This delectable pull-apart monkey bread starts with an orange brioche dough and is topped with a rich strawberry caramel sauce. It’s the perfect transition into spring, baked into individual ramekins with sprinkled with chopped toasted almonds for a special presentation.
Monkey Bread with Strawberry Caramel Sauce
Orange brioche dough (recipe follows)
1 pint (8 oz./250 g.) strawberries, hulled and cut in half lengthwise
1 cup (8 oz./250 g.) plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) heavy cream
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) fresh orange juice
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 tsp. orange blossom water
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Melted butter for brushing
Flour for rolling out the dough
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g.) sliced almonds, toasted
Prepare the brioche dough as directed below.
In a bowl, combine the strawberries and the 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the berries give off at least 2 tablespoons of juice, at least 2 hours or up to overnight. In a small saucepan, cook the strawberries and their juices over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries are soft and the juices are syrupy, about 3 minutes. Drain in a coarse-mesh sieve, reserving the strawberries and their juices separately.
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and orange juice and heat over medium heat until warmed; set aside. In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the 1 cup sugar and the corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts. Continue cooking, without stirring, as the mixture caramelizes. Wash down any sugar crystals that form inside the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and occasionally swirl the pot by its handle, until the mixture turns dark amber, about 5 minutes. A few tablespoons at a time, carefully stir in the warm cream mixture (it will bubble up), returning to a boil after each addition, then boil for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water, lemon juice, orange zest and reserved strawberry juices. Season with a pinch of salt. Let the sauce cool completely.
Generously brush eight 1-cup (8-fl. oz./250-ml.) ramekins or cocottes with the melted butter. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Divide into 8 equal portions. Cut each portion into 6 equal pieces and roll into balls to make 48 balls total.
In a bowl, combine the drained reserved strawberries with 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml.) of the cooled caramel sauce. Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins. Pour 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) of the remaining caramel sauce into the same bowl. For each serving, add 6 balls to the sauce, turn with a rubber spatula to coat well, and transfer to a ramekin, fitting the balls as evenly as possible. Repeat with the remaining balls and ramekins, adding more caramel sauce, if needed. Reserve the remaining caramel sauce. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Lightly oil a sheet of plastic wrap and place it over the ramekins, oiled side down. Let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Remove the plastic wrap from the ramekins and bake the monkey bread until golden brown, about 30 minutes. In a small saucepan, warm the reserved caramel sauce over medium heat. Brush the tops of each monkey bread with some of the reserved caramel sauce, sprinkle with the toasted almonds, and serve. Serves 8.
Orange Brioche Dough
1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml.) plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
3 1/2 cups (17 1/2 oz./545 g.) unbleached flour, or as needed
1/3 cup (3 oz./90 g.) sugar
2 tsp. orange blossom honey
1 tsp. kosher salt
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g.) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
1 large egg beaten with a pinch of fine sea salt, for brushing
Make the brioche dough the day before baking. In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat to 110°F (43°C). Pour into a bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Add 1 egg and 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) of the flour and stir well. Sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup flour over the mixture; do not stir. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the starter rises and cracks through the flour topping, about 1 hour.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast mixture, the remaining 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, 2 cups (10 oz./315 g.) of the flour, the sugar, honey, salt and orange zest. With the mixer on low speed, add just enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that does not stick to the bowl. Remove the paddle attachment and attache the dough hook. Knead the dough on medium-low speed, adding about 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g.) flour, as needed, until the dough is smooth, 5-7 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, being sure the first addition is absorbed before adding more, to make a soft, sticky dough, about 3 minutes. If the dough sticks to the bowl, add more flour, a little at a time. Shape into a ball.
Lightly butter a large bowl and a piece of plastic wrap. Add the dough to the bowl and turn to coat with the butter. Cover the bowl tightly with the plastic wrap, buttered side down. Let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, cover again, and refrigerate for at least 8 or up to 24 hours.