Food & Drink

A Special Morning Treat

A slightly grown-up recipe for monkey bread

Photo: Margaret Houston

When Atlanta chef and restaurateur Billy Allin was growing up in South Carolina, Christmas morning began with the resounding pop of a can of biscuits, which his family would turn into a favorite holiday culinary tradition—monkey bread. “Our recipe was simple,” says Allin. “Take canned biscuits and cut them into pieces and roll them in cinnamon and sugar.” The resulting ooey-gooey pull-apart pile of cinnamon-sugar dough balls was the perfect pastry for sharing; just pluck still-warm pieces from the whole and pop them in your mouth.


A few years ago at the former Proof Bakeshop in Atlanta, co-pastry chef Abigail Quinn started making a grown-up version for the bakery, and Allin was hooked all over again. “I was like a child running around the kitchen,” he says. “I probably ate ten pounds. It’s just like eating clouds.” Quinn’s version maintains monkey bread’s sticky childhood goodness, made a little more decadent with homemade brioche dough and a splash of bourbon in the glaze. To save time on Christmas morning, you can prepare the dough balls the day before, place them in a greased Bundt pan, and stash in the refrigerator overnight. Serve warm out of the oven, and let the picking party begin. “Food should do many things,” Allin says. “One of which is invoke happiness.”


  • For the Dough

    • 1 stick butter

    • 1 cup whole milk

    • ¼ cup sugar

    • 1 tbsp. instant yeast

    • 1½ tsp. salt

    • 1 egg

    • 1 egg yolk

    • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour

  • For the Sugar Mixture

    • 2 sticks butter

    • 2 cups sugar

    • 2 tbsp. cinnamon

  • For the Goo

    • 2½ sticks butter

    • 2 cups dark brown sugar

    • 2 tbsp. honey

    • 2 tbsp. bourbon

    • 2 tsp. salt

    • 2 tsp. vanilla


  1. Preparation for the Dough: 
    Melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk and sugar. Stir with a spatula to combine. Heat to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. (Check with a kitchen thermometer—t00 hot and you’ll kill the yeast.) Switch mixture to a bowl. Add yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes until foamy.

  2. Add salt. Beat egg and egg yolk and add to yeast mixture. Stir in flour 1 cup at a time until sticky dough forms. Knead and add more flour as needed until smooth dough forms. Coat large mixing bowl with non-stick spray and transfer dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise (or proof) in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1¼-1½ hours.

  3. Punch dough down with your fist to remove excess air (2 or 3 times should be enough). Divide dough into 1½-inch diameter balls.

  4. Preparation for the Goo: 
    Stir together butter, dark brown sugar, honey, bourbon, salt, and vanilla over medium heat until the mixture just starts to bubble.

  5. To Assemble and Bake: 
    Melt 2 sticks butter. Dip each dough ball in cooled butter; roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place balls into a 10-inch Bundt pan that’s been coated with non-stick spray.

  6. Let sit until nearly doubled in size (about an hour). Cinnamon-sugar mixture will start to look crackled when it is ready. Pour goo over the top. Bake at 350 degrees until tops are golden brown (about 45 minutes). Cool for 5–7 minutes, and turn out onto a cake plate.


    Note: To make single-serving monkey breads, make the dough balls about half the size as above, and bake in mini-Bundt pans (about six balls per pan). Reduce baking time to 18‑20 minutes.