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Monkey bread: It's more fun than a barrel of....

Banner publicizing the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The skills learned in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources 4-H Youth Development program last a lifetime, but in the case of a really good, quick-and-easy recipe for Monkey Bread, the skills last but the bread doesn't.

Okay, who ate the last piece? Umm, when will you be making more?

Maya Farris, 9, a second-year 4-H'er, may be fairly new to 4-H but she knows how to make a good batch of “Monkey Bread.” A member of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club in Vacaville, she won a showmanship award at the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day with her “Monkey Bread” entry and then went on to enter the project—and wow the judges—at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day.

We watched folks line-up for a sample of her monkey bread at Project Skills Day, and then watched her expertly answer questions from judges at the Presentation Day.

Before we give you the recipe, first, a little bit about Maya. She's one busy 4-H'er. Her current projects are baking and bread making, arts and crafts, rabbits, poultry, goats and crocheting. She learned how to make monkey bread from her baking and breadmaking project. She thoroughly enjoyed the recipe, as did her family and friends.

The Farris family is sold on 4-H. “4-H has really helped Maya become focused and experience different activities that she may not have otherwise tried,” mother Rayita said. “4-H is definitely a family affair; her older sister is also involved in 4-H and in many projects.”

The monkey bread recipe is a five-ingredient recipe, perfect for busy days:

Monkey Bread Recipe
Prepared by Maya Farris,
Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville

1 can refrigerated biscuits (16.3 oz)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Mix sugar and cinnamon in a large ziplock bag and set aside. Cut each biscuit into quarters and place in zip lock bag, a few at a time. Shake to coat and place pieces in a greased 8" loaf pan. Combine melted butter and brown sugar and pour over the coated biscuit pieces. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes, then turn over onto a serving plate. Serve warm. 

Pleasants Valley 4-H Club is one of 12 4-H clubs in Solano County, with a total of 500 members. The program is a non-profit youth educational program administered by the UC Cooperative Extension. More information about the Solano 4-H program is available from Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H program representative, at vawilliams@ucanr.edu or on the web at  http://cesolano.ucdavis.edu.

Meanwhile, what do you know about monkey bread? Actor Robert Duvall couldn't get enough of it. Kids grab it and pull it apart like toys after Christmas. Nancy Reagan served it in the White House. Texan Anne King created a legend.

One of my Texas relatives gifted me with Tom Perini's Texas Cowboy Cooking cookbook which includes Anne King's famous Monkey Bread recipe. Robert Duvall wrote the foreword to the book after enjoying Tom Perini's cooking in between scenes of the Warner Brothers' 1995 movie, “Stars Fell on Henrietta.”

Duvall starred as a destitute wildcat oilman who lands in the town of Henrietta, Texas, during the Depression. Duvall thinks there's oil — aka black gold, Texas tea — on a poor cotton grower's farm. He convinces the farmer to go for broke. Director James Keach filmed the Clint Eastwood-produced movie near Buffalo Gap, Texas, which just happened to be near the Perini Ranch Restaurant.

“After Clint Eastwood and I ate our first meal there, the cast and crew returned for dinner as often as we could,” Duvall writes in the foreword. Guess you could say they took a'likin' to the restaurant. They loved the “good eats,” including Monkey Bread.

Anne King of Albany, Texas, rose to fame (maybe not fortune) with Monkey Bread and shipped it all over the country. It's also called a pull-apart bread or bubble bread because of the layers of dough squares or rolled balls baked together in a tube or bundt pan. 

No one really knows how “monkey” became part of the name. Maybe someone was just monkeying around or figured the bread resembled the monkey puzzle tree. Then again, there's a fruit called “monkey bread” from the baobab tree or monkey bread tree. Nancy Reagan helped popularize the odd-sounding bread in the 1980s when she served it in the White House.

Here's Anne King's famous Monkey Bread recipe from Tom Perini's Texas Cowboy Cooking book.

Monkey Bread
By Anne King

1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
One 1-ounce cake of yeast or 1-1/2 packets of dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 eggs, beaten
6 cups flour
1/2 cup butter

Mix together the hot milk and shortening. Add the potatoes, salt and sugar. Set aside to cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in the water, and add to the potato mixture. Add the beaten eggs. Add 5 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Turn out the dough onto a floured board. Sprinkle the dough with 1/3 cup flour. Knead the dough thoroughly, adding a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours. 

Melt the butter in a shallow bowl. Roll out the dough on a floured board into a rectangular shape to a thickness of about 1/2-inch. Cut into 2-inch squares. Dip the squares into the melted butter and arrange in the bottom of a tube pan (bundt cake pan). The squares should overlap slightly. Continue to add layers until the dough is used up. Set aside to rise again until double in size, about an hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Loosen the sides of the monkey bread rings with a table knife. Turn out the monkey bread and let guests pull apart the squares to serve themselves. You may bake in smaller pans, just be sure to reduce the cooking time slightly, maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 1 large loaf.

