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Pumpkin monkey bread w/piloncillo sauce

October 14, 2013


After a long seemingly endless hot summer, autumn has finally arrived, with neighbors beginning to decorate their houses with ghosts, pumpkins, and giant spiders among the piles of dead leaves waiting to be gathered up.  I wonder what the chefs and cooks of the houses will be preparing for the season.  On the sweet side, lots of pumpkin will be used along with cinnamon,  anise,  sugar,  piloncillo,  raisins,  pecans, and apples to make empanadas, pies,  cakes,  pralines, and cookies among other delights.  I hope I have enough time to make everything on my wish list.  I’m usually too ambitious and end up making only half of what I set out to do.  Empanadas,  pumpkin bread with chocolate,  sugar skulls, and alegrias are some of them.  I’ll see how it goes.

Though monkey bread is enjoyed all year round,  I think it can easily be adapted for autumn or Thanksgiving.  Sometimes at work there is a little extra dough left from the dinner roll batch, so I’ll use it to make some kind of sweet bread for the employees.  Monkey bread is a favorite and portions are quickly snatched up, pulled away,  from the loaf.   The dough for rolls works pretty well for it.  I further sweeten the monkey bread by topping it with honey or a sugar glaze.   Here though, I am using a sweeter and more enriched dough and adding pumpkin puree.  The piloncillo sauce brings it home to me with its Mexican flavor.


For the bread:

4 cups bread flour

2 tsp. instant yeast (not active dry)

1 tsp. salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg at room temperature and slightly beaten

1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

zest of one orange

1/2 cup milk at room temperature

5 Tbs. slightly softened unsalted butter

4 Tbs. melted butter

2 Tbs. sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon


For the piloncillo sauce:

1 cone (8 ounces) piloncillo (panela), or 1 cup dark brown sugar

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

2 cloves

2 cups water

4 Tbs. rum


Put the bread flour,  instant yeast,  sugar,  orange zest,  and salt in your mixing bowl and stir well.  Add the pumpkin puree and egg and mix to distribute evenly.  Add most of the milk and mix with a spoon or spatula so that the dough comes together.  Using the hook attachment of your mixer,  add the 5 tablespoons softened butter in pieces with the mixer running, making sure the butter is incorporated before adding the next piece.  Add milk as necessary to make a soft and elastic dough.  It will take about 5-6 minutes of mixing.   The final dough should clear the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Though my dough very slightly stuck to the bottom,  it is not a sticky dough.  Adjust with more flour or milk as needed.

Shape the dough into a nice round ball and put it into a lightly oiled bowl.  Roll the dough around so that it is oiled all around.  Cover with plastic and let it ferment until it doubles in volume.

Just before the dough is ready, melt the 4 Tbs. butter in a small sauce pan.  Mix the 4 Tbs. sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl.

When the dough is ready,  remove it from the bowl and gently but firmly degass it by pressing down.  There is no need to punch down hard.  Oil a large bundt pan.  With a pastry scraper, cut out portions that you will roll into about 1 1/2 inch balls.  As you finish rolling each ball, place it into the bundt pan.  Brush each layer of balls with some of the melted butter and sprinkle generously with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.  Make as many layers as you need to reach about 3/4 of the way up the bundt pan.  Make sure that the top layer is even so that when the monkey bread is baked and removed from the pan, it will sit evenly.   Cover with plastic and proof until the dough almost reaches  the top.  While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

When the dough is ready,  bake it for about 30 minutes (internal temperature of the bread should be 200 degrees).  Let it cool slightly and invert it onto your serving platter or board.  Dust it with confectionary sugar.  Instead of making the piloncillo sauce, you may decide to top it with a sweet glaze.  Chocolate, orange, rum or other liquor flavored glazes are some choices that come to mind.

To make the piloncillo sauce,  put the piloncillo cone (or 1 cup dark brown sugar), white sugar,  cloves,  cinnamon sticks,  and 2 cups water in a sauce pan. Place it over medium heat, bring to a boil,  and then lower to a simmer.  Make sure the piloncillo and sugar has dissolved.  Let it simmer for about 30 minutes until it has the consistency of a thin syrup.  Near the end of simmering add 3-4 Tbs. of rum and then take it off the heat after a minute or so.  Don’t let it thicken too much, or else the sauce will harden when cooled down.  If it congeals too much,  fix it by reheating and adding more water and/or rum.  Serve the sauce warm.   I also use white sugar in this sauce to temper down the flavor of piloncillo, (an unrefined sugar),  which can be very strong.  It is sometimes available in dark and light versions.  If you are ok with using all piloncillo,  go for it.


