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January 11, 2011

Monkey Bread, the traditional holiday treat

Some things you cook for your own enjoyment.  Most things, though, are meant to be shared.  So, a squeal of delight when I mention making something is usually enough to guarantee that it gets made.  Everyone, you can thank Jane for the monkey bread!

monkey bread

I am boggled by the number of people I’ve talked to who have never heard of or eaten monkey bread.  If you have not had the good fortune to encounter it in your life, as my brother-in-law put it, it’s like the center of the cinnamon roll in every bite.  Some people do not frost it, but I don’t truck with those people.

When you look at this recipe, you’re going to think I’m awfully lazy.  But I swear, I looked at 20 monkey bread recipes, and they ALL called for canned biscuits.  Add in a new baby (aka the official monkey of monkey bread), and I just went with it.  If you’re turned off by the idea, which I totally understand, Smitten Kitchen makes real dough when she makes monkey bread.

After serving at Christmas, Jane declared that it was better than the time I made pavlovas, heretofore the high water mark of my desserts. Hence, the traditional Monkey Bread of Christmas, hearkening back to the storied holiday of 2010, has now been entered into Helen’s Great Big Book of Holiday Traditions, right after the traditional Gifting of the Wool Socks.

Monkey Bread

  • 30-36 oz. of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (depending on which type you choose, this is 2-4 containers)
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark does not matter)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) butter

Cut up your biscuits into quarters.  Mix together the cinnamon and granulated sugar in a bowl or ziploc bag.  Toss your biscuit pieces in batches until they are all well coated.

tossing the dough balls

Place biscuit pieces in a bundt pan.  On the stovetop, melt your butter in a pan, and bring to a boil.  When it is boiling, pour in your brown sugar, and boil for another minute, no longer!  (I burned the first batch of sugar boiling it too long.)  Pour the mixture into your bundt pan.

more sugar

Bake for 40-50 minutes, depending on how crispy you want it.  This one was baked for almost 50 minutes.  If you believe that monkey bread should be unfrosted, you may find this a bit dry.  I’d increase the butter/brown sugar mixture to 2 sticks of butter, and 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, to make it gooeyier.


Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1.5 cups confectioner’s sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or less to taste

Add cream cheese and butter to a bowl, and beat together with an electric mixer for at least 2 minutes.  Add confectioner’s sugar in 1/4 to 1/2 cup increments; any more increases the risk of it flying all over you and your kitchen when you turn on your mixer.  Your total mixing time should be in the 5 to 8 minute range for maximum fluffiness.  At the end, add your vanilla extract and lemon juice.


I like my cream cheese frosting tangy.  If you like yours sweeter, you could add up to an additional cup of confectioner’s sugar.  Or start with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and add by teaspoons from there, beating and tasting as you go.

This makes enough to glaze the top of the monkey bread, plus plenty left over for dipping! 


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