Soft and delicious pull-apart yeast cake with almonds. Also known as Hungarian coffee cake or monkey bread.
YEAST CAKE OR HUNGARIAN COFFEE CAKE
First of all, this is a yeast cake, but you will not have to knead anything with your hands. Just in case the title worries you.
I found the recipe for this pull-apart yeast cake or monkey bread on a German cooking website Chefkoch and I was immediately intrigued by its name. I mean, I was born and raised in Transylvania and even though I spent the last 15 years in Germany my heart still beats for anything Romanian. Well, sometimes… at least. 🙂
I read the recipe and thought that it didn’t sound like anything I have ever eaten in Romania, but still, my grandma rarely baked and I didn’t eat any cake at all as a child (the Harlequin cake was the exception), so what do I know? If there is any Romanian person out there reading this, who happens to know this cake, I would be very happy to hear about it.
I am updating the recipe for the yeast cake in July 2019. Thanks to some comments I received for this recipe, I found out that this Transylvanian yeast cake is actually the better known Hungarian coffee cake, monkey bread or pull-apart bread, which was brought to the US by Hungarian immigrants.
A recipe for the yeast cake or arany galuska – golden dumpling was first published by Betty Crocker in 1972 under the name of Hungarian Coffee Cake.
“ As it became more popular in America, arany galuska came to be confused with monkey bread in which the balls of dough are not dipped in cinnamon and sugar but only in butter. “Monkey bread” soon became the more common name for this Hungarian Jewish dessert.”
And now that I know that this yeast cake has Hungarian origins, I understand why I found the recipe under the name of Transylvanian yeast cake. Lots of Hungarian people live in Transylvania – Romania and that explains everything.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE YEAST CAKE
Different types of yeast:
There are two kinds of yeast: fresh and dry yeast. And also there are two kinds of dry yeast: active dry yeast and instant yeast.
- The best kind of yeast you can use. Buying it in Germany is a piece of cake, it is available in any supermarket and it costs about 10 cents a cube. Fresh yeast bought at the baker’s is even better.
- A cube of fresh yeast weighs 42 g/ 1.48 oz in Germany and it is usually enough to bake a regular sized bread or to make the dough for a large yeast cake, for instance. However, always follow the quantities indicated by the recipe you are following.
- But, fresh yeast is not easily available all over the world (I could never buy when I was living in the UK), so dry yeast is a good substitute.
Active dry yeast:
- It has larger granules and has to be dissolved in water before using.
Instant dry yeast:
- The granules are finer and the yeast can be mixed with the dry ingredients before adding the milk (or water).
Both types of dry yeast are usually sold in small packages and, at least in Germany, one package is the equivalent of ½ cube fresh yeast. One package of dry yeast weighs 7 g/ 0.24 oz in Germany.
To make this Transylvanian yeast cake you will need 1 cube/ 42 g fresh yeast or 2 packages (a total of 14 g/ 0.5 oz) active dry yeast or instant yeast.
The original recipe calls for hazelnuts, which is definitely more Romanian or Hungarian than using almonds. I didn’t have any hazelnuts though, so I took the almonds instead. Please feel free to take whatever you have or like best.
HOW TO MAKE A YEAST CAKE
The yeast dough is really easy to make, so don’t get scared by it. You will not even have to knead this time, because the dough is too soft.
You can use either a food processor with a kneading attachment or a hand-held mixer with kneading attachments.
How to make the dough with fresh yeast:
- Heat the milk very gently until lukewarm, not hotter than 37 degrees Celsius/ 98 degrees Fahrenheit/body temperature or the yeast will be destroyed.
- Crumble the fresh yeast into the milk and stir until dissolved.
- Give the yeast mixture to the flour, sugar and salt mixture and continue with the recipe.
- How to make the dough with active dry yeast:
- Mix the active dry yeast with the lukewarm milk and proceed with the recipe.
How to make the yeast dough with instant yeast:
- Mix the instant yeast with the flour, sugar and salt. Add the lukewarm milk
- Proceed with the recipe.
Steps to make the yeast dough:
- Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk as instructed above. Or mix it with the flour, sugar and salt, if using instant yeast.
- Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Pour the milk-yeast mixture in this well and mix it with a little of the flour.
- Add the eggs and the very soft butter.
- Knead using the kneading attachments of your hand-held mixer or a standind mixer/food processor.
- Give the dough to a clean bowl and cover with a kitchen cloth.
