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Lost classic desserts from our wide and varied past.

American Classics: Monkey Bread

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[Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

Planning brunch for a crowd? Skip the flowers for the table and instead serve up an edible centerpiece. I'm not talking flora made of cantaloupe. Think sticky. Think gooey. Think Monkey Bread.

Imagine dozens of cinnamon roll nuggets piled together and bound by caramel and you have Monkey Bread. Fluffy balls of yeast dough are dipped in plenty of butter, then rolled in plenty of brown sugar and baked in a Bundt pan to form a puzzle-cake. Drizzle it with a sweet glaze then serve it up warm and let the frenzy begin. Tearing it apart by hand is half the fun. If ever there was a dessert tailor-made for gluttony, it would be Monkey Bread.

The name "Monkey Bread" is sometimes attributed to silent film actress Zasu Pitts, but the exact origins of the breakfast treat are unknown. A similar recipe made the rounds in 1950s women's magazines as "bubbleloaf" on account of it being made up of distinct sections. Monkey Bread saw a resurgence in the '80s after Nancy Regan served it at the White House. Many recipes suggest using refrigerated biscuit dough, which works fine, but there's really no substitute for the light texture of homemade dough. While giving the dough a double rise is more time consuming, you're guaranteed to find yourself leftoverless.

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Monkey Bread »

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About the author: Alexandra Penfold is mild-mannered children's book editor by day, food ninja by night. Never one to skip dessert she's the Brownie half of Blondie & Brownie and a Midtown Lunch contributor. You can follow her on Twitter at @blondiebrownie.

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