I like to call this bubble bread, particularly with the alliterative use of browned butter, but some people call it monkey bread. The sweet breakfast version was always a treat when I was a kid – I had a friend whose mom made it after sleepovers – but that version used canned biscuit dough. It never really occurred to me that you could do it from scratch until a few years ago. But you can and its easy and it doesn’t have to be the sticky, sugary, sweet cinnamon version. I started making this with simply melted butter, and I love that it is like having a whole pan of dinner rolls with much less trouble and a fun presentation. And then it occurred to me to try browning the butter first, and I really hit on something special.
The mixer makes this an easy bread to prepare, but the browned butter adds complexity that totally belies the simplicity. A hint of black pepper in the dough adds some extra dimension. And I love that this is communal food – just made for sharing with friends. Put it on a big platter and pass it around so everyone can tear off a perfect piece. It is rich and buttery on its own, but you could serve it with some browned butter spread. I also think this is fun for dipping – place a bowl of cheesy or creamy dip in the center and let your guests tear and share. You can make this during the day, leave it for its final rise and have the dishes washed and put away before popping it in the oven just in time for your guests.
Brown Butter Bubble Bread
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 110°- 115°)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening, cut into cubes and at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ ground black pepper
4 – 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer, then with the paddle attachment, beat in the sugar, shortening, egg, salt and pepper and 1 cup of flour on medium speed until combined. Add the remaining flour a 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a soft dough. Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat until you have a smooth and elastic dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl in a tight ball, about 5 – 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl (use the wrapper the butter comes in), turn to coat and cover. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
While the dough is rising, cut the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Stir the butter to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a measuring jug. Leave to cool, but not solidify. When it is cool, pour it into a shallow bowl, leaving the browned bits in the measuring jug.
Spray a 9-inch tube pan with baking spray. Punch down the dough, then pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into 1 ½ inch balls. Dip each ball in the browned butter to fully cover and drop it in the tube pan, arranging them evenly. Drizzle the remaining butter over the top of all the balls of dough in the pan. Cover loosely with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°, then bake the bread until golden brown and cooked through, about 30 – 35 minutes. Cool for five minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter. Serve the bread warm.