Well hello, gorgeous.
If this doesn't shout Christmas morning, I do not know what does. There's nothing quite like warm butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon smells filling up the house (or in my case, apartment) around the holidays. This is the smell that Bath and Body works tries to put into candle form but somehow never quite captures. Besides who wants just a candle when you can have the real thing, am I right?
Christmas is always a special time of year for me because, no matter what, I always get to see my family. Living across the country can be difficult at times. As amazing as New York is, my aunts, uncles, cousins, college friends, parents, and brother often feel so far away because... well, they are. With the majority located in California and a few scattered in Arizona and Florida, no one is within driving distance of my current home. I don't even have a car in New York so driving distance isn't really a "thing" but you know what I mean. Call me a baby; sometimes it's hard!
On those oh-so-difficult days of loneliness I try to do two things: first, I go do something that I can only do while I live in New York. Most often that means a trip to the MET or Central Park or some raved about restaurant or bakery. Second, I remember that when Christmas Day rolls around I will be in my pajamas, snuggling in a blanket on the couch, and, most importantly, with my family. The past few years this festive scene has included the scents and sticky-finger results of Monkey Bread.
Now if you don't know what Monkey Bread, in my house it means cut-up-pre-made biscuit dough, lots of butter, sugar and cinnamon baked in the oven and consumed at tongue burning temperatures. It's delicious. Pull-Apart Bread is Monkey Bread's slightly more sophisticated cousin. Made from an easy homemade dough and layered in a loaf (or casserole) pan, the end results are a little easier to eat and just as tasty.
Mmm! Peel off another layer for me.
Topped off with a simple maple glaze, this breakfast will have you feeling snug as a bug in a rug building your own holiday memories. From then on these smells will evoke comforting nostalgia at its finest.
Brown Sugar Pull-Apart Bread with Maple Glaze
adapted from How Sweet It Is
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (or one packet) active dry yeast
1/3 cup milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk (whole or low-fat)
2 tsp maple extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl and hand mixer), stir together 2 cups of the flour, sugar and yeast.
Heat your milk and butter over low heat slowly until the butter melts. Keep a close eye to make sure your milk doesn't boil/curdle. Remove the hot milk/butter from the stove and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Stir in the water and vanilla extract.
Back to your stand mixer: With the dough hook attached to your mixer, slowly add in the milk and butter until a sticky texture if formed. Next, add two eggs, one at a time, and stir well until each is combined. The dough gets to be super sticky at this point!
Finally, add the remaining 3/4 cup flour and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes until the dough comes together and forms a sort of ball. While the dough is still sticky, place it in a well greased/oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
When an hour has passed and the dough has practically doubled in size, punch (yes punch!) the dough and form it into a smooth ball. Place onto a wide, floured surface. Roll the ball out into a rectangle of about 12x20 inches. This rectangle will be divided into 30 smaller pieces if that gives you an idea of how long/wide you want it.
Next comes the filling! With a pastry/paint/bbq brush, spread the melted butter over the dough and the top it with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Get it close to the edges to ensure each "slice" will be well coated. Use a pizza cutter (or kitchen scissors) to slice the dough into 5 strips lengthwise. You want long, skinny strips! Stack the 5 strips on top of one another and then cut them into 6 semi-even, sets of squares. It's okay if you have smaller squares in there, just stick them towards each end of the loaf.
Coat a 9x5 loaf pan liberally with soft butter. This will ensure your loaf pops out evenly. Now, I didn't have a loaf pan handy so I improvised with a 9 x 6" casserole pan. Place the dough, cut side down, into the loaf pan, pressing it together. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise again in a warm place for an additional 45 min.
While dough is rising the final time, preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the pan in the oven and bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. You can gently turn the bread out onto a flat surface. Smother it with your maple glaze and serve immediately! Best served hot!
Maple Icing Assembly
Whisk powdered sugar, milk, and extracts together until smooth and a glaze forms. If it's too thin, whisk in powdered sugar a quarter cup at a time until a creamy consistency is reached. You do want it a little thick so that it "sticks" to the top of the bread. If it's too thick, you can add milk 1 teaspoon at a time.