Great Expectations…

First off let me just say thanks for the support in my right to not choose proper grammar on this blog. :)
And now on to today’s topic:
Several of my friends commented lately about being in a funk. Many of them felt that way because their holidays didn’t go how they had planned, they didn’t get everything in they hoped to get in, etc… Or some of them are in a funk because they didn’t get accomplished all that they had planned in the 2010 calendar year.
Rosa over at Rosa Yummy Yums, wrote an excellent post about this. Why do we feel the need to set the bar so high, especially around the holidays? I have friends who were upset that they didn’t get to string their own popcorn around the tree. I did that once. Mostly just stabbed myself with a needle repeatedly and just ended up eating most of the popcorn anyway.
I myself had grandiose ideas of making a gingerbread house this year. Then I decided to save time I would just buy a premade one and decorate it. Still didn’t get that done. When Christmas passed, there it sat in the container and I felt unaccomplished. Why was I caring so much? It is just a gingerbread house after all. It doesn’t expire for a couple of months, so this year I will be doing either a Groundhog or Valentine day Gingerbread house. Who says it has to be for Christmas only? Or maybe a hockey themed just in time for the playoffs? My holiday was not made any better or worse because I didn’t have a gingerbread house. And if I don’t ever get around to doing it? Yeah, I am out $12, but the world will keep on turning…or at least I would hope so. ;)
We have a joke in our locker room, mostly when we discuss dating…”lower your standards, better your odds”. And though we are joking, there is some truth in that. Most of the single women I know have incredibly long lists about all the things that they are looking for in a man. And if he doesn’t hit the marks on the list he is looked over. Sadly, they are probably missing out on some great guys. Now, I am not saying to throw out your core values when looking for someone but if you don’t have six pack abs, maybe insisting that the person you date has to have them is asking a bit much. For the record, the women seem to have the long list. The men just seem to have one…looking for a girl willing to let me see her naked. :P
People are so hard on themselves these days. Look a certain way. Live in a certain place. Drive a certain car. Always wishing that they could have what others seem to have. Wanting to be the size you were back in high school, and sorely disappointed if you can’t make that happen. Mad at yourself because you backed out of the 10K your friend talked you into running for motivation to get back into shape. When will you ever be good enough? Trying to keep up with other people’s expectations is exhausting. I know, I tried for awhile. You know what? No one seemed to care. I think we too often build up what we think other people’s expectations are in our head, when really they didn’t have any for us at all. I know I don’t have expectations for my friends, except to simply be my friend and accept me for who I am. If people can’t handle the real you, why do you want them in your life anyway?
Take a breath. Realize all that you have. I promise if you take the time to look you have a lot. A lot. And if you don’t have a lot, what can you do about it to change? If you are truly that unsatisfied, what can YOU do to make the difference? I say YOU because it really is up to you. You are the only one person you can truly control. And even I can’t do that half the time…especially around baked goods. :P
Speaking of not gaining control around baked goods, I decided after the Nutella post, what other ways can I get chocolate into my breakfast routine. ;) Why Monkey Bread of course. I realized after 5 ½ years I don’t have one single Monkey Bread recipe on here. That is probably because I cheat and use biscuits from the store. Don’t judge that’s the way my mom made it and I am used to it that way. But I’m going a little above and beyond and made it this time with Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Brioche. Mostly just because I am still trying to see what I can get this apartment oven to produce. So far it’s been alright. I have had to swear at it from time to time. But overall it’s cooperating…I find threatening it with violence has helped. :P

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Brioche Monkey Bread

2 cups brown sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
Chocolate brioche (recipe follows)
Lightly grease a standard 10-in Bundt pan with vegetable oil. Set aside.
Place brown sugar in a small bowl. Place melted butter in a nearby bowl.
Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and gently deflate so that dough is relatively flat. Using a knife or a bench scraper, cut off small pieces of dough to form 1/2 to 1-inch balls. The smaller you make them the stickier the monkey bread tends to be. As you cut each piece of dough, roll it into a ball in the palms of your hands. Dunk each ball in butter, use tongs or a fork to remove it and transfer it to the sugar to be thoroughly coated. Place all coated dough balls into prepared Bundt pan.
Once all balls have been coated and places in the pan, cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap and let bread rise for 60 minutes, until almost doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. Bread will spring back when lightly pressed.
Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a serving platter. Serve immediately, as it is best when eaten warm.

