Apple & Cinnamon Dough Balls (Healthy ‘Monkey Bread’)

When I first started blogging, I recall there was a wave of health food bloggers posting recipes for ‘Healthier’ Monkey bread.  I had absolutely no idea what ‘Monkey bread’ was or why it had such a funny name!

Wikipedia soon filled me in…

Monkey bread, also called monkey puzzle bread, sticky bread, African coffee cake, golden crown, pinch-me cake, bubbleloaf and monkey brains is a sweet, sticky, gooey pastry served in the United States for breakfast.  The bread is made with pieces of sweet yeast dough which are baked in a cake pan after first being covered in melted butter, cinnamon and sugar. It is traditionally served hot so that the baked segments can be easily torn away with the fingers and eaten by hand.

Sounds yummy doesn’t it?  However, traditional Monkey Bread isn’t particularly healthy.  It contains A LOT of fat and sugar.  In contrast, the ‘healthified’ versions often use bread or pizza dough as their base, and are glazed with healthier alternatives to butter and refined cane sugar.

One Sunday, I decided to have a go at making some Apple and Cinnamon-Spiced Healthy Monkey Bread as a ‘special breakfast’.  It was a huge hit with Lil’ L and M and,  I must admit, I’m rather partial to it too.

The ‘authentic’ way to serve Monkey Bread is to invert it onto a plate…

Apple and Cinnamon Healthy Monkey Bread

However, we prefer to eat it straight from the pan.  Hands get less messy, and you can use the balls to mop up any syrup left in the pan.

Healthy Apple & Cinnamon Monkey Bread

If you’re lucky enough to have a breadmaker, then this recipe requires very little effort at all.  You simply throw all the dough ingredients in the machine and press a button.   I’ve had my breadmaker for a couple of years now and it’s been fantastic!  I reckon it’s easily paid for itself in terms of the amount of times we’ve chosen to stay in rather than going to Pizza Express!

Today, I made some Monkey Bread as an after-school treat for Lil’ L and his friend, and I made it by hand to see how it compared to the bread-maker version.  To be honest, making dough by hand doesn’t require THAT much effort.  It takes less than 15 minutes, which isn’t too bad at all.  Plus kneading dough is great exercise for the arms.

Below I’ve given instructions for making the Monkey Bread by hand and in a breadmaker.  If you’re planning to eat it for breakfast, you can easily prepare the dough the night before and chill it in the fridge.  In the morning, simply remove the dough from the fridge about 20 minutes before you need to use it.


Makes 18-20 dough balls (serves 3-4)
Hands-on time: 10-30 minutes (depending on whether you make the dough in a breadmaker or by hand)
Dough resting time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

½ tsp fast action/easy blend yeast
300g / 11oz / 2¼ cups wholemeal (wholewheat) bread flour or chapatti flour (I use the latter)
½ tsp sea salt
170ml / 5¾ fl oz / ¾ cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil

Cinnamon Sugar
1 tbsp coconut sugar (or use granulated sugar)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Apple Cinnamon Syrup
1 organic apple, cored and chopped (I keep the skin on)
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil (or you could use non dairy margarine, like Pure)
2 tbsp maple or agave syrup (I often use Clark’s Original Maple Syrup)
1 tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tsp ground cinnamon


