On the two year anniversary of my mother’s death earlier this year, I took a mental health day from work. I needed the time alone at home, rather than sitting in front of my computer at work trying to blink back tears and putting on a brave face for my colleagues, as thoughtful and considerate as they are.
I spent the day doing a bit of reading, a bit of colouring in (it’s a good stress-busting activity!), and a bit of cooking. When I’m sad, a few hours spent in the kitchen does wonders. I finally took out a cookbook that I had been gifted eighteen months earlier – delicious Love to Cook by Valli Little.
A number of the different desserts in the book caught my eye, but the one that really stood out was the Monkey Bun. Valli says:
This recipe is inspired by the wonderful Sally Wise, whose eponymous cooking school in Tasmania is a mecca for anyone wanting tolearn the art of preserving and slow-cooking. Sally serves this to her students on arrival, and it certainly sets the scene for a day of fine cooking.
Having never made anything quite like it before, I thought I’d lend my hand to it, and spend a bit of time in the kitchen! I made a few adjustments to suit my tastes, and there are other adjustments that you could make along the way as well. Enjoy!
Monkey Bun (altered by Gourmanda)
- 250gm unsalted butter
- 500gm plain flour
- 1.25 tablespoons dried instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- One large orange
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 180ml warm milk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 180gm brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- your favourite chocolate
Melt 60gm of butter in a small saucepan, then cool.
Combine flour, yeast, caster sugar, cinnamon, sea salt and the zest of the orange in your stand mixer (use the dough hook). Make a well in the centre for the melted butter, warm milk, and beaten eggs. Combine in the stand mixer until it forms a solid ball of dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl in a warm spot, cover it with a tea towel, and let it rise until doubled in size.
To make the syrup – place the remaining butter (190gm), brown sugar, juice from the orange, and golden syrup in a saucepan on low heat and stir to combine. Note – I’m suggesting using less butter and more golden syrup for a richer flavour and a denser syrup, and Valli’s original recipe didn’t include orange juice. You can adjust to suit.
Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it down, and then knead for around 5 minutes on a clean floured surface until it is elastic. Divide the dough into twelve portions. Flatten it in your palm, place your chosen chocolate in the middle, and then wrap the dough around the chocolate to encase it. Note – I used a ‘Raisin Fudge Fusion’ chocolate from Coles, but it didn’t turn out really well, as there was a wafer element to this chocolate. Soft chocolate-only sweets, like Lindor chocolate balls, would work better as it will melt better in the cooking process.
Once you’ve made all twelve balls with a little chocolate surprise inside, drop them into the saucepan and coat them in syrup. Take the syrup-coated ball and place it into your pot, or cake mould. Once you’ve done that for all the balls, pour the remaining syrup over them. Allow the balls to stand in the syrup for an hour before you put the pot in the oven. The dough will increase in size the longer you leave it.
Note – the recipe calls for the use of 2.5L kugelhopf pan. I don’t own one of those, so chose to make my Monkey bun in a cast iron pot instead. You could do it in a sufficiently large cake tin – but just note that the syrup will leak out if you choose to use a springform cake tin, so you will want to line the tin with baking paper first to protect against leakages.
Bake the bun for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 190 degrees celsius. Reduce the heat to 160 degrees celsius, and bake for a further 15-20 minutes (use your judgement!). Take it out of the oven, and five minutes later, turn your bun tin over onto your serving plate. All the syrup that was at the bottom of the tin should now coat your Monkey Bun in glorious syrupy goodness.
Each ‘ball’ of bun goodness should break away easily from the other balls. Spoon some of the syrup over before serving to your guests. Should serve six to eight people, depending on appetites!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!