Christmas Morning Monkey Bread

In our house growing up, there were two Christmas food traditions that stand out: we always went to the candlelight service on Christmas Eve at our church and picked up 20 lbs of Chinese food on the way home, and we always had monkey bread on Christmas morning.  Even as a child, I can remember swirling around the frozen rolls in the melted butter and tossing them in the cinnamon sugar. I suspect, now that I’m a mom, that my mom figured out early that cooking on Christmas morning was not very fun, and took her out of the action, so she came up with this hack to serve a beautiful pull-apart breakfast with minimal effort.

I’ve always loved the glossy brown finish on a Monkey Bread, it reminds me of Tarte Tatin, one of my favorite French desserts. This recipe is simple and easy, and can be made sometime the day before you want to serve it. Little hands can cut the biscuits, shake them in the bag with the cinnamon sugar, and put them in the pan. It serves a crowd in pull apart style and reheats moderately well (ask my husband, this is his favorite.) I love this monkey bread for any brunch, mostly because it can be served elegantly on a cake stand and it can be made the night before and doesn’t require a knife to serve.

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In past years, I’ve been adding a savory casserole to the mix because I’m not a big sweets in the morning fan. In Huntsville, the year we got married, I made toad-in-the-hole with local bangers and a yorkshire-pudding like dough and we celebrated with our British neighbor. Last year, it was a hash brown and sausage number that both the kids wouldn’t touch. For many years we have had my Aunt Karen’s famous Sausage-Spinach pies which makes two pies; I love to freeze one for New Years Day. I like the complement of something savory, and we usually end up eating on both for several days which makes the mornings easier.

Whatever the occasion or your family traditions, I hope you’ll add this to your spread sometime this year.

Monkey Bread

3/4 cup sugar

1.5 teaspoons cinnamon

3 cans of refrigerated biscuit dough; I use Pillsbury; not the flaky layers kind; you can use any kind of dough if you want – frozen rolls or even pizza dough, but biscuits work best if you can find them

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, if desired

1/2 cup of raisins, if desired

1 cup brown sugar

8 oz unsalted butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 unless you’re making the night before.

Generously butter (using a paper towel to spread) a fluted bundt pan – don’t skimp on this step or your Monkey Bread won’t come out at the end and look gorgeous on your plate. Mix your sugar and cinnamon in a gallon ziplock bag.

Cut each biscuit in quarters. Add them to the bag and shake them around to coat. Layer them into your prepared pan, sprinkling nuts and raisins on each layer, if using (I do not). Mix your melted butter and brown sugar. Pour over the top of your prepared pan.

If you’re making in advance, stop, cover the pan and put in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out of the fridge when you wake up – a post-it on the coffee maker always helps me remember.

Bake for 25-30 min until lightly browned at the edges and turning golden brown. Place on cooling rack for 5 minutes before inverting onto your cake stand. Serve warm.

 

(Make Ahead) Amish Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

If you don’t eat breakfast, we probably can’t be friends. If brunch were a sport, I would be a decathlete. I love it all, but especially eggs. For many years, I woke up early every single day to cook a hot breakfast for Zac before he left for work. I can work magic for breakfast – I’ve been known to make eggs-in-a-hole with sourdough leftover from take-out, I invent elaborate hashes using leftover ribye from Sunday dinner, and a mash-up of veggies, including brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, and I am famous for my over-medium eggs. An audience assembles when it’s time to flip them over. With breakfast, I am creative and resourceful, using whatever I can. My love language is breakfast. My kryptonite is time. Very few breakfasts make the cross over from sweet/cinnamony to eggy. This is one of them.

One morning a week, all Fall and Winter long, I mix up this make-ahead Amish baked oatmeal right after I clean up after dinner. It takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, and I know the recipe by heart. I put it in the fridge, covered, and in the morning when I get up to go to the gym, I take it out and put it on the counter. When I come back in, I preheat the oven, and by 8 am, when it comes out of the oven, puffed and brown, the entire house smells like an apple pie.

This recipe makes a weekday morning feel like a weekend, it’s all of the luxury of a hot, filling breakfast, with all of the laziness of me in my bathrobe, mainlining coffee. I get to be with my family for the brief time that we had together in the morning, rather than being in the kitchen.

My family devours this hot breakfast. It lacks the gumminess and stickiness that I’ve always found off-putting about traditional oatmeal. This recipe easily adapts to feed a crowd (read: houseguests), and can be liberally adapted to use whatever fruit you have on hand, although I love apples, pears and bananas the most. It’s a showstopper, beautiful on the table, and easy to serve up seconds (you’ll want seconds).

I made some swaps to the original recipe that I feel really good about. I want my kids to have the full monty in the morning – some fat, some carbs, and some protein, without too much sugar. This oatmeal sticks to their ribs like glue, warms their tummies, and makes mornings so easy for me. I only wish I had more tricks up my sleeve like this one.

(Make Ahead) Amish Baked Cinnamon Oatmeal, adapted from Once Upon a Chef

The original recipe used 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 2 cups of whole milk, and 4 tbsp of butter. I’ve made swaps that make sense, and make this a healthier morning choice. After all, we’re not working in the fields, we’re um, probably hitting up Target.

2 cups old fashioned rolledoats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup of milk (I use 2%, but skim or whole milk will also work fine)
1 cup of almond milk (if you don’t buy or use almond milk, feel free to use 2 cups milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
1 cup of chopped fruit- peeled and chopped (I use 2 medium honeycrisp apples, peeled, or I often slice 2 bananas and layer them in the bottom of the pan; pears work too)
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts (optional, my kids actually love them in this dish)

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Preheat oven to 325F. Grease the bottom of an 8×8 or an oval baking dish with butter or your preferred greasing method. I love my 8 inch Le Creuset oval baker for this dish.  Scatter your fruit in the bottom of the greased pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, maple syrup, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk(s). Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Add the milk mixture to the oat mixture, along with the melted butter.

Pour the mixture over the top and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the 1/2 nuts on top, if you are using. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden and the oats are set – jiggle the pan and it will not jiggle if it is set. Serve warm.