A friend of mine swears this is called Monkey Bread. But he's from Wisconsin, where it's practically Arctic conditions all year round. I'm from Southern California, where we wear shorts in December. And besides, there are no monkeys in this bread.
It's one of my very favorite breads: crispy and sweet on the outside, puffy and soft on the inside – and you get to tear it off in little bubble pieces, which is just darn fun.
Pecan Bubble Bread
Makes one large wreath of bubble bread From Kathy Cutler's The Festive Bread Book
1/2 cup milk, warmed
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast (about 1/3 of a packet)
2 Tbsp warm water (think "warm bath" not "hot")
2 cups of flour
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 – 1 cup pecan halves
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
First, make the bubbles. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside for about 5 minutes, until it starts to froth up. If it doesn't froth up, then you've killed your yeast. Start again.
Meanwhile, warm the milk in a saucepan, and mix with the sugar, melted butter, and salt. Add 1 cup of flour, the yeast mixture, and the egg, and mix until a batter-like dough forms. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.
Place in greased bowl, flip to grease the other side too, cover, let rise in warm place about 1 hour, until about doubled in size, and then punch it down. Cut the dough into 32 pieces and roll each into a ball.
Now make the outer coating. Melt the 1 Tbsp butter and mix with the corn syrup. Pour into a large Bundt pan, and press the pecan halves into it to make a nice pattern.
Now make the bubble coating. Melt the 2 Tbsp butter, and mix in the brown sugar and cinnamon. One by one, roll each of the 32 bubbles in the mixture and place in the Bundt pan. (Place 16 balls on the bottom layer, then the next 16 in the spaces left by the first layer).
Cover the Bundt pan and let the bubbles rise for another 30 minutes. (If the dough comes up too close to the top of the Bundt pan, place the pan on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven). Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes. Cool for about 20 minutes in the pan, then dump out onto a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. It's best served still slightly warm.