Monkey Bread: Just Say Dough

The final, delicious product.
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan served Monkey Bread regularly at the White House. Monkey Bread before it goes in the oven.

Let's Bring Back: one of the superstars of the 1980s kitchen -- Monkey Bread.

When I was in high school, my mom discovered a great recipe for turning refrigerator rolls into the most amazing pull-apart dessert bread. Called Monkey Bread, it was a favored recipe of the 1980s, partly because Nancy Reagan made it a staple at casual White House functions. But the origins of the name Monkey Bread are as murky as the origins of the recipe itself.

Here's Michael Boodro (New York Times, Feb 2003) trying to explain Monkey Bread: "Since monkeys are known for gleefully pulling at, well, everything, it makes sense that an audience-participation loaf should be called monkey bread. Formed of balls of dough and baked in a ring mold, monkey bread emerges as golden puffs that are irresistible to both hand and eye. The idea is that you pick it apart like a bunch of . . . that it's more fun than a barrel of. . . . You get the idea.

While no four-star chef seems to have proclaimed his devotion to monkey bread, there is one exemplar of high style and taste who has happily attached her name to this confection. Nancy Reagan served monkey bread in the White House, especially during the holidays, and her recipe was printed in the American Cancer Society Cookbook, published in 1985. Not surprisingly, her version is monkey bread at its purest and most elegant: buttery and yeasty, as much brioche as bread."

I did find Nancy Reagan's recipe while I was researching this blog. Would you like it? Let me know and I'll pass it on. For a contemporary take on this fantastic baked good, this Saturday, March 10, you can see Chef Amy Hoyt create it and then share it with her audience -- details here.

--"Just Say Dough," Michael Boodro, The New York Times, February 23, 2003 (Section 6; Page 64)

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