms out there–holla if y’all hear me?–this is our weekend. Our legit ticket to be pampered and flowered and gifted upon and generally do whatever the heck we want without apology or guilt. I encourage you to embrace it, whatever that means to you at your given stage of motherhood. It could be as extravagant as a spa day, or just some extra sleep and plenty of wine, or for some of you with toddlers and younger, this simply might mean peeing alone. For me, it will mean a little family getaway, and maybe, if I’m lucky, this necklace, a lemon meringue cake from Tartine, and a t-shirt that says I SHAMELESSLY ASK MY HUSBAND FOR GIFTS BY BROADCASTING MY WISHES ON THE INTERNET. A girl can dream.

The point is this–you do you, ladies. Whatever it takes to remember that we all deserve a little breather and a major high five for keeping our offspring alive and cracking open our souls for them every single day, and living with the sort of constant, low-lying anxiety (what do they need/where are they/how are they/who will they become) that buzzes deep within us at all times because we are mothers. We should treat ourselves with a little something homemade and sweet and simple, or at least give our partners and kids a simple, awesome recipe that they can make for us (and for crying out loud, clean up afterwards). And if you’re not a mother yourself, consider this recipe the perfect way to treat the mothers in your life in a breakfast-y way.

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Apr 15, 2014

Chunky Monkey Coffee Cake


In my last post, I raved about my love of the one-pan wonder at dinnertime. Which, of course, immediately got me thinking about one-bowl/one-dish wonders when it comes to baking. As much as I love pulling out every crazy baking pan and gadget and really getting into it in the kitchen, after months and months of recipe development and testing (and an appalling amount of dishwashing), there’s nothing better than the feeling of a throwing together a recipe that feels as easy-breezy and dump-and-stir as a boxed cake mix, but isn’t…a boxed cake mix.

There are a few one-bowl, minimal dish-dirtying favorites in my arsenal that I go back to time and time again, like these brownies, or this banana bread, that are so simple and satisfying, it’s as though you can feel your all the scraggly edges of your weary soul fusing back together as you stir. In a busy life that sometimes make you want to punch yourself in the face from all its pressures, that’s the good stuff, right there. They’re the kind of recipes that remind me why I love to bake. I just dump everything in and stir, stir, stir my way back to sanity.


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Mar 12, 2014

Baked Clementine Vanilla Bean Doughnuts


At the risk of sounding like a citrus-loving Joan Rivers, can we talk about clementines? I feel like they’re everywhere right now–great, big cardboard flats of them for, like, five dollars a box or something crazy, calling from across the produce section with the promise of sweetness and light and sunshine, even though as I understand it, most of the country has been in a never-ending winter.

(I say “as I understand it”, because here in California, an occasional rainstorm is as close to we get to anything resembling winter weather, and we mostly just, you know, ride our bikes around in t-shirts to go eat kale salad outside and “LOL” and “OMG” over all the banaaanaaazzz weather we’ve been hearing about online.)

(As it happened, I was actually stranded in New York for a week because of a snowstorm last month, so I guess Mother Nature sensed my meterological la-la-la-ness and decided to show me how soft I’ve become during my 10 years on the West Coast. Touché, fair lady.)


But even in a mild-weathered place like California, we really do appreciate citrus during our “winter”. It’s a burst of happy food no matter where you live, all these clementines in bulk. Every year I succumb to buying at least one flat, intent on being all virtuous and snacking on them instead of spoonfuls of peanut butter or cookies, tucking them into lunchboxes and all that jazz. But even after countless little orbs eaten out of hand and a dozen packed lunches, the pile of clementines never seems to shrink. Not one bit. How many clementines does a person have to eat to make a dent in one of those boxes, for real? My fingertips are permanently stained from all the e-z peeling. Forget this noise. Let’s make doughnuts. (And share a little news with you, while we’re at it.)

baked clementine doughnuts

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