Growing up, my sisters and I spent every summer weekday watching The Price is Right and fighting over Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. If only we’d had a plate of Homemade Pumpkin Monkey Bread, we could have watched Plinko in peace.
The day my mom taught us to open a can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and bake them in a round pie plate all by ourselves was a great and terrible day. The great part was spending every Monday through Friday in June rotating through the orange, regular, and “grand” varieties. The terrible part was pulling them out of the oven just as the show was starting, then spending the next 20 minutes fighting over who got to eat the most prized roll in the pan: The Middle Cinnamon Roll.
While the seven rolls arranged around the edges of the pie pan would dry slightly at the edges, the coveted middle roll remained perfectly soft, gooey, and fluffy throughout. Additionally, for whatever reason, the very middle of that center roll was indisputably the best bite in the pan. Although the other rolls had middles too, something about eating the middle of the middle roll was an extra special, extra ooey-gooey cinnamon experience. All three of us knew it, so we started calling dibs on the middle roll days in advance. Honestly, we probably could have used a chart.
What we needed to watch Bob Barker in peace was homemade monkey bread, otherwise known as cinnamon roll bites or cinnamon pull-apart bread. Every single bite oozes cinnamon sugar and tastes exactly like the prized middle of the center cinnamon roll.
As I share on my FAQ page, I’m often asked my favorite thing to make. While choosing just one feels a bit like having to commit to a single ice cream flavor for the rest of my life (impossible), when pressed I will answer homemade sweet rolls. I love coming up with new twists and the edible rewards are outstanding.
This Homemade Pumpkin Monkey Bread is my favorite sweet roll recipe to date. I adapted my all-time favorite cinnamon-roll dough base (the same I used for my Peanut Butter and Jelly Rolls and Chocolate Chai Rolls) by adding pumpkin, lots of fall spices, and increasing the yield to fit a standard bundt pan.
The pumpkin in the dough (a full cup!) makes the homemade monkey bread insanely moist, and the spices taste of harvests and bonfires and all fall things warm and wonderful. Instead of shaping the dough into the classic swirl rolls, I formed it into individual little balls, rolled those balls in an irresponsible amount of cinnamon sugar, then stacked them in a bundt pan.
I made the dough using my bread-baking secret weapon: Red Star Platinum Instant Yeast. This is the only brand I use, because it is foolproof and yields a softer, fluffier final product, even when I use whole wheat flour. After spending time, effort, and ingredients making lovely homemade monkey bread dough, the last thing we deserve is for it to fail to rise, and I have never ever had that problem with Red Star.
The pumpkin dough bakes in the shape of a bundt cake, but every one of those sweet cinnamon sugar bites is prime for picking apart with your fingers. The completely excessive, yet absolutely necessary drizzle of cream cheese glaze adds a light tanginess that tempers the rolls’ sweetness and makes them oh-so luscious. A shower of warmed toasted pecans adds texture and crunch. Both make the bread gloriously decadent and marvelously messy to eat with your fingers.
In boring formal company, you could slice the bread and use a knife and fork, but going at it with your hands seems a bit more authentic to the monkey bread name, don’t you think?
Save the polite company for another day—Homemade Pumpkin Monkey is most authentically enjoyed with those you love enough (and who love you enough) not to be bothered by a little finger licking. And maybe with The Price is Right on in the background.
Homemade Pumpkin Monkey Bread
For the Dough:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup 2% milk or whole milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar light or dark
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 1/4 teaspoons Instant Yeast (1 standard package—I use Red Star Platinum Yeast)
- 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or substitute all-purpose or bread flour
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or substitute bread flour
For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar light or dark
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Cream Cheese Glaze and Topping:
- 3 ounces cream cheese softened
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Toasted chopped pecans optional for garnish
- Make the Dough: Cut the butter into large pieces. Place the milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl or large mixing cup, or in a small saucepan. Warm in the microwave (start with 30 seconds, then increase by 10-second intervals) or on the stove until the liquid reaches the temperature directed by the yeast manufacturer (120 to 130 degrees F for Red Star Platinum). The butter may not melt completely. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves together on medium speed. Pour in the warmed milk/butter mixture and mix until combined. In a small bowl, lightly beat together the egg and egg yolk, then add to the flour mixture. Add the yeast, then mix until just combined.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low, then add 2 ½ cups white whole wheat flour. Mix for 5 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour and mix until fully incorporated. The dough will be very soft and tacky. Lightly coat a large, clean bowl with cooking spray, then place dough in the bowl, turning once to coat all sides with the oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes. (Make ahead note: In place of allowing the dough to rise at room temperature, you may also place it in the refrigerator to rise overnight. In the morning, remove from the refrigerator and proceed with the recipe as directed).
- Make the Cinnamon Sugar Coating: Place the granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a large plastic bag. Seal tightly and shake gently to combine.
- Coat a 10 to 12-cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Gently press the dough down with your fist to allow the air to release. Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll them into individual balls that are about 1 1/4-inches wide (you will have 45 to 55 balls total). Working 8 dough balls at a time, place the balls in the bag of sugar and spices, grip the top of the bag to seal, then shake and gently roll the balls to coat. Arrange the dough balls at the bottom of the prepared pan. Repeat with remaining dough, staggering the seams where dough balls meet as you build the layers, until all are coated and placed in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Place a rack in center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To finish the coating, melt the 6 tablespoons butter and brown sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Uncover the bundt pan and pour the melted butter and brown sugar over the dough. Bake the monkey bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown on top and the internal temperature of the dough reads 185 to 190 degrees F. Check at the 15-minute mark and loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil if the bread is browning too quickly. Let the monkey bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.
- Prepare the Glaze and Serve: In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla. Pour the glaze over the monkey bread, allowing it to run over the top and down the sides, then garnish with toasted chopped pecans. Serve immediately in slices, or pick away with your fingers!
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I baked this Homemade Pumpkin Monkey Bread with my favorite bread-baking tool, Red Star Platinum Yeast. It’s foolproof, yields consistent results, and most importantly, creates super-fluffy, tender breads every time. For baking tips, check out Red Star Yeast’s step-by-step baking guide and don’t forget to follow Red Star on Facebook for tasty recipes and inspiration.
Come on down! More sweet rolls that hit the jackpot:
- Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls
- Pumpkin Pull Apart Bread
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Rolls
- Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls
I created this recipe in partnership with Red Star Yeast. As always, thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me to continue to provide quality content to you!