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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Homeschool Electives - Baking

We started school about a month ago and we've been going strong. But it already feels like it's been MONTHS! So on Thursday I thought we would take a break from the normal routine and have an electives day. Aaliyah has really been wanting to bake, and since I have been feeling much better (first trimester took me for a spin this time), I decided baking would be a great "elective". The boys spent most the day playing Legos and trying to figure out how to make a Lego movie with the digital camera. I think I had over 250 photos of various Lego scenes on my memory card.

So, back to the baking. We decided to make Monkey Bread. Oh, soooo good! The dough is made from scratch, NOT the canned Pillsbury stuff. The first time I made this I did not have a bundt pan, so I baked it in one of those angel food cake pans. The kind that has two parts to it. BIG mistake! All the delicious sugar and butter melted out onto the bottom of the oven. Come to find out, my sister did the same thing and that made me feel a little better. So if you really want to make this and you don't have a bundt pan, dividing it up between two loaf pans would work just fine.

This recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, with some slight differences.



4 tbs. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 cup milk, warm (around 110 degrees)
1/3 cup water, warm (around 110 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 tsp. salt

Brown Sugar Coating:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 tbs. butter (1 stick), melted

Cream Cheese Glaze:
(*optional - I did not make the glaze this time. The first time I did and it was very good, but Aaliyah didn't care for it)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tbs. powdered sugar, plus extra if needed
2 tbs. milk, plus extra if needed
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Get oven and pan ready:
Adjust oven rack to medium-low position and heat to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200, turn it off. Butter bundt pan with softened butter and set aside.

Make dough: In large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Mix flour and salt in large bowl. Make a well in flour, then add milk mixture. Using wooden spoon, stir until dough becomes shaggy and is difficult to stir. Turn out onto lightly floured work surface and begin to knead, incorporating shaggy scraps back into dough. (See that beautiful cutting board? My wonderful mother made it for me for my birthday)

Look mom, a heart!

Knead until dough is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Shape into taut ball. Coat large bowl with nonstick spray or a tablespoon of neutral oil. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with more spray or oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.

Make brown sugar coating:
Place melted butter in one bowl. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a second one.

Form the bread: Flip dough out onto floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces. Immediately separate them or they will reform back into one big square.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Working one at a time, using a fork dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl. Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer ball in bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers.

Cover bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50-70 minutes.

Bake bread:
Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown and caramel, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes (not any longer than that or you will have trouble getting it out) then turn out onto platter and allow to cool.

Make glaze: Beat cream cheese with powdered sugar until smooth and light. Add milk and vanilla. You may need to add more milk or powdered sugar to get a thin enough consistency to drape over the bread, you don't want it to just roll off. Drizzle the glaze over the warm bread, letting it run over top and sides of bread. Serve warm.

This bread is best eaten the day it is made. If you make this for your family, I'm sure it won't last more than a few hours. Little fingers can't be kept away!



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