Monkey See, Monkey Bread

The first time I tasted Monkey Bread it was a disappointment. The pastry itself was very good, but when I heard the name “Monkey Bread,” I expected, well, monkeys, or at the very least some bananas or other tropical flavors. I’ve tasted a lot of versions over the years, some good, some not so good, and they’ve all featured the same cinnamon caramel flavors. No banana. No coconut. No monkeys. Monkey bread ought to have a little monkey in it, right? Goddamnit!*

Monkey Bread is a mid-century American classic of no definitive origin. It is typically made of sweet, yeasted bread dough balls that have been dipped in butter and rolled in sugar or coated with caramel. They’re piled on top of one another in a cake or bundt pan and served warm so that they easily pull apart. No wonder the name leaves us scratching our heads.

We’ve decided the time has come to monkey around with the recipe. By adding both fresh and dried banana, plenty of coconut (sugar, oil and cream), and a hearty kick of booze (in lieu of the monkeys), we’ve given a well-worn staple a tropical upgrade. The Graham flour isn’t necessary, but it does add a nice bite to the bread, and after all the sugar and booze it’s nice to know there’s a bit of nutrition in the bread.

This is a great breakfast or brunch treat that can be assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving.

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Banana Coconut Monkey Bread with Graham Flour

1/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
3 eggs
1 cup plus 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground dehydrated banana chips
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoons sea salt
1 cup graham flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoon coconut oil (solid form not above 77 degrees)
Nonstick cooking spray, for bowl
Coconut & Maple Butterscotch (see recipe below)
1 1/2 ripe bananas, pureed until smooth
1 cup dried banana chips, broken up
1 cup chopped pecans (walnuts, pistachios, and cashews are also good)
1/4 cup bourbon (or other booze such as Grand Marnier, Scotch, or Rum)


In a small saucepan, heat milk until just warmed through. Transfer to a large bowl and add yeast; stir to combine. Let stand 1 minute until yeast is dissolved. Add 1 egg and whisk to combine. Add 1/2 cups flour and mix until well combined. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup flour over top of mixture; cover with plastic wrap and let dough stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Transfer dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add remaining 2 eggs, powdered banana, coconut sugar, remaining all purpose and graham flours, and salt. Mix until dough forms a ball, adding more all purpose flour if necessary. Increase speed to medium and mix for about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add butter and coconut oil; mix until fully incorporated.

Lightly coat a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray and transfer dough to prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down and cover again with plastic wrap. Transfer to refrigerator until ready to use, up to 1 week.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup butterscotch and pureed bananas. Lightly coat 5 1-cup ovenproof dishes or ramekins with cooking spray; set dishes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place one tablespoon butterscotch in the bottom of each baking dish. Sprinkle some of the soaked banana chips and nuts over the butterscotch; set aside.

Divide dough into 6 equal pieces (about 6-ounces each). Working with 1 piece at a time, roll into a 6-inch-long rope using your hands. Cut rope into 8 equal pieces, add pieces to bowl with butterscotch mixture and toss to coat. Transfer dough pieces to a prepared baking dish; repeat process with remaining pieces of dough. Sprinkle each baking dish filled with dough with more banana chips, nuts, and a drizzle more of the banana butterscotch. Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until spongy, about 1 hour. (Can also be frozen at this point. To bake remove from freezer the night before and place in a warm area overnight before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush tops of dough with more butterscotch mixture. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating halfway through baking, until golden and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with remaining butterscotch, for dipping.

Coconut Maple Butterscotch

1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup coconut cream
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cups Stout beer

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt both sugars and butter over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and gradually add the coconut cream about 1/3 cup at a time.

Continue cooking at a gentle boil for 15-20 minutes or until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add salt and vanilla; stir to combine. Add stout and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool. Continue to stir occasionally as it cools to keep from separating.

* No little monkeys were harmed in the making of this sweet doughy treat!

