By Vanessa Greaves

For years now, I've baked sweet, sticky pull-apart monkey bread as a special breakfast treat, but it's taken me until now to figure out what I was doing wrong. I'm here to save you from my mistake and help you make the best monkey bread ever.

Photo by Vanessa Greaves

Pictured: Monkey Bread I

First, What the Heck Is Monkey Bread?

No one really knows for sure how the bread got its name, but let me say right here that it's a great excuse to eat with your fingers. I'm talking about tearing off warm, sticky, bready bits that have been dusted with cinnamon sugar, layered with nuts and raisins, and baked with a butter and brown sugar caramel sauce poured over the whole thing. Total sensory overload. Plus it's a great brunch centerpiece, although you might want to let guests tear the pieces off with serving forks instead of fingers. Up to you.

Okay, but here's the problem: I was never quite satisfied with how my monkey bread turned out. The innermost pieces of dough were always a bit undercooked. But if I baked it longer, then the outermost pieces would dry out or scorch. I just couldn't get the balance right. Until I finally broke down and bought a Bundt pan.

Why a Bundt Pan?

Photo by Vanessa Greaves

Yes, I knew recipes said to bake monkey bread in a Bundt pan, but I thought it was just because the ring shape made a nice presentation. So I ignored the advice and used whatever deep cake pan or soufflé dish I already had. But that's where I was wrong, because here's how a Bundt pan actually works: That hollow tube or chimney in the center isn't just for show; it's designed to help heat distribute evenly throughout whatever it is you're baking. It's especially effective for baking the center of something dense. Like monkey bread. Lesson learned.

How to Make Monkey Bread

Adapted from Monkey Bread I by LuAnn Connolly

30 ounces refrigerated biscuit dough (2 or 3 tubes, depending on brand)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 ounce bourbon whiskey (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Generously butter a Bundt or tube pan.*

2. In a bowl, combine white sugar and ground cinnamon. Cut biscuits into quarters. Drop 4 to 6 pieces at a time into sugar and cinnamon mixture. Roll until each piece is evenly coated, and lay them in the bottom of the pan. Add a small handful of nuts and raisins. Repeat until all biscuits, nuts, and raisins are used.

3. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then let it continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. If you're lacing the sauce with bourbon, stir it in now. Pour sauce over the biscuits.

4. Bake at 350° F for 30 to 35 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then cover the pan with a large plate and turn the whole thing upside-down. Gently remove the Bundt pan, letting the bread slide down onto the plate. If any pieces fall off, just pop them back on. While the monkey bread's still warm, use fingers or forks to pull the sweet, sticky biscuit pieces apart at the seams. Enjoy.

Photo by Vanessa Greaves

*Don't use a two-piece tube pan with a removable bottom, otherwise the hot butter and sugar sauce will seep out of the bottom. Ask me how I know.

Here are more monkey bread recipes to explore, including:

Happy baking!

Photos by Vanessa Greaves