If there's one thing we know to be true about monkey bread, it's that it smells just as good as it tastes. But beyond its sweet scent, it's also the ultimate dessert for a brunch or afternoon get-together, as it only requires six ingredients and can be customized numerous ways. With a trusty Bundt cake pan and the help of frozen bread dough, this gooey cinnamon-caramel dessert can be yours.
Monkey Bread Starts in the Freezer
I applaud those who make their monkey bread dough from scratch (this recipe for white sandwich bread is great if you'd like to take that route), but honestly, if I had to haul out the stand mixer, monkey bread probably wouldn't ever get made. Instead, I buy frozen white bread dough, which is easy to work with and bakes up reliably pillowy and soft. Starting with store-bought bread dough means you also get to skip all the measuring and mixing, not to mention the first dough-rising time.
Skip the biscuit dough: Some recipes start with biscuit dough, but I find that it makes a heavier monkey bread and prefer to stick with bread dough instead.
Use the Right Bundt Pan
All the little balls of bread dough need to stack on top of each other in a tall-sided pan to make an impressive monkey bread loaf, so reach for your Bundt cake pan to achieve it. Bundt cake pans generally comes in two sizes: 10- and 12-cup. For this recipe, you will need a 12-cup pan to accommodate all the bread dough. Don't be tempted to bake it in a 10-cup pan or you'll have bread dough pooling all over the bottom of your oven!
Don't know the size of your pan? A Tip for Finding the Volume of Your Bundt Pan (and Why It Will Help You)
Rolling the Monkey Bread
If you liked playing with Play-Doh as a kid, you'll absolutely love making monkey bread. In fact, it's the perfect project to enlist kids and friends alike to make the work go faster. The defrosted bread dough gets rolled into 60 little balls, then each ball needs to be coated in melted butter and cinnamon-sugar. These little sugary dough balls get dropped into the Bundt pan, and the leftover butter and cinnamon sugar get sprinkled over the top of everything, where it transforms into a caramel that holds everything together as it bakes.
Pro-tip: Keep the butter warm. Warm butter is thinner and makes it easier to evenly coat each bread ball before rolling it in cinnamon-sugar.
Unmolding the Monkey Bread
After the monkey bread has baked, timing is key. If you wait too long to flip the bread out of the pan, the caramel will cool and harden, and the bread won't come out of the pan in one piece. Let it cool for just five minutes and then flip it out. It should come right out of the pan. Now here comes the difficult part: As tempting as it is to dive right in, give the monkey bread some more time to cool off. The caramel will be piping hot and can easily cause burns.
Customizing Your Monkey Bread
This recipe is monkey bread at its most basic, so consider it the blank slate on which to add your own customizations.
- Add some fresh citrus zest to the cinnamon-sugar.
- Add a sweet spice like nutmeg or Chinese 5-spice to complement the cinnamon.
- Stuff a small piece of apple into each dough ball for a caramel apple monkey bread.
- Or go mini: Muffin-Tin Monkey Breads, 3 Ways
Try this version: Caramel Apple Monkey Bread
A Bonus Cream Cheese Dipping Sauce
For those who want to go the extra mile and make the monkey bread-eating experience even sweeter, I've included an easy cream cheese dipping sauce that can be made while the bread bakes.
How To Make Monkey Bread
What You Need
For the monkey bread:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted but still warm
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 pounds frozen white bread dough, thawed but still cold
All-purpose flour, as needed
For the cream cheese dipping sauce (optional):
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup whole or 2% milk, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups powdered sugar
12-cup Bundt cake pan
2 wide, shallow bowls or pie plates
Measuring cups and spoons
Knife or metal bench scraper
Electric mixer (if making the dip)
- Prep the pan: Place the melted butter in a wide, shallow bowl. Brush the sides and tube of a 12-cup Bundt cake pan with a thin layer of the butter; set the Bundt pan and butter aside.
- Prep the sugar mixture: Whisk the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a pie plate; set aside.
- Form dough ropes: Divide the bread dough into 6 equal pieces. Either rolling it between your hands or on a work surface, roll each piece into a 10-inch-long rope.
- Cut the dough: Using a knife or metal bench scraper, cut each rope into 10 pieces. You should now have 60 small pieces of dough; cover them loosely with plastic wrap.
- Make dough balls and coat: Working with 6 dough pieces at a time, roll each into a ball. (If the dough is sticky, dust your hands with all-purpose flour as needed.) Roll them in the butter to coat, then roll them in the sugar mixture to coat. Rewarm the butter as needed if it cools down and starts to congeal; warm butter makes a thinner coating.
- Fill the pan with dough balls: Place the sugared dough balls into the prepared pan, layering them over any spaces as you go. (Don't worry about being too precise.) Repeat with the remaining dough. When you're done, you should have about 3 layers of dough and the pan should be about half full.
- Use up the remaining butter and sugar mixture: Drizzle the remaining butter over the monkey bread and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture. This will turn into a caramel over the monkey bread.
- Let the bread rise: Cover the pan loosely with the plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until puffed and risen to about 1 inch from the top of the pan, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Bake the bread: About 20 minutes before the bread is fully risen, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Uncover the monkey bread and bake until golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. If making the cream cheese dip, make it while the monkey bread is baking.
- Make the dip: Place the cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use a large bowl and a hand mixer.) Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes more; transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.
- Cool the bread just slightly: When the monkey bread is ready, place the pan on a wire cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes. Do not cool any longer or the caramel will harden and stick to the pan.
- Flip the bread out: Invert a cake stand or serving platter over the Bundt pan. Holding onto the platter and the pan at the same time (use oven mitts or a towel — it's hot!), flip it over. Remove the Bundt pan (you may need to use a fork or knife to pry the pan up to lift it off). Let cool at least 15 minutes more before serving warm with the cream cheese dip.
- Bread dough: I like to use Bridgford frozen bread dough, which is available in most large grocery stores. You can also use 2 pounds of homemade white sandwich bread dough instead.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored, covered tightly in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 3 days. Store the dip in the refrigerator. Let the dip come to room temperature and re-whisk before serving.