I am of the firm belief that just about any pastry, dessert or sweet can be adapted into something suitable for an afternoon tea, in many cases by scaling it down to a single serving size, or by playing with the flavors, adding different embellishes, or just about anything your imagination can think of.
More commonly known these days as “monkey bread,” this family favorite recipe for Stacked Up Goodness is another one that can be pared down to work for an afternoon cup of tea or a weekend brunch – all it needs is a good cup of tea or coffee to go with it.
I think this was probably introduced to my family by first being brought to a church potluck, eventually made it into the church cookbook, and just got to be known as “stacked up goodness” in the small town I grew up in because, well, that’s exactly what it is!
To make the smaller version, I used Astra individual nonstick tumblers for popovers or molten cakes, and they work beautifully for the task.
About the tumblers – I haven’t actually tested to see how many of them one would need to use up one complete batch of this dough. There are about 12 small (walnut-sized) rolls in each of the cups, so I’m guessing at the dough will stretch to at least 6 individual cups, possibly filling up to 8 of the cups.
To prep the wet ingredients, you will have to scald your milk on the stove, or heat it just to the point of simmering, before adding sugar, salt and shortening.
The rest of the ingredients shouldn’t be added until the warmed milk has cooled to at least room temperature. You don’t want the yeast to go in while the milk is too hot or it will kill any activation.
After you’ve added the yeast mixture and flour to the dough per the recipe, it will go through two rises – the first time after it’s mixed, and the second time after you’ve formed the small rolls, rolled them in the butter and cinnamon/sugar and placed them in the bundt pan or the individual nonstick tumblers.
So plan for the time you need for the dough to rest and rise, as you plan backwards from when you actually want to serve it.
Be careful not to overbake – In my oven (which seems to run a little hot), I set to the lower of the time ranges and check with a toothpick. It’s easy to stick it back in for a few more minutes if needed! The smaller you make the rolls, the less time they need to bake – the key is to be as consistent in size as much as possible.
Stacked Up Goodness
To make the basic dough:
- 1 c. milk
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. shortening
- 1 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 package (1 Tbsp.) yeast
- 1/4 c. warm water
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 4 c. sifted flour
- 1/2 c. melted butter
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
Scald the cup of milk. Add the sugar, shortening and salt until dissolved. Let cool.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and sugar. Add to the cooled mixture, along with the eggs.
Add the flour to the rest of the mixture, and mix in beater until well blended. Dough is too soft to knead.
Place in a greased bowl and let stand in refrigerator for 4 hours before using.
To make the stack-ups:
Make an assembly line of the butter and sugar/cinnamon mixture. Form dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll in butter first, then the sugar/cinnamon mixture, before laying in layers in a 9″ bundt pan. Just fill in the bundt pan with roll after roll next to and on top of each other, keeping the layers as even as possible so that when it turns out its fairly even on the bottom.
Cover, let rise about 45 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes (check with toothpick to make sure it’s baked in the middle of one or two of the rolls, and add a few minutes to the baking time, if needed).
Invert the pan so sugar and butter run down (after loosening a bit with spatula). Let cool on cooling rack or plate.
If using 3″ individual pudding cups instead of the family-sized bundt pan, reduce the cooking time to about 16-18 minutes.
Whether serving for a weekend brunch or tea, I would make it the day before and just make sure it’s cooled and stored in an airtight container overnight, and it’ll be perfectly fine the next day. You could think about warming up before serving – completely up to you. I don’t typically, but my husband loves his rolls warm, so he’ll stick them in the microwave for a few seconds, or long enough to warm them but not enough that they get tough.
As to decorating these rolls – for a typical brunch I wouldn’t necessarily do anything beyond serving it up on a favorite china plate (Cath Kidston Christmas 2019, in the picture below)! It’s all about the caramel-y cinnamon and sugar, soft yeast roll and a good cup of tea.
However, if I’m going to serve these for a Christmas tea, I might throw together a few rough-and-ready white chocolate-sparkling sugar snowflakes to just brighten it up a bit in celebration of the holiday season.
They’re so easy to make – just melt some white chocolate, pipe them out with a piping bag and tip onto a piece of parchment paper (on jelly roll pan or cookie sheet), sprinkle sparkling sugar over the top while they’re still wet, and put the pan into the fridge to help them cool down and harden. They can be a little fragile, but the sparkling sugar helps so the prongs don’t break off as easily once they’ve set.