Tomorrow, there’s a class potluck at Mingus’ school and my little monkeys will be making Monkey Bread. This treat, masquerading as “bread”, is delightful. It’s gooey and crunchy and pulls apart in perfect bite-sized morsels. As a little girl, I loved visiting my Great Aunt Betts, not least because I’d find Monkey Bread in her kitchen. I wondered why it is called monkey bread. And by the time I was old enough to ask for the recipe, I realized it is so easy to make, even a monkey can do it.
This kid-friendly adaptation of Aunt Betts’ recipe has a sum total of four ingredients: refrigerator biscuits, butter, raw sugar and cinnamon. I believe Betts added walnuts, but Mingus’ classroom accommodates a child with food allergies and is therefore nut-free.
As I place the biscuit canisters in front of the kids, Mingus hordes the canisters, eager to claim his role as chef. Beluga snatches one, rolls it off the edge of the table. Thump! Fortunately, Mingus shares his brother’s humor and willingly gives up the rest of the biscuits to a similar fate. Thrilled, Beluga feels the toddler need to bite. And having finally learned not to bite Mingus, he bites his own wrist instead.
Pop! Mingus peels back the paper wrapping on each biscuit container. It’s like opening a bottle of champagne: anticipation and a loud noise followed by the satisfaction of working their way through the contents. They peel apart the doughy biscuits – divying them up between themselves. Mingus understands the task at hand and deliberately cuts each biscuit into cherry-sized pieces. Beluga looks at the biscuits and sees Play-doh.
As Beluga watches his brother cut apart the dough, he tries his plastic scissors and declares, “Too hard!” I hear him rummaging through his Play-doh basket. Beluga comes back to the kitchen with a toy rotary cutter.
It’s not very effective either. But Beluga doesn’t linger with disappointment. He sneaks a pair of forbidden metal scissors. I concede the need for a big boy tool and hold the dough while he clutches the handles, saying, “I’ll supervise”. Mingus notices the breach of house rules and I wait for his protest.
“He can use my scissors. They are a little sharper,” suggests Mingus. Has big brother extended the olive branch? Beluga shows his appreciation with new seriousness. Preparing to work, he readjusts his diaper and says, “Sit down.” Five minutes later, the dough is cut and assembled for the next step.
We pour cinnamon into a bowl and dunk each chunk of dough in it until covered. Beluga turns the exercise into a construction site – “Beep! Beep!” “Vrroomm” “Backhoe lift… dump” – as he transfers the dough from the cinnamon bowl to a holding dish. The classic way to do this step is to put the sugar and cinnamon in a Ziploc bag and shake the dough around inside. Caution: young children are prone to throwing, whacking and causing other forms of minor mischief. I would rather not have a sugar bomb explode in my kitchen. So we dunk the dough in a bowl.
When Beluga shows signs of boredom, I hand him the cinnamon shaker. What Monkey Bread doesn’t need a little more cinnamon?
Mingus unwraps two sticks of butter and we microwave it until melted. He pours in a cup of sugar and a few shakes of cinnamon, then stirs the concoction together.
Assembling the Monkey Bread requires layering the chunks of dough with the butter/sugar melt.
The boys have never had Monkey Bread before and are skeptical about cooking it.
The Monkey Bread finally emerges from the oven. It has spread a tantalizing aroma throughout the apartment. The kids and I stare at it. I can feel saliva pooling in my mouth. Weakend by my own desire, I capitulate, “Let’s just eat it!” The boys cheer. And alone at midnight, I assemble another Monkey Bread for the school potluck.
4 cannisters of flakey (not homestyle) refrigerator biscuits
5 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks salted butter
Cut up each of the biscuits into six pieces, then dunk them into cinnamon and 1/2 cup of sugar until they’re covered. Then, melt two sticks of butter in the microwave. Two minutes should suffice. Add the sugar and leftover cinnamon mix into the butter and stir. Alternate three to four times, adding dough and pouring the butter concoction into a bundt pan. Cook in a preheated over at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let the Monkey Bread cool for 10 minutes, then turn over onto a platter. Enjoy:)
This, of course, is not an original recipe. It comes to me from my Great Aunt Betts. It came to her most likely from Pillsbury, which now posts the Grands!(R) Monkey Bread recipe online.