Christmas Morning Breakfast: Sweet Potato Monkey Bread with Apples & Cranberries
I’m flying across the country to my native New England as the Midwestern Gentleman drives to his native Minnesota to spend time with family and old friends this Christmas, so the Gent and I celebrated our own holiday a few days early. Our “Christmas” agenda was blissfully relaxed: sleeping in; a late, lazy brunch; exchanging gifts; snuggling with the critters while reading some new books; a low-key run in the winter sunshine; and finally, a delicious Christmas dinner of swordfish with squash and mushroom risotto. But this post is about Christmas breakfast.
In an effort to boost both the sophistication and the nutritional profile of that quintessential childhood favorite, Monkey Bread, I modified a recipe for soft, chewy sweet potato rolls as the dough, and then dressed up the brown-sugar caramel sauce that the dough bakes in with diced apples, fresh cranberries, and warm spices. These are holiday flavors we both love, and they paired beautifully with our now-traditional Christmas morning mimosas. Apples and caramel are a time-tested winning combination, but we both agreed our favorite part of this pastry was the tart, juicy burst of cranberry contrasting with the rich caramel flavor. Yum!
You can microwave or boil the sweet potato to cook it quickly, but for a special holiday breakfast it’s worth baking the sweet potato in the oven, so it cooks slowly and caramelizes. Prick a medium-sized sweet potato a few time with a fork, and place it directly on the rack in the oven at 350 F. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack below the sweet potato to catch any sugary drips. Bake for 1 hour, or until the sweet potato is soft. I mixed up the dough the night before, so it could rise slowly overnight in the refrigerator (and I could sleep in late in the morning, knowing most of the work was done!)
Sweet Potato Monkey Bread with Apples & Cranberries
For the Dough:
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 Tbsp agave syrup (or honey)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup sweet potato, cooked, cooled, and mashed
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 egg yolk
3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
Mix the buttermilk with the agave syrup, and then stir in the active dry yeast. Let bloom for 5 minutes. Whisk in the mashed sweet potato, butter, and egg yolk, and beat until smooth. Stir in about 2 cups of flour and the salt. Gradually add more flour until the dough is soft but not sticky. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a large, clean bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature as you assemble the other ingredients.
For the Monkey Bread:
1 apple (I used a Braeburn)
2/3 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8-cup bundt pan. Peel and dice the apple into 1/4″ cubes. Mix the granulated sugar with the spices in a small bowl.
Shape the dough into a log on a cutting board and divide in half. Continue to cut or pinch each piece of dough in half, and in half again, and so on, until you have a pile of bite-sized chunks of roughly equal size. (I ended up with well over 30 pieces).
Drop each chunk of dough into the bowl of granulated sugar and spices and coat evenly on all sides. Place in the bundt pan. Repeat until the bottom of the bundt pan is covered in dough balls. Sprinkle half of the apples and cranberries over the dough.
Cover with another layer of sugar-and-spice coated dough balls. Sprinkle the second half of the apples and cranberries over the dough. Cover the fruit layer with another layer of dough balls. Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a glass bowl in the microwave, or in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour the butter and brown sugar mixture evenly over the dough and fruit in the bundt pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the monkey bread has risen to the top of the pan and turned a deep, golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. Serve warm, and enjoy!