Meyer Lemon: Meyer Lemon and Honey Meringue Tart

Even though the Meyer lemon is considered a winter fruit, we received a bagful of this sweeter version of a lemon, as a gift, a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t resist adding the Meyer lemon to our blog. From just reading the wiki entry, it seems that we owe a debt of gratitude to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse for reintroducing the Meyer lemon into the American diet. Although it seems like every friend of ours with a citrus tree has at least one Meyer lemon tree in their yard, most Americans are unfamiliar with this delightful kin of the common lemon.

The Meyer lemon is a cross between a traditional lemon and either a tangerine or an orange. It comes from China and was brought into the US at the beginning of the 1900’s. In the kitchen, the uses for the Meyer lemon are vast. It can be substituted for the regular lemon for a slightly sweeter, less acidic flavor, or for the orange or tangerine for more tartness.

The skin of the Meyer lemon is probably one of the most fragrant of all citrus. The skin is thin on the fruit and has a soft non-porous touch to it. The culinary uses for the Meyer lemon range from good old lemonade, to adding the juice to brine in preparation for cooking chicken, or adding the juice to olive oil for a vinaigrette, or putting them up as salt-cured preserves to be used as a condiment with Moroccan food.  Anything that calls for a lemon, or even an orange, may be substituted with Meyer lemons.

Meyer lemons are high in vitamin C, but they aren’t  nutritional powerhouses. You’ll get a small amount of calcium, fiber, and protein from them if you eat the whole fruit. We suggest that you use their delicious juice and zest for their unique flavor and not because of their nutritional value. Eat some leafy greens first to get your vitamins, then you’ll be able to have a Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart for dessert. Everything in moderation. Cheers!

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Meyer Lemon and Honey Curd

2/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/3 cup honey
3 eggs
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
zest of 1 Meyer lemon

Note: Before juicing the lemons, wash and zest at least one for the recipe.

Place a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water in it over medium heat, bring to a simmer. In a metal bowl that will fit on top of the saucepan, whisk the lemon juice, honey, and eggs together and place over the heated water. Make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.

Whisk over simmering water for 4-12 minutes or until thickened. The whisk should leave waves in the custard.

Take the bowl off the heat. Continue whisking the custard and add one tablespoon of butter at a time, making sure to thoroughly whisk the butter into the custard before adding another piece. Whisk the zest into the custard.

Serve warm or pour the custard into a glass storage container and cover the surface with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap. Completely cool at room temperature before refrigerating.

Optional: For added smoothness to your custard, pass through a fine mesh screen and omit the zest.

Almond Whole Wheat Crust

1-large 9” tart/ 4-medium 4″ tarts/Several small tarts

1/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
4 Amaretti cookies, crushed
7 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk
1 egg yolk

Combine the almond meal, flours, and crushed cookies together, set aside.

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer add the butter and the powdered sugar. Mix on low to combine. On low speed add the almond and flour mixture, and salt. Add the egg yolk and milk and stir to combine. The dough will be sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl and flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to a couple of days. The dough can also be frozen for up to 3 months, and thawed when ready to use.

When ready to roll, lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out to about a 1/8 inch thickness. Gently place the dough into a false bottom tart shell pan and press the dough into the edges of the pan. Press off the excess dough. Prick the dough several times with a fork and place the dough back into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degree while the tart rests in the fridge. Place the crust in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. For added crispiness of the tart shell, brush the inside of the tart with egg wash (a beaten egg with a little water) after 10 minutes of baking.

Meringue Topping

4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

In a large bowl over a pot of simmering water, heat the egg whites and sugar whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat, add the cream of tartar, and using an electric mixer beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Assembling the Tart

Pour the cooled curd into the prepared tart shell(s). Top with the meringue and, using a spatula or back of a spoon, push the meringue from the center of the pie to the sides, making large swirls and peaks in the meringue.

Place the pie in an oven set at  broil and toast until the meringue is light brown 3-4 minutes, watch carefully, or toast the meringue using a culinary torch.