Monkey around

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

April is a transitional month where showers give way (thank goodness) to promised flowers, and umbrellas are eventually traded for shorts and (gulp!) bathing suits. Certainly, April is the perfect month to get rid of any extra plumpness, pudginess, paunchiness or any other weighty matters that accumulated over the winter.

We should also pack away heavy appetites along with our winter wardrobes. But, occasionally, it’s necessary to indulge a craving, especially when downpours and drizzles dampen weekend mornings, canceling baseball games, bike trips or any other outdoor activity. A cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and a comfort food (homemade, sweet and warm) should temporarily soothe any dampened savage soul’s sweet tooth.

A sweet treat: Satisfy your sweet tooth with these recipes for Sticky Swirl (pictured above) and Monkey Bread.

The following recipes are a few generations removed from the original monkey bread, also known as bubble bread, puzzle bread, sticky bread, golden dumplings, etc. Referenced as early as 1880, the Hungarian/Jewish sweet bread (Aranygaluska) and the German sweet bread (Affenbrot), meaning Ape Bread, were introduced here by immigrants.

The origin of the name “Monkey Bread” is sketchy. Monkey Bread resembles the fruit inside the gourd of the baobab tree — also called the monkey puzzle tree. Zazu Pitts, silent screen-into-the-1950s actress, cook and friend of Nancy Reagan’s mother, published and popularized her Monkey Bread recipe in the Winnipeg Free Press in 1945, claiming that “you just monkey around with it.” It later enjoyed a resurgence, when the Reagans served it as a Christmas favorite at the White House.

No need to petition St. Honore, the patron saint of bakers, for help with the following recipes, as packaged biscuits produce two sweet options.

MRS. T’S STICKY SWIRL

1 large Bundt/tube pan (one piece — 12-cup capacity)

1 cup dark Karo

½ cup raisins, optional

½ cup walnuts, optional

1 stick butter (¼ lb.)

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup white sugar

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

4 packages of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (12 oz.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line bottom of pan with dark Karo syrup and sprinkle in walnuts and raisins, if using. Set aside.

Cut the stick of butter into quarters, lengthwise. Then slice each quarter into 10 equal pieces. (This yields 40 little pats of butter.)

In a separate dish, put brown sugar, white sugar and cinnamon. Mix well with a fork. Thoroughly coat each biscuit in the sugar cinnamon mixture.

Arrange biscuits in the pan, making sure they are standing up, and place a pat of butter between each biscuit. Pour any remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture over the biscuits in the pan.

Bake 50 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Allow to stand 2–3 minutes. Place a plate larger than the Bundt/tube pan over pan. Carefully invert, turning bread out (syrup will be very hot) onto the plate.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

MONKEY BREAD

3 packages refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (12 oz.)

1 cup white sugar

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1 stick (¼ lb.) butter

½ cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup walnuts, chopped, optional

½ cup raisins, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a 10-inch Bundt/tube pan

Put white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag and shake to mix.

Cut biscuits into quarters. Add quarters from each biscuit package to cinnamon-sugar bag, shaking bag to coat them. Distribute the pieces into the prepared pan.

Continue adding and shaking remaining 2 packages of biscuit dough pieces in the cinnamon-sugar bag.

Sprinkle raisins and nuts, if using, between the layers.

Distribute leftover sugar on top of dough.

Melt butter in a saucepan, add the brown sugar, cook and stir until sugar is melted. Pour over biscuits.

Bake 35–40 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Allow to stand 2–3 minutes. Place a plate larger than the Bundt/tube pan over pan. Carefully invert, turning bread out (syrup will be very hot) onto the plate.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at Whats-cook-inNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)