Texas Cooking (www.texascooking.com) offers a version of Monkey Bread with cinnamon. It's shaped into balls instead of squares and is made with cinnamon and pecans. This bread can be mixed in the traditional manner, by hand, or in the dough cycle of your bread machine.

Monkey Bread
Texas Cooking

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 degree 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.

Second-year 4-H'er Maya Farris, 9, of Vacaville, answers questions about her monkey bread display at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Second-year 4-H'er Maya Farris, 9, of Vacaville, answers questions about her monkey bread display at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Second-year 4-H'er Maya Farris, 9, of Vacaville, answers questions about her monkey bread display at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 20, 2015 at 8:22 AM

Seven ways to eat green on St. Patrick's Day

Chugging green beer and savoring a green milk shake aren't the only ways to eat green on St. Patrick's Day. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) nutrition expert Patti Wooten Swanson has a plan for celebrating the holiday that revelers won't regret the next morning.

Wooten Swanson is the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for UC ANR Cooperative Extension in San Diego County. She manages the county's federally funded Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, in which staff members visit schools and community sites to provide lessons on healthy eating to low-income families and children.

Wooten Swanson offers the following seven-step plan for eating green on St. Patrick's Day:

1.

For breakfast, sauté chopped spinach, kale or Swiss chard in a little olive oil, then add a beaten egg to make scrambled eggs. Dark green vegetables are among the most healthful of vegetables, Wooten Swanson said. They are low in calories and high in vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, iron and dietary fiber. “If you eat vegetables at every meal, including breakfast, you can get in the recommended amount each day,” Wooten Swanson said. The USDA's dietary guidelines recommend adults eat 9 to 13 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, with most of those being vegetables.

2.

Mid-morning snack, grab a green apple. Not all apples are red; you'll find several green varieties in grocery stores just right for St. Patrick's Day. Light green Golden Delicious apples are sweet, plentiful, inexpensive and easy to find. Granny Smith apples are deep green, tart and very crunchy. Granny Smith are often used for apple pie, but are also great to eat out of hand. “Put a little peanut butter on apple slices to get some protein,” Wooten Swanson said.

3.

At lunch time, prepare a crisp salad with a blend of romaine lettuce, baby kale, spinach or mixed greens. For crunch add sugar snap peas, slices of green bell pepper and pieces of celery. Artichoke hearts, avocado and healthy green goddess dressing add gourmet flair. To make the dressing, blend 2 green onions, ½ green jalapeño pepper, 2/3 cup Greek yogurt, ½ cup cilantro, juice from 1 lime, ½ cup olive oil, salt and a teaspoon of sugar or honey. (Recipe adapted from Oklahoma State Extension.) “When you put a lot of different green ingredients in your salad you get a lot of different nutrients,” Wooten Swanson said. “Many of us eat the same thing every day – like an iceberg lettuce and tomato salad. But with a variety of ingredients, you get all kinds of nutrients, it tastes better and is more fun to eat.”

4.

For an afternoon snack, blend a green smoothie. Put a handful of green leafy vegetables in the blender with non-fat yogurt or almond milk. Add half a banana and any kind of fresh or frozen fruit. For a colder smoothie with a thick consistency, add a few ice cubes before blending, Wooten Swanson said.

 

 

5.

Cabbage and corned beef are traditional St. Patrick's Day foods, but Wooten Swanson has suggestions that are greener, healthier and just as festive. Mix cooked spinach fettuccine noodles with prepared basil pesto (made with olive oil), fresh spinach leaves and green olives. Add cooked chicken and some feta cheese. “The meal will offer a balanced blend of whole grains, vegetables, protein and dairy,” Wooten Swanson said.

6.

A healthful and simple green drink to accompany meals is cold tap water with a squeeze of lime. “Water is the best drink for everyone – adults and children – anytime of day,” Wooten Swanson said.

 

7.

For desert, there's no reason to punish your body with sugary green jello shots. Treat it right with a healthy and delicious green desert. “I layer non-fat Greek yogurt and kiwifruit. Sprinkle pistachios and drizzle a little honey on top,” Wooten Swanson said. Kiwifruit are high in vitamin C and pistachios are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Both are great sources of antioxidants.

Of course, eating a green diet shouldn't be limited to St. Patrick's Day. “Once you start enjoying these green vegetables and other healthy foods, you'll probably want to eat a lot more,” Wooten Swanson said.

An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Author: Jeannette Warnert

Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 6:41 AM

Tell the USDA that water should be first for thirst

UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Insitute is calling for the USDA to add water to MyPlate.
Nutrition scientists issued their findings to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last month on the proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. During the open comment period, which ends April 8, the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) is encouraging the public to ask the government to make water the drink of choice in their final version of the 2015 guidelines and add a symbol for water on MyPlate.

