Sunday, November 20, 2011

Monkeying Around (Monkey Bread, Walnuts, Maple-Cream Cheese Icing)

Once upon a time, all of our family in Montoursville would gather round the table on Sunday mornings for family brunch. Come to think of it, I think that time was so long ago our nephew Dylan wasn't even born, yet, but the point is that it's been a while. I wanted to get everyone back together to spend some quality time, breakfast-style, so monkey bread was definitely in order.

Have a bite
Monkey bread, at least according to Wikipedia, is a somewhat unique creation endemic to the US, recently emerged circa the 1950s, and now poised for world domination. It is perhaps unsurprising that the fine nation which gave us the Bacon Explosion and deep-fried butter is also responsible for a recipe consisting primarily of pop-n'-fresh biscuits doused in molten butter and dredged in sugar but, as with the aforementioned motley crew, not every food needs to be entirely wholesome to still be an enjoyable experience.

Sweet indulgence
I wouldn't recommend basing a diet around it, but monkey bread offers a different take on wholesome: a simple creation to share with one's family. My mom always made monkey bread for us when I was younger, shaking the pieces in an old orange Tupperware that springs to my memory faster than one can say In Search of Lost Time.

Growing up, perhaps due to its questionable nutritional value, monkey bread faded from our lives. Like Santa and snowmen and Saturday morning cartoons it seemingly evaporated into adulthood, to sit a memory and nothing more. That all changed when, one night in college, I decided to make it for my roommates. After that, "Midnight Monkey Bread" worked its way into our rag-tag assortment of traditions, the perfect foil to the stress of cramming for finals.

Breakfast *and* stress relief: it's a twofer
Since I have so many associations of comfort and community with it (and since we have young nephews), it's the perfect choice for family breakfast get togethers. As if there could be any doubt, I assure you that kids love it. To take my 3-year-old nephew Ben's analysis: "it looks like bread, but tastes like cake," and the so-called "monkeycake" is an easy crowd pleaser that you can whip up before you've even had your morning coffee.

So easy the work's done for you
Easy Monkey Bread with Walnuts and Maple-Cream Cheese Icing

It's a lot of butter and a lot of sugar but, sometimes, that's okay. Few adults can eat more than one biscuit's worth without surrendering, so be sure to pair it with a vegetable frittata or fruit salad, as to ease everyone's conscience.

2 sticks of butter
1 tbs vanilla extract
2 cans of pop-n'-fresh biscuits (or prepare biscuits from scratch, overachiever)
2 cups turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tbs freshly ground cinnamon
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 c pure maple syrup
1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a Bundt pan or cake pan with about 2 tbs of the butter. Then melt the remainder over medium heat in a small, heavy saucepan. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Dripping with anticipation
Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and quarter the biscuits. Use a slotted spoon to thoroughly douse biscuit bites in the molten butter, then toss in the sugar mixture to coat. Gently place the finished pieces into the buttered pan. Do not squash the monkey bread.

Cooking time varies based upon the dish you use: loaded up into a Bundt pan, it should take about 40 minutes. The monkey bread should be golden and crisp, with a crusty caramel topping and little to no give when gently poked with a finger. Arranging a smaller layer in a shallow cake pan cooks faster, about 20 minutes.

Crispetty Crunchetty
Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes while you toast the walnuts. Arrange the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, reclaiming them from the oven as soon as their aroma permeates the kitchen.

To make the icing, whisk together the cream cheese and maple syrup in a small bowl until fully incorporated and no lumps remain. The mixture should be fairly runny.

Absolutely gratuitous
Invert a plate on top of the monkey bread and flip the pan to unmold. Pour on the icing and top with toasted walnuts. Serve warm so the pieces can be easily pulled apart with one's fingers.

All dressed up and ready to go


marissa | Rae Gun Ramblings said...

THis looks amazing I'll be making this for Christmas brunch thanks for sharing the deliciousness.

Also if you want I have a link party and I'd love you to add any of your favorite recipes.

Jp1083 said...

Hi, Marissa!

I hope Christmas brunch went well. In my opinion, gooey monkey bread makes a great present. :)