Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

My daughter loves “monkey bread.” On the mornings when my daughter’s preschool is offering this as a special breakfast treat, I want to return to preschool and eat breakfast there. The smell of sweet bread is heavenly. So, when my daughter asked me one day after monkey bread had been offered (a rare treat on the breakfast menu), “Mama, can we have monkey bread for breakfast?”, I said “yes”.

Now, I never had monkey bread as a child, and I have never made monkey bread as an adult. So, when my internet search for monkey bread turned up the recipe I swallowed hard. “What had I promised my daughter?”

The recipe is sugar, more sugar and processed biscuit dough sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

Agghh. No wonder it’s a favorite breakfast of my daughter. It would be a favorite breakfast for me if I weren’t concerned about turning into a demented obese diabetic with clogged arteries by the time I’m 60.

So, after talking with some colleagues (also parents) and calming down a bit, I set out to make a better monkey bread.

  1. Pillsbury makes biscuit dough marketed under the name “Simply®”. This dough does not contain any high fructose corn syrup. That is one improvement, though the better choice would be to use my grandmother’s biscuit recipe.
  2. The coating is made with granulated sugar and cinnamon. Even though the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, I noticed that after my daughter finished coating all the biscuit pieces there was between one-third to one-half cup of the mix left. So, the mix is not using all of the sugar called for. So, an easy change would be to reduce the sugar to one-half or two-thirds cup.
  3. The topping calls for brown sugar and butter. I substituted locally produced honey for the brown sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar, so I used only 2/3 cup rather than the 1 cup called for. The advantages of using honey are that the sugars in honey tend to cause a slower increase/decrease in blood sugar, and using locally produced honey supports local farmers and producers.
  4. For the butter in the topping I used an omega-3 spread. This avoids transfats that are found in many partially hydrogenated spreads made from vegetable oils, and the spread I used provides a significant percentage of the RDA of omega-3 fats. A SLIGHT improvement.
  5. Most importantly, I involved my daughter in the cooking. The advantages here are huge.
    a. We introduced some math. Cutting biscuit circles into fourths introduced the concepts of fractions.
    b. She did the coating of the biscuit pieces in the sugar. This involved counting the pieces of biscuit each time she put them into the bag to shake them. It also involved an amazing amount of movement and activity on her part. She did a fair amount of work, and she wasn’t lying on the sofa watching cartoons while I prepared breakfast.

So, my conclusions about this experience? Monkey bread, even made with these substitutions, isn’t healthy. It is a sometimes, special breakfast treat. But it can be a fun part of a Saturday morning that offers an opportunity for gaining some math skills and more importantly a fun time spent interacting with my daughter.

I’ll serve the monkey bread with milk and some other protein to balance the high sugar, and we will spend lots of time outside running around to work off the extra calories.


Recipe for Monkey Bread (as modified)

  • 3 12oz. cans of Pillsbury “Simply” biscuits or a recipe of biscuit dough
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup omega-3, non-transfat butter spread
  • 2/3 cup locally produced honey
  • 1 tsp molasses
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease one 8- or 9-inch tube or Bundt® pan using a fat-free or omega-3 cooking spray. (Do not use a pan with a removable bottom.)
  2. Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Transfer half of the mixture to a 1-quart ZipLoc® plastic bag.
  3. Cut biscuits into quarters. Shake 6 to 8 biscuits pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Arrange pieces in the bottom the pan.
  4. In a small sauce pan, melt the omega-3/butter spread. Add molasses and the honey. Stir continually until well mixed and homogeneous.
  5. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and pour over the biscuits in the pan.
  6. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in a pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Do not cut; the bread pulls apart.

4 thoughts on “5 Tips for Building a Better Monkey…Bread

  1. Ken says:

    I’ll have to try this recipe some time (without dairy)…sounds yummy!

    1. Michele says:

      Oh, it is yummy. And addicting.

  2. I think we use this for our health fair 🙂

    1. Michele says:

      Please do. I’d be delighted.

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