Coconut Apricot Monkey Bread

The Golden Monkey Ring recipe from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book used to make a regular appearance at the brunches I baked for back in my catering days. It’s like a giant sticky bun – impressive to look at and fun to eat. Kids especially love picking the gooey balls off of it.

I decided to gild the lily by turning each ball of dough into a miniature take on my favorite Chinatown treat – coconut butter buns. The addition of tart chopped apricots to the coconut filling adds a nice balance to a dish that is over the top with carmelized sugar and butter. If it all looks too complicated for you, feel free to skip the coconut filling and simply proceed with the recipe using unfilled balls of dough.

Coconut Apricot Monkey BreadCoconut Apricot Monkey Bread

  • potato dough (see below)
  • coconut apricot filling (see below)
  • ingredients to assemble the cake (see below)

Potato Dough

This dough holds well in the refrigerator or freezer, so it’s a great make-ahead for a brunch party. It’s also readily adaptable to all sorts of fillings and permutations – just use your imagination and whatever you have on hand. Remember to save some of the water from your boiled potatoes for this. If you forget, just substitute an equal amount of warm milk.

  • 2 tsps. dried yeast
  • 1 cup potato cooking water slightly warmedcoconut apricot filling
  • ½ cup mashed potatoes
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsps. kosher salt (only one tsp. if using regular table salt)
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cup unbleached white flour (more or less)

Soften the yeast in the potato water for 5 or 10 minutes then stir in the potatoes, sugar, salt, egg and butter. Stir in the whole wheat flour and mix well. Begin adding the white flour, one cup at a time. You should wind up with a moist, slightly sticky dough. If needed, add a little more flour until the dough is workable. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead well for 5 or 10 minutes, until the dough comes together in a smooth ball that springs back when you poke it.

Put the dough into a large, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If you want to proceed today with the recipe, leave the dough in a warm place to rise. Otherwise, the dough may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days at this point, or frozen for up to a month. While the dough is rising, make the coconut apricot filling.

The dough is ready to use when it has doubled in bulk, about 1-2 hours.

Coconut Apricot Filling

  • 2 cups coconut
  • 3Tbs. flour
  • ½ cup mashed potatoescoating dough with cinnamon
  • 6 Tbs. butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup dried apricots, chopped

Put all the ingredients except for the apricots into the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is well combined – all the butter should be completely incorporated into the mixture.

To assemble the cake:

  • 2 Tbs. softened unsalted butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 ½ sticks (12 Tbs.) melted, unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsps. cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if you have a convection oven).

Thoroughly grease a 10” Bundt pan with the 2 Tbs. of softened butter. Make sure you get all the nooks and crannies and don’t be tempted to use shortening or a spray-on for this step as the butter will be combining with the sugar as the cake bakes to make a caramel crust.

Combine the brown and white sugars and the cinnamon on a sheet tray. Put the melted butter into a wide bowl.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently pat it out into a rectangle. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into quarters. Divide each quarter into eight even pieces. You should wind up with 32 pieces.

Pat each piece into a small circle. Top each circle with about 1 Tbs. of the coconut mixtureMonkey Bread ready to bake and a few pieces of chopped apricot. When all the coconut and apricot have been evenly divided among the pieces, pull the edges of the dough up over the filling to cover it completely and to form balls.

Dip each ball in the melted butter and then roll the dipped balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Layer the balls snuggly together in the Bundt pan, sprinkling the walnuts in-between layers of the balls. When all the balls have been placed in the pan, sprinkle any leftover sugar mixture over the top.

Bake for about an hour, turning once or twice to ensure even baking. The cake is done when an instant read thermometer inserted into it reads 200 degrees. Allow the cake to rest for 5 minutes and then carefully turn it out onto a cake plate. Don’t let it cool in the pan or it will stick. Don’t bother trying to cut this cake – simply allow your guests to pull individual balls off of it.