Monkey bread. Monkey bread. I dare you to say it and not giggle.
I didn’t even know this wonderful food existed until recently. Our friend Eric brought a loaf to a potluck party, and it was an enormous hit. The bread itself was a humble and unassuming thing: bite-sized balls of yeasted dough, nestled together in a loaf and baked. It was perfect stand-around-and-chat food, made for idly pulling apart with one hand while holding a glass of wine with the other. Even on a table crowded with homemade treats, that monkey bread was a clear winner–it disappeared in record time. And I was smitten.
I’ve since seen recipes for monkey bread all over the internet, in a dizzying variety of forms and flavors. The most common version seems to be a sweet breakfast bread, where the dough is soaked in syrup or caramel and the bread itself is baked in a bundt pan and inverted onto a plate. But the monkey bread I fell in love with was savory, as is the recipe that intrigued me the most in my internet ramblings. This is a richer, more sophisticated version of Eric’s simple monkey bread, made from scratch with a springy egg dough, fresh dill, and a whole lot of melted butter.
This is the quickest and simplest yeast bread I’ve ever made. From start to finish, the whole process took just over two hours–and that was on the coldest day of the year, so that the dough took twice as long to rise as it usually should. The dough requires very little kneading, rises for only a brief period of time, and bakes surprisingly quickly. The messiest–and yet most satisfying–step involves dunking the individual balls of dough in dill-spiked melted butter, then layering them in a loaf pan. By the end of the process, my hands were slicked with butter and fragrant with dill, which was almost as fun as eating the finished bread itself.
Then all it takes is a sprinkle of flaky salt and a quick trip into the oven, and you’ve got fresh, buttery bread that can be eaten without a knife. For a sit-down dinner or a stand-up party, this is a treat worth making.
Monkey Bread with Dill Butter (makes one 9×5 loaf, or 6 mini-loaves)
Note: I used all-purpose flour here, and the texture of the finished bread was very light and fluffy. The original recipe calls for bread flour, which which would make a chewier and more breadlike bread. Use whichever you like–the bread will be delicious either way.
2 tbsp lukewarm water (about 100 to 110º F)
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour (see note)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (optional)
1/2 cup (1 stick/8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, divided
Flaky sea salt for finishing
In a small mixing bowl, stir together water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes bubbly and slightly thickened.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Slowly mix in the yeast mixture, a bit at a time, followed by the egg, egg yolk (if using), milk, 1 tbsp melted butter, and 2 tbsp dill. Mix until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it becomes springy and supple. (If you have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough with the dough hook attachment for 6-8 minutes, or until it comes away from the sides of the bowl.)
Lightly brush the inside of a mixing bowl with some of the remaining melted butter. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning it so that it’s evenly coated with butter. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, and set in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.
While the dough is rising, add the rest of the dill to the melted butter, and stir to combine. Set aside.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down to release any excess air. Pinch off 1-inch pieces of dough and roll into balls. Roll each ball of dough in the dill butter and place in a 9×5 loaf pan or six 8-oz (1 cup) ramekins, stacking the dough balls as needed. Place the loaf pan or ramekins in a warm place and let the dough rise again for 20 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375º F.
Brush the top of the dough with some of the remaining dill butter, and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, brushing twice more with the dill butter, until the bread is golden on top and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.