(Salted) Caramel Monkey Bread

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Don’t you just want to dig in?

Netflix’s August movies take the message of the Netflix Original Series, Derek, one step further under the theme of “kindness is magic,” encouraging acceptance of everyone of all ages and abilities. A perfect recipe for togetherness is Monkey Bread, a classic shareable family pull-apart treat.

So how do you improve on a classic like Monkey Bread? It’s already  a tower of dough pieces rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture drizzled with butter. But adding caramel–even salted caramel–takes it up a notch. Using brown sugar in place of granulated white sugar decreases the cooking time for a homemade caramel, making it less of a pain to accomplish. And what a show-stopper this is once magically flipped-over onto a plate. The caramel adds a gorgeous brown hue to the Monkey Bread, along with a nutty sweetness. The salt in the caramel is completely optional, of course. But it’s an added taste that adults can appreciate, all the while being the same ooey, gooey Monkey Bread that kids devour.

While you’re serving it, watch Curious George to tie into the monkey theme and other programs that promote the universal kindness theme like Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails, Mulan: Special Edition (a love of mine, even as an adult), and Charlotte’s Web.

(Salted) Caramel Monkey Bread

Shaking the dough pieces in the cinnamon-sugar Ziploc bag is a kid-friendly task. Just be warned: the caramel is still quite warm while using, so make sure the kids stay away from the caramel-drizzling part of the recipe.

6 to 8 servings

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 For the caramel:

¾ cup packed brown sugar

½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

¼ cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon sea salt (optional)

 

For the monkey bread:

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 cans (4.5-ounce) Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1/3 cup melted butter

Make the caramel: In a heavy-duty medium pot, add brown sugar and butter. Warm over medium-high heat. Stir together with heatproof spatula, getting rid of any brown sugar lumps. Let sugar cook, stirring constantly, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream and (optional) salt.

Make the monkey bread: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 12-cup or 10-cup fluted tube pan with cooking spray. In a large Ziploc bag, mix together sugar and cinnamon until combined. One at a time, remove each batch of biscuit dough from the can. Cut each biscuit dough in half, adding into the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Shake in the bag until dough is coated in sugar.

In the bottom of the pan, pour ¼ of the reserved caramel and ¼ cup walnuts. After each biscuit batch is arranged into the pan, top with ¼ caramel and ¼ cup walnuts. When all the dough is used, pour the melted butter over entire dough. Bake in the oven about 30 to 40 minutes until dough is golden brown and fully-cooked inside. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. Turn monkey bread upside down onto a plate, serving warm, if desired.

A Gift from Summer: Padron Chiles

Crinkly, blistered padron chiles ready to be eaten.

You know what guides me through thoughts of living in NYC with just a tiny window AC to cool me down in summer heat? (You see, in the South, we at least have central air to cool us down.) All of the produce that summer reaps. Garlic scapes — be still my heart. Fresh, heirloom tomatoes of different varieties. And padron peppers. I only discovered these babies a few years ago and have been addicted every since.

I can spot these green, crinkly chiles at the farmer’s market or Whole Foods. There’s a cinch to cook too. Just pile them into a hot pan with olive oil, sauté until the skins are somewhat blistered and season with salt. Find more detailed cooking instructions in a previous post I wrote for Serious Eats. The sneakiness about these chile peppers is that while most of the batch are mild, a few register much higher on the Scoville scale. That’s the fun of devouring them — you don’t know if you’re getting a mild chile or a spicy one until you’ve popped it into your mouth. What could be better for a spice addict?