It’s hard not to notice that sock monkeys have made a comeback in pop culture. In my family, some were terrified of them as children and regard them as monstrous, not at all cute.
But we humans are perpetually fascinated with monkey things — their images regularly come and go in home decor, for example. And even in food, we have the entry of “monkey bread,” which started showing up in American magazines and cookbooks about 50 years ago
Also known as bubble loaf, puzzle bread and pinch-me cake, monkey bread is the result of placing balls of yeast dough against each other in one pan for baking. So when done, the surface looks bumpy like cobblestone and is pulled apart for eating.
It can be made sweet or savory, but sweet seems to be more common. One way is with the dough balls dipped in butter and then in cinnamon, sugar and often nuts.
The clumped-together monkey bread “style” has more refined relatives in its family tree, as well: think Parker House rolls, for example.
But where did the name come from?
Food writers have theorized over the years, but there’s no definitive answer. Some suggest the bread resembles the monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana. Another possibility is the fruit of the baobab tree of Africa, which also is called monkey bread. Or perhaps, as author and journalist John F. Mariani once wrote, it looks like “a bunch of monkeys jumbled together.”
In 2003, The New York Times speculated: “Since monkeys are known for gleefully pulling at, well, everything, it makes sense that an audience-participation loaf should be called monkey bread.”
OK, let’s quit monkeying around and get to the point. Shirley Turner requested a monkey bread recipe of the savory sort — a great accompaniment to a hot bowl of chili, she remembers.
We heard from Nancy Mandat of Johns Island. “I hope this is what she is looking for. It is very good.”
One-Rise Monkey Bread
Makes 1 pull-apart loaf
Dried dill weed (optional)
3 to 31/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided use
1 package dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup very warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup butter, melted
Grease a 12-cup fluted tube pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the dill weed, if desired.
In large bowl, blend 11/2 cups flour and next six ingredients. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in remaining 11/2 to 2 cups flour. On floured surface, knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Press or roll to 15x12-inch rectangle. Using knife, cut dough into diamond-shaped pieces by cutting into 11/2- to 2-inch strips diagonally across dough.
In shallow pan, melt butter. Dip each piece into melted butter and layer in prepared pan, overlapping pieces. Sprinkle each layer with about 1/2 teaspoon dill weed, if using.
Cover; let rise in warm place until light and double in size, 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until deep golden brown. Cool upright in pan 2 minutes; turn onto serving plate. Serve warm.
Patsy Johnson of Johns Island writes, “I believe this is the monkey bread recipe one of your readers was looking for. ... It was published in Southern Living magazine in November 1982. I still have that issue as it contained a collection of all-time favorite recipes and included this one for monkey bread. ... I may have to try this now that I’ve found it again.”
Yield: One 10-inch loaf
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package dry yeast
31/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
Combine milk, 1/2 cup butter, sugar and salt in saucepan; heat until butter melts. Cool to 105-115 degrees; add yeast, stirring until dissolved.
Place flour in large bowl; add milk mixture, and stir until well-blended.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees) about 1 hour and 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Roll into 11/2-inch balls; dip each in melted butter.
Layer balls of dough in a 10-inch one-piece tube pan or Bundt pan. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes).
Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes; then invert onto serving plate.
Daris Burns also sent a recipe, for anyone interested in a quantity for a larger crowd:
Makes 2 pans
2 packages yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
11/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup boiling water
2 beaten eggs
6 cups plain/all-purpose flour
2 sticks melted butter or margarine
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in lukewarm water.
In a large second bowl, mix shortening, sugar and salt. Add the boiling water and mix well. Add eggs and stir.
Add flour and yeast mixture alternately to shortening mixture. Work in flour until dough will pull away from side of bowl.
Grease the bowl so the dough will not stick to sides. Cover bowl with cloth and put the bowl away from cold air. Let rise until it doubles in size. Punch down.
Roll out dough on floured surface to about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thickness. Do not work too much. Cut into various shapes as you wish — squares, triangles, round, etc. Dip shapes in melted margarine or butter and lay pieces in layers in tube pan until pan is half full. Let rise to top of pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes until light brown. Very good while warm.
Note: Can be refrigerated after it has risen the first time and punched down.
Holly H. Bagdonas saved a “shortcut” recipe she clipped from The Post and Courier’s Food section in 2010.
The recipe notes to be certain to buy frozen dough, not par-baked bread (which already has been partially cooked). Also, the easiest way to thaw the dough is to leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
Herbed Monkey Bread
11/2 cups grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
3 pounds purchased frozen white bread dough, thawed
Lightly coat a large, smooth Bundt pan or ring cake pan with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, mix together the cheese, oregano, thyme, parsley and black pepper. Place the butter in a bowl.
Cut the dough into about 60 walnut-size pieces. Dunk each piece into the melted butter, allowing the excess to drip off, then roll each in the herb-cheese mixture. Place the dough pieces in the prepared pan, arranging them evenly in about 3 layers. The pan should be filled slightly more than halfway. Avoid overfilling the pan. Excess dough can be arranged in another smaller pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until risen and puffy. About 15 minutes before the dough has finished rising, heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the monkey bread for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through (the internal temperature should be 200 degrees). Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing.
Thanks also to Anne Turner of Moncks Corner, Sandra Salmon of Summerville and Nancyjean DeLoache Nettles of Harleyville.
Who’s got the recipe?
Sharon Cook of Charleston writes, “I would love to get recipes for hot drinks other than the usual hot chocolate or hot toddies made with lemon, honey, and tea, with or without alcohol.”
Speaking of chili, a West Ashley reader asked for chili recipes that are exclusively pork or include pork.
Have a recipe you’ve lost or simply desire? Email food@postandcourier or call Food and Features Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.
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