"One of the greatest pleasures of monkey bread is pulling it apart, and in this regard the Archer Farms mix didn't disappoint."

Monkey Bread.jpg

[Photograph: Lucy Baker]

The origin of the term "monkey bread" is a sticky subject. Some attribute it to the round, edible fruit of the African baobab tree. Others argue that the way it's eaten—everyone yanking at it at once, stuffing pieces in their mouths as fast as they can—is reminiscent of monkey behavior.

Whatever the true source of the name may be, one thing is for certain: monkey bread is a scrumptiously gooey indulgence that appeals to the sugar-loving kid in all of us.

When it comes to actually baking a loaf of the syrupy sweet stuff, there are several options. You can bake it from scratch, use refrigerated biscuit dough, or a packaged mix. Recently, Archer Farms, Target's brand of "premium foods," introduced a mix for Caramel Monkey Bread that I couldn't wait to tear apart with my own sticky fingers for this week's Mixed Review.

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The box contained two packets: one filled with the bread mix, the other with what appeared to be plain light brown sugar. I combined the bread mix with 1 1/4 cups of water, then stirred and kneaded the mixture until it came together in a big ball. It felt quite gummy, and I could see flecks of cinnamon.

While the instructions called for preparing the caramel sauce (a simple combo of the light brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of butter, and 1/3 cup of heavy cream) in the microwave, I opted to make mine on the stovetop. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the results are better than zapped versions.

Once the two components of the mix—dough and sauce—were ready, I layered them in an 8-inch square pan. First half the sauce, then golf-ball size gobs of dough, then the rest of the sauce. Even raw the concoction looked delicious, like doughnut holes swimming in caramel soup. I slid the pan into a 450°F oven for 20 minutes.

I was worried that the caramel sauce would bubble up and overflow out of the sides of my pan, but when my kitchen timer chimed and I opened the oven door my monkey bread looked picture-perfect. The blobs of dough had puffed up into biscuit-like balls, and the caramel oozed over them like lava.

One of the greatest pleasures of monkey bread is pulling it apart, and in this regard the Archer Farms mix didn't disappoint. The pieces separated easily and the centers were chewy and moist, if a tad on the dense side, and flavored with cinnamon. The slick, buttery caramel sauce had me yearning for a little fleur de sel.

This monkey bread mix would make a memorably indulgent breakfast on its own, or a sweet substitution for the standard brunch basket of muffins and scones.

About the author: Lucy Baker is a freelance food writer and the author of the forthcoming cookbook, The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets.

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