Monkey bread was probably invented in the 1940s or 1950s. Monkey bread pulls apart; why that is named after a monkey is anyone’s guess. Gorilla bread is similar, adding cream cheese and chopped walnuts to the recipe.
Helen Corbitt offered Neiman-Marcus Monkey Bread in Dallas in the 1960s. Monkey bread is included in many Texas cookbooks.
The 1968 Dallas Morning News “Story of Monkey Bread” by Frank X. Tolbert (below) is interesting and may be authoritative, but it cannot be confirmed with 1940s or 1950s newspaper evidence.
Wikipedia: Monkey Bread
Monkey Bread, also called “Affenbrot” (German, literally meaning “ape bread”), is a sticky, gooey pastry served as a breakfast treat. It is made with slices of bread dough which are baked in a cake pan at high heat after first being individually covered in cinnamon, sugar and melted butter. It is traditionally served hot so that the baked segments can be easily torn away with the fingers and eaten by hand.
Texas Monthly: Recipe Swap
Re: Neiman Marcus Monkey Bread
Date: 05-03-05 19:48
Maybe this one is a little closer to the mark. This recipe was the late Helen Corbitt’s contribution of the Mariposa restaurant when Neiman Marcus opened at the Galleria 35 years ago.” From the Houston Chronicle. Serve warm with Strawberry Butter.
Neiman Marcus Monkey Bread
1 1/2 compressed yeast cakes
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted plus melted butter for dipping
3 1/2 cups flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place milk in heavy bottomed pan on low heat.
Stir occasionally until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan and milk is just hot (do not boil) Remove from heat; let cool slightly.
Place yeast and scalded milk in a large bowl.
When yeast is dissolved, stir in sugar, salt and butter.
Add flour; beat well.
Cover and allow dough to rise to almost double (approximately 45 minutes).
After dough has risen, turn out onto lightly floured work surface.
Punch down and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut into 2” diamond shaped pieces.
Dip each piece in melted butter.
Arrange in a 4” pie pan, 4 or 5 overlapping pieces per loaf.
Allow to rise for 1/2 hour.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until brown.
Remove from oven and brush with more of the melted butter.
Monkey bread is fun to make and absolutely delicious to eat. No bread knife needed, since this is a true pull-apart loaf. This bread can be mixed in the traditional manner, by hand, or in the dough cycle of your bread machine.
2-1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
4 cups white flour, plus more for kneading if needed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm milk
3/4 cup warm water
3 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped (see Note, below)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cup light brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
Lightly grease a 10-inch tube, 9-inch springform or Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, combine the yeast, flour, salt and sugar, making a well in the center. In a separate container, stir together the milk, water, 2 tablespoons melted butter and egg. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir together to form a soft dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl that has been lightly sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Brush dough with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter, and cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
While bread is rising, mix together the toasted pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for two minutes. Divide dough into 30 equal pieces. Shape pieces into balls.
Dip each ball into the melted butter, then roll in the pecan mixture. Place in prepared pan. Do not pack pieces together, but leave some space between the dough pieces. Sprinkle any remaining pecan mixture and melted butter over the dough pieces. Cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
Bake in a 375°F preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Bread should rise well above the top of the pan and be golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
1 February 1946, Los Angeles Times, pg. A5:
SURE CURE—Helen Weigel Brown, New York career girl visiting in Los Angeles, is as cool as a cucumber and nothing seems to ruffle her. But it wasn’t always that way and Helen admits it. She used to be a quaking mass of nerves till she cured herself, and you’d never guess how! By making bread—raisin bread, monkey bread, rye bread, egg bread!
26 September 1957, Los Angeles Times, pg. A5:
Here are the three most-asked-for recipes: turkey Marco Polo, monkey bread and frosted grapes.
Rich, Buttery Dough
Monkey bread, so popular with the ladies at luncheon, is a rich, buttery bread. Serve it with your favorite jam or preserve for a breakfast treat or at tea time, too.
1 1/2 cakes, yeast
1 cup lukewarm milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups sifted enriched flour
Melted butter or margarine.
METHOD: Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk. Add sugar 1/2 cup melted butter, salt and flour. Beat well. Place in large greased bowl, cover with clean cloth and let rise until doubled in bulk. Knock down and roll out on floured board very thin. Cut dough in diamond-shaped pieces.
Dip each piece in melted butter and arrange in a ring mold until mold is half filled. Let rise until it reaches the top of the pan. Bake at 400 deg. until golden brown. Turn out on a round plate and let guests break off pieces. This makes a rich bread.
February 1961, Gourmet magazine, pg. 65, col. 1:
Q: Do you have a recipe for monkey bread—baked in a ring mold?
MRS. JAMES WESTON
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
A: We have the recipe, but we can’t for the life of us figure out why it should be called
Dissolve 1 1/2 packages yeast (dry or compressed) in 1 cup lukewarm scalded milk. Stir in 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup melted butter, and 3 1/2 cups flour. Beat the dough well, cover it, and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it doubles in bulk. Pat the dough into a rectangle on a floured board and cut it into diamond-shaped pieces about 2 1/2 inches long. Roll each diamond in melted butter and arrange them in a 9-inch ring mold. The mold will be about half full. Let the bread rise until it fills the mold and bake it in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for about 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown.