Chocolate Brioche (makes 2lbs of dough)

For the Chocolate Butter:
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate using a double boiler. Once melted set aside and keep at room temperature.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth; add cocoa powder and chocolate beat until well incorporated. Set aside at room temperature.

For the Sponge:
2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
¾ cup lukewarm coffee
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar

Combine yeast and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and whisk until he yeast is dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, forming a thin batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes until bubbles form.

For the Dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ tsp. salt
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Shift flour and salt into sponge.
Add yolks, and mix with paddle attachment on low speed for 2 minutes, until yolks are absorbed.

Increase to medium speed; knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and satiny.
On medium low speed, add chocolate butter one tbsp. at a time.

Switch to dough hook; knead until very well developed, smooth and shiny. Add chocolate chips, mix on low until incorporated.

with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours until double (mine took longer as my apartment is super cold). Punch down and rise again until double, about 45 to 60 minutes (or refrigerator for 4hours or overnight).

Brioche recipe adapted from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard


  1. Just picked up my jaw from the floor. That looks KILLER good.

  2. You know, I specifically planned a low-key, low-stress, low-expectations Christmas and I’m still depressed it didn’t go as planned. I think as human beings we are just naturally cuckoo for cocoapuffs over the holiday season.

    The monkey bread looks delicious. Chocolate: It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

  3. This reminds me of the year I spent in Louisiana, my host mom made this for breakfast from time to time! Now that I have your recipe there’s no excuse for me not to cook it for my norwegian family, but I don’t think my mom will pass this as a proper breakfast…

  4. Hah, my ‘list’ for the last 3 years has been:
    1) no cokeheads
    2) no dads
    3) no one already in a relationship

    That’s kept me pretty much out of options, here in DC=/

    Another good chocolatey breakfasty recipe (at least I’ve been eating it for breakfast?) is these peanut butter and chocolate crescent rolls:
    Delicious! I recommend one of each in the glaze, where it says 2 T of peanut butter or cocoa.

  5. when I was single, I never really had a list, I don’t think? I think my list was more what I could NOT abide by. ;)

    I LOVE monkey bread, and not only because there is a monkey involved. this looks delicious, I don’t know WHY I’ve never thought to add chocolate to mine before.

  6. Bread looks great, Pea and I absolutely love your attitude :)

    Everything you said is right on the money.

  7. Forget trying to eat healthier, I’m making this the first chance I get! I love monkey bread, but I’ll admit, I’ve only made it with store-bought biscuits. And, I love chocolate…so 2 things I love mixed in 1. It can’t get much better than that!

  8. Amen to every last bit of this post! I know that I have set my expectations too high and faltered, only to get discouraged, but it is amazing what a deep breath and a little perspective can cure. And, of course, chocolate monkey bread! :)

  9. I needed that post in more ways than one. You caught my attention with the monkey bread (I too am a sucker for the easy way with the store-bought biscuits), plus the chocolate (!), but really, the post content was just screaming out to me. So thank you, really really. You’re amazing. =)

  10. You can’t argue with what you said. I know that if I strung popcorn for my tree I would have had an army of ants marching around it. As it turns out our tree wasn’t even decorated until a few days before Christmas. So, was the world going to end because of it, no. Did it mean that I was a bad person, no. Actually my eldest daughter said that she loved the bare simplicity of the tree. Now that’s a good attitude. People are way too hard on themselves these days.

  11. Amen, Peabody!
    That monkey bread looks like little chocolate doughnut holes to me, which has me craving Krispy Kreme. Honestly, I would probably never go to the trouble of making that bread, but, I might see a trip to the Krispy Kreme drive-through in my future. haha

  12. I’ve never made monkey bread- but this variation looks delightful!

  13. Isn’t it too crazy the pressure we put on ourselves (and then subtly transfer to anyone and everyone we get close to)? Thanks for the permission to just… relax :)

    And lovely, lovely Monkey Bread.

  14. wonderful post and a great recipe as always–you are awesome!

