Caramel-Pecan Monkey Bread

Monkey BreadWhile Christmas is a much-loved holiday in and of itself here at Magic Cove, it is an even more special time for my family because it is the one day of the year that I make monkey bread.

If you aren’t familiar, monkey bread (also known as pull-apart bread, bubble bread and puzzle bread) is comprised of dough balls rolled in cinnamon-sugar, layered into a pan and baked. The resulting sweet bread can be pulled apart with the hands or two forks. Foodtimeline.org states that monkey bread and other similar confections—such as German kuchen, French galette and Pennsylvania Dutch sticky buns—descended from the ancient Middle Eastern cooks who introduced these recipes to Europe with the spice trade.

I found the base recipe years ago in a cookbook I have with recipes from bed-and-breakfasts around the United States. In my kitchen, that recipe has evolved into a sticky, sweet breakfast cake layered with toasted pecans and caramel sauce. Although I am typically an advocate of unprocessed and organic foods, I unabashedly use canned biscuits in this recipe, for which I do not apologize. Since I usually host Christmas and have a lot of cooking to do after the presents are opened, this shortcut allows me to pop the bread in the oven in 10 minutes (with just a little bit of prep work the night before) and relax with my family and coffee for 45 minutes while it bakes. It makes a delicious gooey Christmas treat without too much time or effort.

Caramel-Pecan Monkey Bread

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 cans (8-count, 16.3 ounces each) Grands!® Flaky Layers Original Biscuits*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F and move oven rack to center position. Spray a large Bundt® pan well with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Spread pecans in a single layer in shallow baking pan and bake until fragrant, 5-6 minutes, shaking pan halfway through. Watch carefully to make sure they do not burn (there is nothing that tastes worse than a scorched nut!). Let cool.*

Unwrap biscuits and cut each biscuit into four quarters. Keep the biscuit quarters from each can of biscuits in their own separate pile (you will have two biscuit quarter piles, one pile of 32 quarters from each can).

Combine butter, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter melts and a sauce is formed (it will not be fully combined at this point). Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add cream (Be careful, mixture will boil furiously when the cold cream hits the hot sauce). Stir until combined and smooth. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

Place the granulated sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a Ziploc bag and shake to combine.

Sprinkle prepared Bundt® pan with 1/3 of the chopped, toasted pecans. Add half of the biscuit quarter pieces (one pile) to the bag with the cinnamon sugar and shake until the pieces are well-coated with the sugar. Place the sugar-coated biscuit quarters in a single layer on top of the pecans, fitting together snugly. Spoon half of the hot caramel sauce evenly over the biscuit dough. Sprinkle with half of the remaining chopped, toasted pecans.

Shake the remaining half of the biscuit quarter pieces (the remaining pile) in the cinnamon sugar to coat. Layer the rest of the sugar-coated pieces over the first layer, fitting together snugly; spoon the rest of the hot caramel sauce evenly over the second layer. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped, toasted pecans. Gently rap pan on the counter to ensure the sauce settles uniformly.

Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from oven; immediately invert pan onto a serving plate. Let pan rest, upside down, on serving plate for 5 minutes before carefully removing pan (scrape out any topping that may have stuck to the bottom and replace on top of bread).

Serve, using two forks to pull apart the monkey bread.

VARIATION: For Orange Caramel-Pecan Monkey Bread, substitute orange juice for heavy cream and add 1 teaspoon grated orange rind to the sauce ingredients.

*Notes
1. Do not use buttermilk biscuits as it will affect the taste of the finished bread (and not for the better). I find the Grands!® brand the best for this particular recipe.
2. Toast the pecans the night before to save time in the morning (let cool completely before storing in an airtight container). Do not skip this step as it will affect the taste of the finished bread.

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Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oatmeal made in a slow cooker

I love steel-cut oatmeal. The problem, though, is while I’ll gladly spend hours on a tomato gravy or making macaroni, I have no desire to watch a pot of oatmeal for almost an hour. This means I usually only make oatmeal on days off where I have nothing else to do. Since we bought the house, that means… never. I make it never.

So when I saw on Pinterest that you could make steel cut oatmeal in a slow cooker, it piqued my curiosity. The recipes there have things like cream (too rich) or carrots (just… no. I love carrots, but no) so I’m posting my own, simple, boring, delightful, tasty recipe.

Recipe:
4 cups water
1 cup steel-cut oats
(I tripled this with no ill effects, in hopes that since I didn’t use dairy in the recipe the oatmeal would last in the fridge)

Cook on low for nine hours

Add salt and a splash (less than a teaspoon) of fat-free milk and whatever fruit you want (I guess you could even add carrots, but if you do, please don’t tell me. I will judge you.)

The Good News: It tastes every bit as good as the stuff on the stove, plus you wake up to breakfast-y smells.

The Bad News: One half cup has seven PointsPlus values. Which doesn’t stop me. My Trader Joe’s O’s and milk amounted to about four PointsPlus. This is more. To be fair, a true serving of steel-cut oats is only 1/4 cup, but it just looks so… tiny. I had a half cup this morning and did everything but lick the bowl (my face wouldn’t fit).

The Verdict: There’s no way I’m not making this and eating it, although I guess I’ll try and see how I do eating only 1/4 cup. I’m the first to admit I have issues with eating in moderation. Weight Watchers has been great for me in that respect – I’m eating the same things, just less of them – but I still get a little start every now and then when I see how high some of my “healthy” foods are in PointsPlus values.