  1. Prepare the dough.
    – In a breadmaker: Throw all the ingredients in the pan and select ‘pizza dough’.  The programme should take around 45 minutes.  When it signals that it’s ready, leave the dough in the machine for a further 20 minutes or so to rise.
    – By hand: Place the yeast, flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add the warm water and oil.  Mix well with a spoon, then bring it together with your hands until you have a sticky dough.  Knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea cloth or oiled cling film (plastic wrap), and leave in a warm place for about an hour until it has doubled in size.  If your house is cool (like ours) then cover with oiled foil and leave in the oven at 40C / 100F for an hour.  When the dough is ready, remove from the oven, knead for a couple more minutes then set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6.  Brush or spray a 23 cm / 9″ loose bottom pan with oil.
  3. Prepare the cinnamon sugar: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Prepare the apple cinnamon syrup: First blend the apple into a smooth puree.  I find the easiest way to do this is to place the apple pieces in a bowl and use a hand blender (stick / immersion blender).  Place the apple puree, coconut oil, syrup, sugar and cinnamon in a small pan and gently heat until the oil has melted.
  5. Pull off small amounts of dough and roll them into balls about 2½ cm / 1″ in diameter.  Roll them in the cinnamon sugar and place in the oiled pan.  Repeat until all the dough has been used.  Evenly space out the balls in the pan (they will expand when baking).  If you have any cinnamon sugar left over, add it to the syrup pan.
  6. Spoon the apple cinnamon syrup evenly over the top and in between the dough balls.  Place in the preheated oven and cook for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Serve warm, either inverted onto a plate or straight from the pan.


Lil L & Monkey Bread

Good Hemp Seed Giveaway Results!
Before I go, I’d like to announce the winners of the Good Hemp Seed Giveaway.  The eligible entries were placed in chronological order and 3 winners were randomly selected using

I’m delighted to announce that the winners are…

1. Emma
2. Samantha
3. Penniless Veggie

Please email your postal addresses and I’ll arrange for the gifts to be sent to you asap.

Have a great weekend everyone!

With love,


19 thoughts on “Apple & Cinnamon Dough Balls (Healthy ‘Monkey Bread’)

  1. Wow this looks amazing and as the girls are up (should be illegal on a saturday!) and I have all the ingredients I’m going to make this right now. Thanks for sharing!! N x

  2. Yay for being a winner! Thank you! This looks great, “healthified” does not mean not tasty clearly! I love the idea of being able to tear off a sticky bun..
    P.S Emailing you now

  3. Does the coconut oil you use taste like coconut? Mine does, but I hear of people using it for regular cooking (e.g., pan frying eggs) and wonder if other people don’t mind the coconut flavor or if I should try a different variety of coconut oil.

    1. Yes, my coconut oil does taste of coconut but, when I use it for cooking or baking, I can’t detect its flavour. While I have used it in savoury dishes, I tend to save it for special desserts and treats as it’s pretty expensive. For savoury cooking, I tend to use extra virgin olive oil or canola oil.

  4. Oh you are right this is very much like my blueberry buttermilk biscuits. I love the sound of the apple syrup. I will have to make this dough tonight and surprise the kids tomorrow (they won’t know what to think).

    I hope you are having a wonderful Monday Sharon. I had a fantastic weekend that included the most awesome surprise in the mailbox…THANK YOU! I haven’t made them yet but by the end of the week I will have made my first batch of raw chocolates. I am so very excited 🙂

  5. Ok I know this is my second comment BUT I made these this morning and my kids devoured them.
    I just got to have a little bit of the leftover syrup on the plate.
    No worries though it was so easy to make that I am sure they will make another appearance at my house.

    1. I am so happy to hear that your kiddies liked it! 😀 I’m sure the quantities should serve 4, but I put 3-4 as I know the three of us devour a whole plate too 😉

  6. These look great! I’m hoping to make them at the weekend for breakfast – how much can I do the night before? Am hoping I can do almost everything & just put them in the fridge instead of the oven!

    1. Hi Bessie! This apple cinnamon ‘monkey bread’ does indeed make a great weekend breakfast. I always make the dough the day before, wrap it in cling film and store it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, while the oven is heating up, I put the apple cinnamon syrup ingredients on the hob to warm through then roll the dough into balls. By the time the oven has heated up, you’ll have your pan of dough balls ready.
      I hope you enjoy them as much as we do! xx

  7. Hi Sharon Do you use chapatti flour for any other bread in your breadmaker? How do you make your naan? I tried to email you but the message was returned! Many thanks

    1. Hi Sue! I’ve only just spotted your comment as it arrived while I was away. It’s been great catching up with you on email this week ♥ Here’s wishing you a lovely, relaxed weekend xx

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