Rather unexpectedly, I found myself in a church on New Year’s Eve. I hadn’t come to pray or to repent, much to my family’s chagrin. I had come to hear bagpipes and drums fill the expanse of the historical church. The youngest member of the band, a boy of small stature with pursed lips and determination, puffed his comparatively small cheeks and blew into the velvety instrument. The rest of the kilt-clad band joined him in the most beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace I have ever heard (listen to this and imagine you were there). The reverberating and syncopated instruments combined with the church’s acoustics to strike a chord deep inside me. The unsung lyrics played in my head, a vestige of a youth spent in church, and I blinked rapidly to block inexplicable tears.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see. T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear. The hour I first believed. Through many dangers, toils and snares. I have already come; ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.
The two months leading to the moment in that pew had not been my most shining, sparkling moments. Quite the opposite. The past two months were filled with more doubt, more tears, more indecision and more insecurities than I had bottled within me in a long, long time. However, the past two months were also filled with a strong shoulder to cry on and supportive friends who proved their faith in me. Mere hours before that pew and that song, I had resolved to face my obstacles, to try harder, to give myself the benefit of the doubt, and above all, to have thicker skin and more confidence. The song was a booming affirmation. The journey is long and enduring, but there is redemption. Whether you call that redemption Grace or Determination or Resolve, is for you to decide. I no longer subscribe to a religious practice, but I wouldn’t doubt the existence of a higher power, and this church experience reminded me of the beautiful truths and philosophies one can pull from Christianity.
The bagpipes faded into architectural exploring, to hand holding, to grass-fed, beef hot dogs from a truck, to shivering, to staring at disorienting art, to the clanking of glasses and a kiss. The clock, or the iPhone rather, struck midnight, and there was a symbolic chance for a fresh start, for celebration, for brightness, and in an attempt to carry out a family tradition- a chance for Monkey Bread at breakfast, except this Monkey Bread was made my way- the grainy way!
Buckwheat Monkey Bread
Due to the use of hearty, local buckwheat flour, this version is a little more bread like than traditional white flour versions, but it’s more wholesome and still delicious. You’ll want seconds and thirds, if not more.
1 package (2 and 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110°F-115°F)
1 and 1/4 cups warm whole milk (110°F-115°F)
1/3 cup organic, unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup organic raw cane sugar
2 large organic/cage-free eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup local buckwheat flour
4 cups organic, whole-wheat pastry flour, divided
3/4 cup unsalted butter, divided
1 and 1/4 cups organic, evaporated cane sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup organic light or dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Whiskey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Stir it around a bit and let it sit for about 2 minutes.
Add the milk, melted butter, sugar, eggs, salt, buckwheat flour, and 2 cups of the whole-wheat pastry flour. Using a dough hook, beat on high speed for 3 minutes.
By hand, add remaining whole-wheat pastry flour, or enough remaining flour to form a firm dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic. The dough is ready when it is smooth and when you can poke it with a finger and it springs back.
Form dough into a smooth ball and place into a large, olive oiled bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight.
For the Coating:
Melt 1/2 cup of butter in a small bowl. Mix sugar and cinnamon together in another small bowl. Set aside.
Grease a 10-12 cup bundt pan with melted butter or olive oil. Set aside.
Punch the cold dough down very gently to allow the air bubbles to release. Pull apart pieces and roll into balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
Dip each ball, one by one, in the melted butter and then generously roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Arrange the coated balls in the bundt pan as you go.
Cover the pan and allow dough balls to rise again for about 45 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt the remaining 1/4 cup of butter and whisk in the brown sugar, whiskey, and vanilla, until combined.
Pour the butter mixture over the dough balls in the bundt pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cover loosely with foil if the top browns too quickly.
Cool for 5 minutes before inverting onto a large serving plate.
Serve warm with plenty of Prosecco and the best of resolutions for a brand new year!