From the sticky sweetness of monkey bread to a rich French cheese loaf, you'll want to rip into these. Fun to make, too!
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18 Jan 2022 - 12:33 PM  UPDATED 21 Jan 2022 - 8:23 AM

--- See Paul Hollywood making monkey bread in Paul Goes to Hollywood. The four-part series starts 7.30pm Friday 21 January on SBS Food. Episodes will be available at SBS On Demand after they air. ---

 

"Kids will absolutely adore this," says Paul Hollywood, when he makes his sweet, sticky monkey bread ring in Paul Goes to Hollywood. Big kids too, Paul, big kids too! After all, who doesn't love getting hands on with a warm-from-the-oven loaf and tearing off a delicious mouthful?

Monkey bread is an American brunch and breakfast favourite. There are many theories as to the name (Leading US food writer James Beard wrote in Beard on Bread that he had never seen a definite explanation, but that perhaps the name given to this "sensationally good" bread was to do with the "silly shape"; others suggest it's to do with the way it's easily pulled apart and eaten with the hands), and many variations on the recipe too. What they all have in common is that is a loaf is formed by rolling small balls or pieces of sweet yeasted dough in butter, or a spiced sugar mixture, and stacking them in a pan before baking.

The shape is often a ring, but can be a rectangular loaf. Nuts, currents and cinnamon are also used in some variations. Hollywood's, for example, uses pecans. (And a helpful note from Hollywood - don't worry if your loaf looks dark after baking. "Don’t worry about the colour. You’ve got sugar on the outside, you’ve got cinnamon on the outside, they will go very, very dark but that’s the point in monkey bread," he says in the series.)

While monkey bread, also known as bubble bread, first started becoming popular in the US in the 1940s and 50s, this kind of buttery yeasted loaf made with balls of dough is much older. Aranygaluska, for example, is a popular Hungarian sweet recipe with a much longer history.

But the joy of tear-apart loaves isn't limited to sweet doughs. Here are some of our favourites, both sweet and savoury. 

Challah monkey bread

"This is a cinnamony, sweet pull-apart bread that we make to use up extra challah dough. Prepare to be swarmed by children and neighbours," says Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, of this recipe from The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook. There's no butter used here; the challah dough gets richness from eggs, honey and canola oil. Pieces of risen dough are tossed in a mixture of two sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg before baking. 

Monkey bread from Feast

This recipe by Phoebe Wood comes from the Feast magazine archives. Balls of dough (made rich with milk, egg yolks, butter and sugar) are dipped in melted butter and rolled in a brown sugar and cinnamon mxture then piled into a Bundt pan. Taking the indulgence to another level, a salted pecan caramel sauce is poured over the baked bread. Sticky and sensational!

Pull-apart praline bread

A sweet, cake-ish bread filled with cinnamon, pecans and brown sugar that's easy to tear into portions, this recipe comes from Vanessa Gianfrancesco, who shared it in her TV series Let's Brunch. While it, too, uses a rich yeasted dough, the method is a little different. Gianfrancesco rolls out the dough and covers it with a butter, cinnamon and brown sugar filling, plus a shower of candied crushed pecans. The dough is rolled into a log, then cut into rounds. Each round is dipped in more of the filling mixture, then the pieces are stacked into a loaf tin. Before baking, a cream and brown sugar topping goes over the bread, then it's baked til golden brown. 

Cherry and chocolate babka

The babka and its cousins across a wide swathe of the world take various forms, and one is pretty much a pull-part loaf made with yeasted scrolls. There are endless filling variations, but here's one that's a rich combination of several traditions, with a mixture of fruit, rum and chocolate. 

French savoury loaf

Proving the pull-apart is just as glorious in a savoury version is this French loaf recipe from Lyndey Milan, rich with cheese and herbs. A butter and milk enriched yeasted dough is rolled out and covered with a butter, cheese, herb, mustard and garlic filling, The sheet is cut into strips, that are then stacked and cut again. The layered pieces are wedged into a tin, creating a loaf that invites you to rip it apart after baking. 

French savoury loaf

Cheese and olive pull-apart loaf

This recipe from Leanne Kitchen looks impressive, but it's easy to do. And you can vary the ingredients - the recipe fills the scrolls with an onion, garlic, cheese, olive and red pepper paste filling, but you could add sliced deli meat, sun-dried tomato, and different herbs. 

Fig and fennel pull-apart bread

Can't decide if you want sweet or savoury? This chunky loaf is a savoury creation, but with a toe in the sweet camp too, courtesy of the soft figs in the mix and a touch of brown sugar in the filling. Simon Bajada says of this recipe, from his book Nordic Light, that it's great enjoyed with butter and black coffee. We also love his description of how that tangled rustic look is created. "Filling will go everywhere, but you can stuff it back in the right places once you have your basic twisted shape," he says of how the filling of dried figs, fennel seeds, shaved fresh fennel, salt and brown sugar is added to a U-shape of dough and then twisted in on itself. 

Vegan Vegemite cheesy scrolls

A lot of pull-apart bread recipes use butter; this one, from Smith & Deli-cious: Food From Our Deli (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse, uses vegan butter and cheese. And the pair say this is a great way for those new to the yeasty dark spread to test out its appeal. "There’s something about adding cheese and dough that puts Vegemite on a whole other playing field. The scroll makes Vegemite approachable and delicious and savoury in a totally different way."

Vegemite cheesy scrolls

Pull-apart pissaladiere

The pull-apart loaf gets a fun twist in this take on pissaladiere, the traditional Italian flatbread usually topped with caramelised onion, anchovies and olives. Six individual breads are baked together, ready to be torn apart and eaten,

And finally, a loaf of buns... 

When you bake a batch of sticky buns nestled all-together, you have a loaf - so this tray of sticky buns is also a kind of pull-apart loaf. Made with a soft, buttery dough, and filled with sweet cinnamon-spiced butter, these are baked in caramel sauce and have more sauce drizzled over the top after they come out of the oven. After cooling, the tray gets drizzled with a simple icing. 

Or if you'd like a nutty version, try these deliciously sticky, spicy and nutty cinnamon pecan scrolls, a recipe from Anneka Manning. Divine served warm from the oven!

More hands-on happiness
Camembosh hedgehog

This always generates big smiles in all who behold it! Big thanks to Ellie from Kinda Co (makers of incredible plant-based cheeses) for the original recipe, which we collaborated on together in the early days of BOSH! Tapioca flour is crucial for optimum gooeyness, so do seek some out. To get ahead, make the cheese the day before and keep it in the fridge.

Millet idli or dosa

This Indian fermented batter can be used to make either steamed cakes (idli), or crispy pancakes (dosa).

Malawach

It was so special for me to spend the morning with Nava, in her Bondi Beach kitchen, learning the disappearing art of making malawach from scratch. Back in our kitchen the next Monday, we were beside ourselves when our dough stretched to translucent. We rolled and folded it over with buttered hands – as she did – and then burnt our tongues eating the hot, flaky bread straight from the frying pan. ~ Lisa, MMCC 

Italian flatbread with prosciutto and fontina (piadina)

Hailing from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, this simple flatbread filled with a selection of herbs, meat and cheeses was once the poor-man’s bread, but has since become one of the country’s most popular street snacks. It has been described as the bread of the Romagnoli people and is so strongly linked with its region that it now has Protected Geographical Indication status.

Fried cheese and vegetable wrap (paneer Frankie)

This Indian wrap recipe is perfect for a healthy, vegetarian lunch. Paneer has a beautiful texture when fried, the outside golden brown and the inside warm and soft.