Monkeying around with my bread

Ever since I started baking bread, I’ve wanted a monkey bread pan. There was this gorgeous brown ceramic pan at a luxury kitchenware store. It was $24.95. That’s not a lot of money, but I didn’t want it that bad. Why? I had never eaten monkey bread and I wasn’t sure I would like it. I couldn’t see paying a lot of money for a pan that could easily end up taking up space and collecting dust. But every time I saw that pan, I had an irrational lust for it. That lust became especially painful now that I have been pinching my pennies so hard. A couple of weeks ago, I walked into that luxury kitchenware store to kill time. They were having a huge sale and what did I see? Monkey bread pans! The tag said $14.95. Ten bucks off!! How could I resist? I scooped one up with some pretty dish towels, got home and realized that I was actually charged $9.95 instead, woohoo!!

For some time, I’ve been thinking that I wanted to do a savory instead of sweet monkey bread loaf. A local restaurant used to serve up rolls that were drenched in a thick pesto of sorts which was mostly garlic. I loved those rolls so much. Another favorite restaurant tops there black bean stew with an amazing cilantro pesto. What if I made pull apart rolls covered in cilantro pesto. Mmmmmm!! What a great idea.

The ants are winning so I still don’t have sourdough. I did however pick this up:

Who in their right mind buys 2 pounds of yeast?? I hear it freezes well….  😀

The cilantro pesto I whipped together turned out amazingly well. Earthy and spicy, I look forward to figuring out what to do with the leftovers. It also made one mean loaf of monkey bread!!

This fabulous monkey bread is being submitted to YeastSpotting.

Cilantro Pesto

4 large cloves garlic

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds

2 packed cups cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped

1 packed cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped

½ cup sliced sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained

1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup grated parmesano reggiano

¾ cup olive oil

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Put garlic cloves into the container of either a blender or a food processor. Chop. Add pumpkin seeds and chop some more. Add the rest of the ingredients. Process until the sauce is a smooth paste. A food processor works better for this task. If using a blender, you may have to stop the motor of the blender and mix the ingredients a few times in between blending to get a nice smooth paste.

This pesto recipe makes way more sauce than you will use on the monkey bread. Pour a little olive oil over the surface of the pesto to keep it from browning and then store air tight in the refrigerator until ready to use. This pesto can be used as pasta sauce or as a garnish for meals like black bean stew.

Cilantro Pesto & Cheddar Monkey Bread

1 – 2 tbsp butter, softened (for greasing the pan)

¾ cup buttermilk

½ cup water

4 tbsp evaporated cane juice, divided

2 ½ tsp active yeast

2 tbsp butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 cups unbleached white flour (plus more for dusting the kneading board)

1 ¼ cups stone ground whole wheat flour

2 tsp salt

½ – 1 cup cilantro pesto (see recipe above)

1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

In a small sauce pan, combine water and buttermilk. Warm to between 95 and 110 degrees F. Mix in 2 tbsp evaporated cane juice and the yeast. Let stand ten minutes until the mixture is bubbly.

In a large bowl. Mix together white flour, whole wheat flour and salt. In another large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, butter, and the egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured kneading surface. Knead the dough for 5 – 7 minutes adding a little bit more flour if the dough is too tacky. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for one hour or until doubled.

Turn the dough out onto the floured kneading surface and flatten it out into an 8” square. Cut the square into six even ropes. Cut each rope into eight even pieces. Butter the monkey bread pan generously with the softened butter. This is going to get dirty… be prepared… Take each piece of dough and roll it into a little ball. With a spoon put a little cilantro pesto in the palm of your hand and roll the ball of dough in the pesto. Be generous! Transfer the dough balls as they are sauced to the prepared monkey bread pan. Each time you complete a layer of dough balls, toss a few pinches of cheddar over the dough. Keep layering until the pan is full, ending with a sprinkle of cheese.

Let the bread rise covered for 45 minutes. You want the dough to rise to near the top of the pan, try not to let it rise above the pan. While bread is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F. and position the rack in the lower third of the oven. Bake the bread uncovered for 20 minutes. Cover the bread with a sheet of foil and continue baking for 25 to 35 minutes. Check the bread after 25 minutes, if the rolls near the tube spring back when touched, the loaf is ready. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert the pan over a plate (careful, it will still be hot) and turn the loaf out onto the plate. Let cool for ten more minutes and then enjoy warm!

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