An easy make ahead monkey bread recipe that uses only real ingredients and rises overnight in the fridge to bake fresh in the morning. It's our Christmas morning tradition, but is great any time of the year.
Head over to the Best Bread Recipes page for more best sweet and savory bread recipes!
Every Christmas morning for almost all the years Brian and I have been married we have had a brunch with a beautiful table and yummy, special foods.
The first years we did this we lived in Portland and hosted Brian's family - and I made lots of recipes and spent WAY too much time on food preparation the night before and cooking in the morning.
Yes, on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
I wrote about simplifying our traditional brunch here and how freeing that was for me - and how my family didn't even notice that we only had one egg dish and one sweet bread. Why did I ever think we needed 2 or 3 of each? Sigh.
Since we have The Best Cinnamon Rolls in The World during our extended family celebration the weekend before Christmas I looked for a different type of sweet bread that we'd all love and look forward to each year (yes, I'm kind of big on traditions).
I've made cranberry cane shaped pastries, scones, sour cream coffee cakes, single pan sticky buns, and various other sweet breads and we enjoyed them all...but they weren't the 'one.'
Until I made sugar-cinnamon monkey bread.
Fun, sweet, and special - it's exactly what we can all agree on as our traditional Christmas morning sweet bread.
Note: If you're curious what else our easy, low-stress Christmas morning brunch looks like, I've listed all the Christmas brunch recipes here and created a cute menu printable to make your table that much more special!
But do you know how hard it was to find a recipe for monkey bread that uses real ingredients - no pudding mixes or canned biscuits - AND could be made ahead and baked Christmas morning?
Too hard apparently, because I couldn't find one.
I wasn't going back to the complicated brunches of my memory, though, so I created my own easy real food make-ahead version, adapting a Cook's Illustrated recipe that used real ingredients and then experimenting with overnight refrigeration and morning baking.
The monkey bread turned out absolutely perfect and I am so happy to share the recipe with you and save you a bunch of searching!
Overnight Make Ahead Monkey Bread Recipe
The bread starts with a simple dough that you mix together, let knead for a few minutes, and then leave to rise for an hour.
After rising, spread the dough out and cut into a bunch of little pieces (64 to be exact).
The beauty of monkey bread is that the balls don't need to be uniform in size since they're all piled atop one another.
My daughter and I like to dip the balls together - one dips in melted butter and the other in the brown-sugar-cinnamon mixture - before we layer them in the well-buttered bundt pan. It's just another part of the tradition.
Working together we can get all the balls coated in about 15 minutes.
Then simply cover the pan and put it in the refrigerator until the next morning. Sweet and simple!
The monkey bread rises some in the fridge, and rises a bit more when you set it out 45 minutes to an hour before baking to bring it back to room temperature.
Glazing the loaf after turning it out onto a platter is optional, but we wouldn't go without it!
We LOVE this monkey bread so much and everyone who visits us on Christmas day loves it, too - so I'm sure it's destined to become one of your family's favorites.
I especially love how it fills the house with wonderful cinnamony goodness while we are relaxing together and enjoying our family time - no stress required!
"We all loved this recipe! My kids all lost their minds!! I’ve made it now for friends as well! Rave reviews!" -Gillian
"FABULOUS. Utterly scrumptious.........*pausing Christmas morning to get a few more gooey bubbly bites* too good not to comment right away!" -Pam
"This is an excellent and reliable recipe. It’s the perfect make-ahead brunch treat and it comes out perfect every time." -Dina
Overnight Make Ahead Monkey Bread (Using Real Food Ingredients)
- 1 ⅓ cup milk warmed to 110-115 degrees
- 4 tablespoons butter divided (2 melted and 2 softened for pan)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 3 ¼ cup unbleached flour may need up to 1/4 cup more when kneading
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
For Coating & Glaze:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons butter melted
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Add milk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, sugar and yeast to a large measuring cup and stir to combine. Mix the 3¼ cup flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook on low. Slowly add the milk-yeast mixture and stir until dough comes together. Increase speed to next level and knead the dough for abut 6 minutes, adding 2-3 tablespoons of flour (a tablespoon at a time) as needed for dough to clear sides of bowl (the dough should still be sticking to the bottom of the bowl, though).
- Remove dough from mixing bowl to a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Coat bowl with oil (I simply use the bowl I mixed in), replace dough in bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave to sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Use the 2 tablespoons of softened butter to liberally coat a Bundt pan.
- Remove dough to a lightly floured surface (I use a tea towel for easy clean up) and pat into about an 8x9" rough rectangle. Use a long knife to cut into 64 pieces - it doesn't matter if they're even or not.
- Place the melted butter in one small bowl and combine brown sugar and cinnamon in another bowl.
- Roll each piece of dough into a rough ball, dip in melted butter and then roll in the brown sugar coating. Place in buttered pan, layering and staggering dough balls as needed to make an even loaf. Sprinkle any extra sugar-cinnamon mixture on the top.
- Cover pan with plastic and leave out on counter for 30 minutes before placing in the refrigerator to finish rising slowly overnight.
- Remove pan from refrigerator abut 2 hours before you want to serve it. Leave at room temperature, still covered, 45 minutes to 1 hour and preheat oven to 350 degrees the last 15 minutes.
- Remove cover, place in heated oven and bake 30-40 minutes until the bread is very browned and the sides are bubbling.
- Cool for 5 minutes in pan before turning out onto a serving platter (use hot pads to hold the pan, as it will still be hot).
- Whisk together powdered sugar and milk to a pouring consistency. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the warm Monkey Bread and serve while still warm.