3 September 1961, Independent-Press-Telegram Cookbook (Long Beach, CA), pg. 28:
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
2 pkgs active yeast
4 tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
4 tblsp. melted butter or shortening
3 1/2 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in milk, stir in sugar, salt, eggs, butter and flour; mix well, cover and let rise in a warm place until almost double in bulk. Roll out on a lightly figured board to cut one-fourth-inch thick. Cut in diamond shaped pieces about 3 inches across. Dip each piece in melted butter and arrange in a large ring mold. Fill about half full. Let rise almost double in bulk. Bake in a moderate over (400 degrees) for 30 minutes. It is served whole and each guest pulls off the buttered layers.
MRS. E. R. FERRELL,
2325 Daisy Ave.
10 April 1963, Daily Times-News (Burlington, NC), AP Food editor Cecily Brownstone article, pg. 40:
Sleuthing around among recipes, we find that bubble loaves and monkey bread are kissin’ kin.
Bubble loaf came into being some years ago when cooks discovered how easy it was to pinch off pieces of yeast dough, dip them in melted butter or margarine, and toss them into a pan to bake.
Next monkey bread appeared on the scene. Some ambitious cook decided to roll and cut the dough into diamonds instead of pinching off pieces of dough at random. The neat diamonds were then given a coating of melted butter or margarine and layered in a tube pan. The trick here is to stagger the diamonds are they are layered in the pan. After baking, this monkey bread turns into one of the prettiest concoctions we’ve ever laid eyes on. So pretty in fact we’ve renamed it Petal Bread.
(Long recipe for “Petal Bread” follows—ed.)
25 April 1966, San Francisco Examiner, “Mahalia’s (Mahalia Jackson—ed.) Monkey Bread” celebrity recipe, pg?:
For instance, Monkey Bread is not something you will find in common books, or even uncommon ones. Miss Jackson does not say where the name comes from, though, as with so many old family recipes, perhaps this one has been a traditional favorite for so long that its origin is lost, and it is called “Monkey Bread” simply because that’s what it’s always been called.
28 April 1968, Dallas Morning News, “Tolbert’s Texas,” section A, pg. 25:
Story of Monkey Bread
by Frank X. Tolbert
MRS. VIVIAN HARTMAN, a Dallas friend to whose good taste I genuflect, said: “When you go to Albany be sure and pick up some of Ann King’s monkey bread. You can buy it, I think, at the Piggly Wiggly store in Albany.”
So, when I was in Albany, Texas, last week I did buy some monkey bread and I talked with monkey bread’s inventor, Mrs. Ann King.
The monkey bread turned out to be just great. At the store it comes frozen in a 1-pound ring, like an angel food cake in conformation. You just brown it, and then become an addict.
MRS. ANN KING and her husband, Richard King, live in a neat white frame house in a mesquite grove on the outskirts of Albany. Mrs. King says that she will soon be 62, but with her fine, unlined, lemon-colored countenance she looks to be at least a dozen years younger.
We sat on the side stoop in cool sunshine, with cardinals playing around in the trees, and an Appaloosa horse watching us from a pasture across the road. And we talked, mostly about monkey bread.
“When it got so popular, and stores began carrying it here and in Abilene and other towns around close, I took out a patent,” said Mrs. King. “I understand some restaurant in Dallas is serving what they call monkey bread, but one of my customers say it doesn’t taste nearly so good as mine.”
THE KINGS are leading culinary artists in Albany. Richard King is a barbecue specialist, and there is a big barbecue pit, fed by mesquite knots, and several steel smoke houses in the yard.
“I’ve been cooking all my life, but now I just bake monkey bread here at home,” said Mrs. King. “I’m from Anadarko in Oklahoma and Richard was born here in Fort Griffin. We went out to Los Angeles during the war (World War II) and my husband was one of the first Negro men to go to work for Lockheed. I worked for a woman in Burbank who lived next to Zasu Pitts, and Miss Pitts and I became good friends. I’m telling you this because Miss Pitts helped me work out the formula for monkey bread.”
YOU REMEMBER Zasu Pitts? She was the great character actress, the sweet-faced, willowy woman with popping, bewildered eyes and she was much given to anxiously wringing her hands when before the movie cameras.
“Miss Pitts—she’s gone now—was a good cook,” said Ann King, and she displayed an autographed copy of one of Miss Pitts’ cookbooks, this one on candy making called “Candy Hits by Zasu Pitts.” “As I said, she helped me during the experimenting that finally resulted in monkey bread. Why did we call it that? Well, when we finally found the just right recipe we were being deviled by some young children. So we named it for those little monkeys.”
THE ROLL OF BREAD is all twisted up in spaghetti snarls. I like it rather well browned. And it’s so “short” you don’t need any butter with it.
Monkey bread! It’s wonderful!