Chunky Monkey Coffee Cake
In my last post, I raved about my love of the one-pan wonder at dinnertime. Which, of course, immediately got me thinking about one-bowl/one-dish wonders when it comes to baking. As much as I love pulling out every crazy baking pan and gadget and really getting into it in the kitchen, after months and months of recipe development and testing (and an appalling amount of dishwashing), there's nothing better than the feeling of a throwing together a recipe that feels as easy-breezy and dump-and-stir as a boxed cake mix, but isn't...a boxed cake mix.
There are a few one-bowl, minimal dish-dirtying favorites in my arsenal that I go back to time and time again, like these brownies, or this banana bread, that are so simple and satisfying, it's as though you can feel your all the scraggly edges of your weary soul fusing back together as you stir. In a busy life that sometimes make you want to punch yourself in the face from all its pressures, that's the good stuff, right there. They're the kind of recipes that remind me why I love to bake. I just dump everything in and stir, stir, stir my way back to sanity.
Or, in the case of this recipe, I dump, stir, and roll. A while back, I first started working with the good folks at Fleischmann's Yeast to get the word out about their Become a Better Baker website, and help quell my own fear of baking with yeast. I'm proud to say, that after many years of being yeast-phobic (so you're telling me it's alive?), I've finally gotten over myself and am now always happy to have a chance to work with yeast-risen dough. I think it must go along with my love of the simplest, most satifsying baking recipes--you'll rarely find a recipe that calls for yeast that also has you stuffing a cake with dynamite and draping it with fondant or some other wack business. Yeast is old-fashioned in the best way, flavorful, and when you find yourself awash with great recipes like the ones in Fleischmann's BreadWorld recipe box, you might even learn to call it easy. Seriously! If I can get there, so you can you, is what I'm saying.
Another thing I love about yeast-risen baked goods is how so many of them speak to the Midwesterner in me. You can take the girl out of Illinois, but you can't take the Illinois out of the girl. Nor can you take away her sense memories of monkey bread. When I told my BFF Sara, who is originally from Iowa (and who could also be in labor right this very second--luv u, gurrrl) that I was going to be working on a riff on monkey bread for this post, she said, "Oh my God, it's like every Quad Cities slumber party I ever went to." And that about sums up the awesomeness of monkey bread, right there. Warm, gooey, little puffs of yeast-risen dough, slicked in butter and cinnamon sugar, and fused together while baking, only to be pulled apart by tweenage hands with a scrunchie on one wrist, and jelly bracelets wound up the arm of the other.
But if Iowa slumber parties were anything like Illinois slumber parties in the late 80s/early 90s, then I know that monkey bread didn't have the added bonus of chocolate and bananas. And it makes no sense, really, if you think about it. I mean, hello, MONKEY bread? Bananas? This is a no-brainer, Midwest. We were clearly doing it all wrong. With this recipe, I set out to make it right, and got to bask in the one-dish (and, okay, one extra bowl) simplicity of this particular version.
Even though there is yeast involved in the this recipe, there's absolutely no kneading involved. It's an excellent recipe to start getting more comfortable with using yeast in recipes. You can also check out Fleischmann's handy new Yeast 101 resource, which is designed with those yeast fears in mind--loaded with FAQs (Active dry vs. instant? What is proofing? I'm scared I'll kill the yeast! Is this really doubled in size?) and practical, insanely useful information that can send you on your way to pillowy, flavorful yeast-risen success. And as a form of therapy, you can connect with other yeast-phobics (and experts!) on Fleschmann's bumpin' Facebook page. Brilliant!
As for this monkey bread-inspired coffee cake, it's a wonderfully homey thing to bake up for your kids or someone else you really like, for a treat or maybe even a really indulgent brunch, when they've been particularly adorable on a given day.
Chunky Monkey Coffee Cake Serves 6 to 8, generously
The original recipe can be found here, on Fleischmann's BreadWorld site. I made a few adjustments, namely using a mix of turbinado and granulated sugars for coating the dough; upping the number of bananas to 2 so that the entire bottom of the pie plate was covered; and using chopped bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet chips. I had to use my beloved Vietnamese cinnamon here for extra spicy-sweet punch. Worth it.
And, note! The baking instructions are wacky--DO NOT preheat your oven. Place the pie plate in the cold, turned-off oven and then crank up the heat. It's pretty much the opposite of everything we've ever learned about baking, but what this means is that you don't need to let the dough rise before baking--the rise happens as the oven is preheating. Genius!
For the dough:
1 3/4 cups (8 ounces/227 grams) all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce/28 grams) granulated sugar 2 envelopes (1/2 ounce/14 grams) Fleischmann's® RapidRise Yeast 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 grams) very warm water (120° to 130°F) 2 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 1/2 cup (2 ounces/57 grams) chopped walnuts
For assembly and topping:
2 medium bananas, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices 1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces/75 grams) granulated sugar (or half white granulated, half turbinado) 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) unsalted butter, melted 1 ounce (28 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
With butter or nonstick cooking spray, lightly grease a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Do NOT preheat the oven.
To make the dough, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the warm water and melted butter and use a wooden spoon to mix well. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Though it's not essential, if you're feeling energetic, you can lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough a few times to make it extra smooth and make sure the walnuts are evenly distributed.
To assemble, arrange the banana slices evenly over the bottom of the baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar (or sugars) and cinnamon. Divide the dough into tablespoon-sized pieces--you should get about 16 to 18 golf-ball-sized portions, weighing between 25 and 30 grams each. Using you palms, roll each piece of dough into a small ball. Roll each ball in cinnamon sugar to coat. Place the dough balls on top of the banana slices as you work. When all the dough balls are in the pie plate, sprinkle any remaining cinnamon sugar over the dough. Use a pastry brush to dab and drizzle the melted butter over the dough. Sprinkle on the chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips.
Bake by placing the pie plate in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 350°F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and firm in center. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Serve warm. Refrigerate any leftovers, and give them a quick zap in the microwave to reheat.
Special thanks to Fleischmann’s Yeast for providing the inspiration for this post. This is a sponsored post and I did receive compensation to write it. However, all of the thoughts and opinions written above are my own. You can always trust that I'll only tell you about products and resources that I personally love and use in my own kitchen.