You’ll go ape wild for this boozy twist on a traditional monkey bread recipe, with bite sized bobbles of homemade brioche dipped in cinnamon sugar and smothered in bourbon banana caramel, then baked until bubbling and crispy around the edges.
Sticky sweet and drunk with flavor, this boozy monkey bread features a banana caramel sauce spiked with a generous dose of bourbon (hence the name) and a scratch-made brioche that’s pillowy soft and oh-so-good. Make the dough the night before and assemble it in the morning of for a perfect brunch for a bunch (one pan easily serves 10 to 12).
Monkey bread gets its name by the method in which it is eaten: picking off chunks of buttery, gooey dough with your fingers not unlike a monkey grooming his buddy (which is actually a weird thing to name a food after, if you really think about it.)
I figured, it’s called monkey bread, it should have some banana in it. And if monkey bread is good, drunken monkey bread would be even better, so let’s add some bourbon to the mix too (the alcohol pretty much all bakes out in the oven, however it can be replaced by a smaller amount of vanilla if you need something family friendly).
The pièce de résistance is the caramel sauce: sweet and sticky and boozy, like bananas foster in sauce form (and in fact, if drunken monkey bread wasn’t such a fabulous name, I would’ve called it Bananas Foster Monkey Bread).
This caramel sauce is what brings the whole thing together. It’s poured over the raw balls of brioche so they bake up extra sticky and gooey, and also lusciously drizzled on top of the whole thing; there’s even enough leftover for dipping and dunking.
Really, you can’t have too much of this caramel.
For most people, monkey bread is made with refrigerated biscuit or bread dough. Which is fine and easy (and you could certainly use that here too), but can I just say that nothing quite compares to buttery homemade brioche?
It took me a few tries to get the brioche just right, fluffy and puffy and buttery, but still with enough structure that you can pull off pieces without it falling apart (my first attempt, despite being divinely fluffy, wasn’t so sturdy).
It’s technically a cheater brioche with melted butter, but in the end that’s what resulted in the best texture and consistency. Traditional brioche is made by slowly incorporating solid butter into the bread dough, a somewhat tedious process that results in a beautifully rich dough. But in this case, it was just too soft (if there is such a thing).
Using half all-purpose and half bread flour adds to the structure of the brioche as well; the higher protein content of the bread flour allows the brioche to absorb more liquid, resulting in a softer overall dough.
I recommend making the brioche dough the day before. It only takes about 30 minutes to mix up, then cover and pop it in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, get the dough out of the fridge right when you wake up, as it’s best if it comes to room temperature before working with it.
Press the dough out into an even rectangle, then use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into about 40-50 similarly sized pieces (I found this to be quicker than pulling off individual pieces of dough). Shape each piece into a ball, then dip in melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar before arranging in your (well greased!) baking pan.
Fill the pan with about half of the dough balls, then drizzle with 1/3 cup of caramel. Top with the remaining dough and another 1/3 cup of caramel. Save the rest of the caramel to drizzle on top of the baked bread as well as serve on the side for dipping.
I baked this in a deep 12-cup bundt pan. Whatever pan you use, just know the dough will rise quite a bit, so don’t fill it more than 2/3 of the way full.
Also: I highly recommend (no, implore) you set the bundt pan on top of a cookie sheet as it bakes. In case the caramel decides to bubble over, you’ll save yourself one heck of a mess. Trust me on this one.
- 1 cup milk, warmed to 105-115ºF
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups (9 to 11.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 large eggs (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
For Bourbon Banana Caramel:
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- pinch fine sea salt or fleur de sel
- 3 tablespoons bourbon (substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla if desired)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
- 1/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
- To prepare brioche, pour milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle yeast over warm milk and whisk until dissolved and frothy (if it doesn’t get frothy, it means your yeast is dead – start over with fresh yeast).
- Add melted butter, sugar, eggs, and salt and mix well. Slowly add 4 cups of flour (leaving 1/2 cup of AP flour aside) and mix until incorporated; switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 to 7 minutes or until silky smooth and stretchy, adding more flour as necessary until dough starts to pull off the sides of the bowl (it will still stick to a good portion of the bottom of the bowl). This dough is on the stickier side, but in warmer months you may need to use the additional flour to stiffen it up a bit.
- Transfer dough to a well-oiled bowl; lightly oil the top of the dough as well. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- The next morning, remove dough from refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to baking to let it come to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 12-cup bundt pan or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- To prepare caramel, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir until it begins to simmer and butter and sugar are somewhat emulsified. Stir in salt.
- Pulse cream and banana in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add to caramel sauce and stir over medium heat until rapidly bubbling and frothy, then remove from heat and add bourbon, stirring gently until foam subsides. Transfer to a heat-proof container or measuring cup with a pour spout and let cool while you prepare the dough.
- Place melted butter in a shallow dish; in another shallow dish, whisk together sugar and cinnamon.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. It should still be slightly cool to the touch and fairly pliable, like soft clay. Press out into an even rectangle, then, using a pizza cutter, cut a grid out of the dough that will give you 40 to 50 evenly sized pieces.
- Shape each piece into a ball by folding the edges under itself to form a smooth outer skin. Pinch seams to seal and roll between your palms or on an unfloured surface to shape into a ball.
- Roll in melted butter and then in cinnamon sugar; place into prepared bundt pan, evenly distributing the balls as much as possible. Repeat until half the dough is rolled and arranged in the pan. Pour over about 1/3 cup of lukewarm caramel sauce.
- Continue rolling, dipping and coating the rest of the dough, and arranging into the pan. Take care not to overfill the pan, the dough will almost double in size as it bakes, so you don’t want to fill your pan more than a scant 2/3 of the way full.
- Pour another 1/3 cup of caramel over top. Place pan on a baking sheet to catch any overflow, then place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 to 55 minutes or until bubbly and deep golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then carefully (pan will still be hot) invert onto a serving plate. Drizzle with more caramel sauce and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Serve with more caramel on the side for dipping.
- Monkey bread is best enjoyed fresh out of the oven, however leftovers can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and reheated in the oven or microwave before serving.