  15. Thanks for the shout out! I totally agree with you. Why not make a gingerbread house for Valentine’s Day? And why do we always have to put the bar too high? Simplicity is the answer…

    A lovely creation! I can’t wait to make Monkey bread.



  16. you pretty much summed up what $500 in therapy cost me and the pshycologist didnt give me a recipe at the end!

  17. This looks good. Not sure if you have ever played the game Baking Life on Facebook, but this monkey bread resembles the monkey bread on Baking Life, which is good because when it came out I was like woah, for a computer game, this looks delicious!

  18. This is a great post – the monkey bread looks absolutely delicious, and I totally agree with your comments on expecting too much of ourselves! A good reminder to put things in perspective. :)

  19. This post. Speaks to me. I have spent so much time being unhappy with myself or my situation or things that have happened to me…when really I just need to let it go. whatever happens happens. Etcetera.

    And really what I should be spending my time doing is waiting for this brioche to rise. I didn’t think monkey bread could get any better. But as usual, you’ve proved me wrong :P

  20. Amen,Peabody! Most of us tend to be our harshest critics. I know I am. This year for the Holidays, I made a conscious effort not to have any expectations – to just let whatever happened, happen. I had one of the most pleasant Holiday season in years!

    P.S. Love the Monkey Bread! :)

  21. I definitely learned to lower my expectations over the holidays. I’m 7 months pregnant, and just too tired to do anything!! But I may just have to muster up the energy to make this, because it looks amazing!

  22. Don’t worry about the gingerbread house, the one I bought LAST year is still in it’s box waiting to be made. It’s a prebaked one and they really aren’t intended to be eaten so i’m not worried about it being stale. It will get made at some point. Right now it is holding up a couple of cookbooks. We gave up on having big dinners for holidays. If someone else wants to host one, we’ll be happy to attend and I’ll even bring something sweet. But we have enjoyed Thanksgiving so much more when it’s just the 4 of us. We go to one inlaw’s house on Christmas eve for a few hours and my folks drop by on Christmas day for a bit. We eat snack food while they are here. This year I didn’t even cook. We went to TGIFridays and left a big tip. It sucks they have to work Christmas night for the boneheads like me that don’t want to cook, but we tip extra that night so hopefully it makes it a little better. I would have gone to Mc Donald’s that night if that was all that was open just son I didn’t have to cook. The 4 of us just don’t care what we are eating as long as we are together. I got sick at the beginning of December and couldn’t get all of my baking done. It upset me at first, but the folks my hubs works with were so excited about what I did make that it made me realize I didn’t have to bake 10 different things every year. I like the lower expectations. I can enjoy the holidays more. No one is keeping score. :)

  23. holy cow I didn’t realize I wrote that much!

  24. I needed this (not the monkey bread, even though it looks lovely). Thanks for posting.

  25. Your advice is right on….and the chocolate monkey bread is a killer recipe!
    I didn’t make a gingerbread house from scratch, but did go to a class to decorate one. :)

  26. Wow. I think you’ve nailed my baking project for the day.

  27. Excellent post. I agree, set the bar so low you can trip over it, then you can achieve success!

    I always feel motivated to make a gingerbread house before December, never in December, so I decided this year to make it when the mood strikes, not when the calendar says to.

  28. My 13yr old daughter will be attempting Baked Exploration’s Monkey Bread for my birthday. Your’s looks so yummy, and light textured. I’m all for more chocolate for breakfast.

    Unrealistic expectation, oy! Guilty as charged. I actual got three little gingerbread houses made BUT I let the kids decorate them–anyway they wanted–all by themselves–no interfering. AND they decorated the tree. I didn’t touch a single ornament,nor did I move any when no one was looking or attempt to “fix” it in any way after they were done.
    Men, holidays, self, LOL, you don’t need to lower your expectation–which can sound and feel negative, but have different or alternative expectations! I wish you a Content New Year!

  29. Please pass a napkin my way to stop the drooling. AH!

  30. Oh lady, you have a way of putting together all the sinfully good food groups into one recipe – this looks scrump-dili-umptious!

  31. Marcie S.O. says:

    OMG… this looks SO delish!! I’m drooling =P

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