Monkey Bread is balls of flavoured bread dough cooked together, usually in a tube pan or in a long, rectangular pan.
You usually rip pieces off to eat it though you can also slice it.
Monkey Bread can be savoury or sweet. Sweet versions can include pecans, cinnamon, or blueberries. Savoury ones can use cheese, garlic and herbs.
To make Monkey Bread, you first make a batch of plain yeast-risen bread dough. You pinch small pieces off and roll them in your hands into small balls (or roll the dough into a log, and slice pieces off.)
You dip the dough balls in melted butter, and put them into the pan both side by side and stacking them, let the dough rise again, then bake.
If you are making a cinnamon version, after rolling the dough balls in melted butter, you would then roll them in cinnamon sugar. After they are assembled in the pan, you might drizzle it all with a glaze.
Some versions have a texture almost like brioche. Many quick versions use ready-made dough from store chillers.
Some versions are made to look almost look like a bunch of tropical fruit that a monkey might pull apart.
The trickiest part of making Monkey Bread is to make sure all the dough balls are actually cooked, particularly those that end up in the middle of the stack.
Monkey Bread started showing up in women’s magazines in the 1950s under the name of “Bubble Bread.”
It seems to have first appeared under the name of “Monkey Bread” in the New York Times in 1976.
Nancy Reagan served it at the White House in the 1980s under the name of “Monkey Bread.” Her recipe appeared in the American Cancer Society Cookbook (1985.)
Recipes for Monkey Bread started appearing in newspaper recipe columns by the late 1990s, and again in the New York Times on Sunday, 23 February 2003.
Even though Monkey Bread is quite recent, no one really has any idea where the name “Monkey” came from. Guesses revolve around pulling things apart, like monkey’s might, or that the cinnamon and brown sugar versions have a faint resemblance to “monkey pod,” a decorative wood used in Hawaii.