Sunday, February 28, 2016

Cherry Almond Cobblestone Muffins

This recipe is actually a spin off of the original Monkey Bread recipes that showed up in women's magazines in the 1950's. While it is popular in the US still, it never seemed to take off globally.  If you are not familiar with this delicious treat, it is basically bread made up of round dough pieces that are dipped in butter and rolled in sugar. If you are not into sweets, you can easily change it to savory by using garlic butter and cheese.

The idea of converting a large Monkey bread coffeecake into individual servings using a jumbo muffin pan is a very smart and tasty way to go when you have a large gathering. The other thing that I liked about this recipe was that it rounded out things by adding fruit.

I tweaked the recipe a little by developing my own flavor combination. Originally, the fruit was to be a mix of apples and raisins. Instead of that, I used cherries soaked in amaretto and added some almond with extract, paste and flour.

My taste testers were very pleased with the results. These jumbo muffins have the trademark of Monkey Bread with their caramel chewy coating of the brown sugar/butter mixture. In addition, you have the a subtle hit of almond in the dough. The almond does become more prominent when you taste the filling of almond paste which mingles deliciously with the amaretto spiked dried cherries.

The recipe below is not the original, but my version. It makes about 2 dozen jumbo muffins, depending on the size of the pieces of dough.

Cherry Almond Cobblestone Muffins
adapted from Panera Bread at Home

8 cups of flour
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of almond extract
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter, melted
2 cups lukewarm milk
2 tablespoons of yeast

2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup almond flour or ground almonds
1/2 cup butter, melted

Ingredients/Filling and Topping
1 cup of sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
milk (enough for desired consistency of icing)
2- 7oz packages of dried cherries
1-7 oz package of almond paste
1/4 cup amaretto
water (enough to cover dried cherries)

4 hours prior to starting on these muffins, empty the dried cherries into a bowl with a wide bottom, like a pasta bowl. Add cherries and amaretto. Mix in enough water so the cherries are covered. Set aside.

After the 4 hours has expired, fill the bowl of a stand mixer with eggs, sugar and salt. Beat until thoroughly combined. Pull out a small bowl and combine the almond extract, butter and milk. Pour the almond/butter mixture into the egg/sugar batter and mix together.

Running the mixer at low speed, slowly add one cup of flour. Once blended, add an additional cup and continue with the process, one cup at a time until 4 cups of flour is mixed into the dough. Sprinkle the yeast on top and mix on low speed for about 1 minute. Add the additional cups of flour, using the same method as the first 4 cups. Form dough into a ball.

Oil the interior of a large bowl and empty dough into bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the top edge of the muffin cavities and line with jumbo muffin papers.

While the dough is rising, drain the liquid from the cherries. Then, take the almond paste and form into several little pebbles and place in a bowl. There should be about 10-12 pebbles per muffin. Set both aside.

At this time, you can make the coating by mixing the brown sugar and almond flour together.

Once the dough has doubled, punch down and form into balls. As you form them, consider that it will take 8 balls to make one muffin. After all the dough balls are made, dip each into melted butter and roll in brown sugar/almond flour. Work quickly, you do not want the surface of the dough to dry out.

To assemble the muffins, start by making the bottom layer. Place 4 dough balls into the bottom of the muffin cavity, all the sides should be touching, none should be stacking. Then, take about 8-10 dried cherries and press lightly into the top of the dough. Repeat this process with about 5 or six pebbles of almond paste. After this, do another layer on top with dough, paste and cherries. For the top layer, it is best that the cherries and almond pebbles are more towards the center of the dough. The muffins will rise and you want the cherries on the muffin not on the pan or bottom of oven.

After all cavities are filled, bake muffins for about 25-30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in pan and transfer to cooling rack. Mix up the topping by combining extract, sifted powdered sugar and milk. Add enough milk to desired consistency and drizzle on to cooled muffins.

Tips and Notes:
1. If you only have 1-12 cavity or 1-6 cavity muffin pan, make only half a batch since this is a yeast bread. You do not want it sitting a long time between baking batches.

2. Due to the way in which these muffins are formed, they are made to eat by plucking off each ball and popping it into your mouth, not by cutting with a fork or taking a bite out of the muffin like you normally would. The dough balls adhere lightly to each other due to the butter/brown sugar mix.

3. If I did this again, I would try to put the dried cherries and almond pebbles into the ball of dough. This way the filling is inside. The adhesion of the filling with the dough balls were not as much as I wanted in the above recipe.

4. You made need to make more coating, depending on how much you want on each dough ball. Not difficult to mix up and better to be in a situation making more than having way to much.

5. You will find that the dough is sticky when forming the dough balls. That is to be expected.

6. The muffin papers do not adhere to the muffins, so they are served without papers. The use of them was only to make clean up easier and keep the brown sugar mixture from getting too hard on the outside.
                           **LAST YEAR: Butternut Maple Blondies**