- Let the dough rise in a warm place. It should double in size, this will take about 30 minutes if you use fresh yeast and about 35-40 minutes if you use dry yeast. But check, the rising time depends not only on the type of yeast you are using, but also on the temperature in your kitchen.
How to shape monkey bread:
- Take the dough out of the bowl piece by piece using two tablespoons for help. Scoop some dough with one tablespoon, the tablespoon should be more than full, quite overflowing. Help it keep in shape with the second tablespoon.
- Roll the dough piece first through the oil and then through the almonds/nuts. Don’t worry if the dough streches and looks lumpy. Just help it more or less keep the shape with the two tablespoons and dump it in the prepared pan.
- Don’t be tempted to shape the dough with your hands, it will not work, the dough is very very soft.
- After you’ve arranged about half of the dough pieces into the pan, you might have the feeling that the pan is too small for all the pieces to fit in. I thought so too at first, but I was wrong, everything fits perfectly, you just have to push the pieces that are already in the pan around and you will be able to fit the remaining ones as well. I usually have 14 to 16 pieces of yeast cake that I have to fit in the pan.
- Bake the yeast cake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and dry. It really depends on your oven, so keep checking.
HOW TO SERVE THE HUNGARIAN COFFEE CAKE
The yeast cake or monkey bread is best enjoyed on the day you bake it.
Serve it lukewarm or at room temperature for breakfast, brunch or coffee time with a cup of coffee or tea.
Leftovers should be stored, covered, at room temperature for 1 day. You can still eat them 2 days later, but the yeast cake will be drier, so you might want to help it with more coffee, tea or milk.
MORE YEAST CAKES
Pull-Apart Yeast Cake – Hungarian Coffee Cake
- Yeast dough:
- 500 g all-purpose flour 1.1 lbs / 4 cups + 2 tablespoons
- 50 g granulated sugar 7 oz/ ¼ cup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cube 40 g/ 1.4 oz fresh yeast or 2 sachets dried yeast (Nte 2)
- 400 ml lukewarm milk 13.5 fl.oz/ 1 ¾ cups
- 2 eggs
- 60 g unsalted butter 2.1 oz/ ¼ cup, very soft
- 125 ml vegetable oil 4.2 fl.oz/ ½ cup, Note 3
- 200 g ground almonds 7 oz/ 1 2/3 cups, Note 4
- 75 g granulated sugar 2.5 oz/ 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon
- Yeast: If making the dough with fresh or active dry yeast, mix the lukewarm milk and the crumbled fresh yeast (or sprinkle the active dry yeast in the milk) in a small bowl and stir until the yeast dissolves.
- Place the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour the milk-yeast mixture into the well and mix it with a little flour.
- If using instant yeast, mix the flour, sugar, and salt with the instant yeast. Add the milk and continue with the recipe.
- Add the eggs and the very soft butter.
- Knead for about 5 minutes using the kneading attachments of you hand-held mixer. The dough should be smooth and soft, you will not be able to knead it with your hands.
- Let rise: Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place. It should double in size, this will take about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the type of yeast you are using and on the temperature in your kitchen. Keep checking.
- Line a springform pan (diameter 26 cm/ 10 inches) with baking paper, bottom, and walls of the pan.
Shape the dough for the monkey bread:
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pour the oil into a shallow bowl or a soup/pasta plate.
- Mix the almonds and sugar in a similar dish.
- Form dough: Remove pieces of dough out of the bowl helping yourself with two tablespoons. Scoop a very full tablespoon out of the dough, helping yourself with the second spoon.
- Turn each piece first through the oil and then through the almond-sugar mixture. Don't worry if the pieces look lumpy, they are supposed to be like that.
- Place each piece of dough in the prepared pan. After you've arranged about half of the dough pieces into the pan, you might have the feeling that the pan is too small for all the pieces to fit in. I thought so too at first, but I was wrong, everything fits perfectly, you just have to push the pieces that are already in the pan around and you will be able to fit the remaining ones as well. You should have 14-16 pieces of dough.
- Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on your oven) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and dry. Enjoy lukewarm or at room temperature.
- A digital kitchen scale will give you the most precise measure ensuring the best bake possible.
- You can use any type of yeast: fresh, active dry yeast, or instant yeast. 1 sachet of dry yeast weighs 7 g/ 0.24 oz in Germany, so a total of 14 g/ 0.5 oz for this recipe.
Follow the instructions for each type of yeast. I've baked the yeast
cake with all these kinds of yeast, and it always works.
- I used neutral-tasting canola oil. Do not use olive oil or any oil with a strong taste.
- Ground hazelnuts can be used instead.