No one knows for sure how the name “monkey bread” came about.  Some believe that the name refers to the fact that portions of the bread are easily pulled away by hand. No bread knife is required.  It’s very kid-friendly and more fun to eat.  Among other names,  it is also known more descriptively as “bubbleloaf”.  It’s said to have originated in the U.S. and according to Wikipedia, it first appeared as a recipe during the 1950’s.   I first came across it several years ago in Bernard’s Clayton’s “New Complete Book of Breads”,  one of the first bread books I bought.   Have any of you readers from outside the U.S. heard of this bread?


Come to think of it,  softened raisins or other dried fruit as a topping would also go well with this.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2013 1:42 am

    Gerard, that is beautiful and very creative! I know I’ve been promising to try making bread, but this time I’m gonna do it. This is a must-try recipe. I hope I’ll succeed. 🙂

  2. October 14, 2013 2:01 am

    Looking at all your other work, I think you’ll catch on to bread making pretty easily!

  3. October 14, 2013 2:24 am

    This looks delicious! What is piloncillo? A type of brown sugar?

  4. October 14, 2013 2:48 am

    Hi Catherine, Piloncillo is unrefined sugar made from sugar cane. You can find it in Latin-American supermarkets or many supermarkets nowadays. I need to include more info and update with a photo. Thanks!

  5. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    October 14, 2013 8:06 pm

    This sounds soooo good! But my hips would never forgive me! Great photos! It reminds me of Challa, a Jewish bread that you pull apart. (It’s braided.) I have it on my list to make one of these days.

    • October 14, 2013 8:59 pm

      It is a rich and filling bread I’ve had to resist the past couple of days. I’m glad I have people to give my breads away to! Thank you for liking!

  6. October 30, 2013 6:06 pm

    I got some pie pumpkins in my CSA box last week. I’ve been looking for something interesting to do with them. I think I will try your pumpkin monkey bread. Thanks!

  7. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    November 5, 2013 1:21 am

    Gerard, what is the difference between instant yeast and active dry yeast? I buy both and use them interchangeably but I never noticed any difference, even when a recipe calls for one or the other, I use whatever I have. What would happen if you used instant dry in your recipe? Thanks in advance of your reply!

    • November 5, 2013 4:14 am

      Marcella, instant yeast is more concentrated than active dry so you don’t need to use as much. Also, you can add it directly with the other ingredients without activating it. A formula I’ve seen is 100% fresh yeast=40-50% active dry yeast=33% instant yeast. If my math is correct you only need *roughly* 3/4 amount of instant yeast as active dry. For this recipe that means about 2 2/3 teaspoons active dry. A 1/4 ounce packet (2 1/4 t. or 2 1/2 t.) should do it. I suspect if you use them interchangeably, with equal amounts, the instant yeast dough would rise a bit faster.

      • Marcella Rousseau permalink
        November 5, 2013 5:22 pm

        Hmmm, I don’t bake often enough or compare the yeasts to notice a difference but there have been times when a bread I’ve baked was ginormous and I wondered why! I think the packets cost the same, don’t they? So it would be more economical to buy the instant. I’m getting ready to bake the pumpkin bread with raisins. I don’t have the instant yeast on hand so I’ll be using the active dry instead. I’m going to use a whole packet. Wish me luck! And thanks for the information ; – )

  8. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    November 5, 2013 7:13 pm

    Whew! What a workout for my arm. My dough is rising. Oops I forgot to time it. Be right back! OK, I have to correct myself about yeast. I use active dry yeast and rapidrise yeast. Some say rapidrise and instant are not the same and others say they are. What is your opinion?

    • November 5, 2013 8:20 pm

      I don’t what the difference is between rapidrise and instant yeast if there is any at all.. I’ve never used “rapidrise”. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t take a lot of temperature difference in a room to affect the speed of the dough rising. During warmer days I have to keep a close eye on it…. I buy a package of instant yeast that will last me a year. I put it in a well sealed plastic container and store it in the refrigerator. I hope it goes smoothly!

      • Marcella Rousseau permalink
        November 5, 2013 11:49 pm

        See that’s interesting to me. You have to keep a close eye on bread on warmer days???? That never happens to me! It may be because I keep the house cool; some might say cold. I let my dough rise in the microwave oven (turned off) with a cup of hot water to make it a warm, moist environment. How big is this package of yeast you buy? I keep my yeast packets in the fridge too. Maybe I should keep them in a sealed plastic container too.

  9. November 6, 2013 3:47 am

    The package of yeast I get is about 4 or 5 inches by 4. It might be 3/4 or a pound, I don’t recall. I empty out the yeast into the container. I’ve never had to worry about it expiring on me.


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