MyPlate is the infographic used nationally to portray the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“The Dietary Guidelines are the nutrition bible for Americans, and MyPlate is used to teach children and adults alike how to follow them,” said Lorrene Ritchie, NPI director. “Americans have the privilege to weigh in on the guidelines and influence the outcome. It's an opportunity that shouldn't be ignored.”

The Nutrition Policy Institute was created in 2014 by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the division of the UC system charged with sharing research-based information with the public about healthy communities, nutrition, agricultural production and environmental stewardship. The institute seeks to improve eating habits and reduce obesity, hunger and chronic disease risk in California children and their families and beyond.

Much of Ritchie's research over the course of her 15-year career with UC has focused on the causes of and solutions for child obesity, which has led her to become a strong advocate for drinking water.

“It is clear from the evidence that a major contributor to obesity is sugary drinks," Ritchie said. "And the healthiest alternative to sugary drinks is plain water.

Before the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its report last month, NPI asked the committee to include strong language encouraging the consumption of water as the beverage of choice for adults and children. The committee's report says, “Strategies are needed to encourage the U.S. population to drink water when they are thirsty. Water provides a healthy, low-cost, zero-calorie beverage option.”

“I was very pleased to see that recommendation in the committee's report,” Ritchie said.

Now Ritchie said she is hopeful that the guidelines' most-used educational companion, MyPlate, will reflect the committee's statement. The public can help.

“We are urging people to send comments to the USDA,” Ritchie said. “Tell Washington to make water first for thirst and ask the USDA to reinforce it with an icon for water on MyPlate.”

Anyone can submit comments on the report and many special interest groups, industry representatives, advocates and policymakers are expected to do so. USDA promises to read all comments, so the opinions of concerned individuals – such as parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. – will also carry significant weight.

The UC Nutrition Policy Institute developed a “Take Action!” page on its website with easy-to-follow guidelines for submitting comments on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

For more information, see the Nutrition Policy Institute website.

An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Author: Jeannette Warnert

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 3:18 PM

Now here's some real California culture

The UC ANR publication 'Farmstead and Artisan Cheeses' helps new cheesemakers start up their businesses.
Thanks to the happy cows of the California Milk Advisory Board, many know that California leads the nation in milk production. While you may think of Vermont or Wisconsin when you think of cheese, specialty cheeses make up about 11 percent of California's cheese production, creating a growing niche market.

Today artisan cheesemaking is a $119-million dollar industry in Marin and Sonoma, and the two counties are home to the second-largest concentration of artisan and farmstead cheesemakers in the country. The trend in farmstead and artisan cheesemaking shows no sign of slowing — membership in the California Artisan Cheesemakers' Guild increased 15 percent in 2014.

Navigating the start-up of any business is hard work, but cheesemaking has its own special challenges. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has published a bestselling manual designed for the beginning cheesemaker. Farmstead and Artisan Cheeses: A Guide to Building a Business walks readers through the steps necessary to establishing a cheesemaking business.

California has a rich history of cheesemaking, this year the Marin French Cheese Company celebrates its 150th anniversary, making it the longest continually operating cheese company in the United States.

Starting in the mid-1990s, California cheesemaking began a renaissance with a handful of dedicated small producers. UC Cooperative Extension advisors nurtured the emerging farmstead and artisan cheesemaking culture. Working with local producers, they developed the cheesemaking certificate program offered at the College of Marin and published what is now the leading book on building an artisan and farmstead cheese business; industry surveys lent credibility to the emerging market and enabled the growing ranks of cheesemakers to secure start-up funds.

Marking artisan cheese is a value-added option for California dairies. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Last July, Sacramento played host to the annual meeting and competition of the American Cheese Society, and California cheesemakers received top honors. In a field of 1,685 cheeses and cultured dairy products, Oakdale Cheese & Specialties of Oakdale took home the top prize for Aged Gouda, American made, Dutch style, and also garnered Third Place "Best in Show." Another venerable California cheesemaker, Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese, won Second Place "Best in Show" for it's Bay Blue.

So where do you start if you'd like to try your hand at cheesemaking?

The California Cheese Trail website offers a wealth of information about cheesemaking classes for everyone from the novice making their first ricotta at home to professional certificate programs. Likewise, Grown in Marin, a resource of UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County, posts an exhaustive list of resources for the North Bay, epicenter of the California's artisan cheese movement.

The 9th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival takes place March 20 - 22, 2015 in Petaluma. This celebration of real California culture brings together artisan cheesemakers, chefs, and the public for three days of seminars, tastings, and farm tours.

Posted on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 9:40 AM

Future looks bright at UC Ag Field Day

More than 3,500 FFA and 4-H high school students from California and surrounding states will gather on March 6 and 7 at UC Davis for the annual Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Field Day. The smart, passionate youth will compete in two dozen agriculture contests, from livestock judging, to agricultural mechanics, to floriculture, to computer applications, and more.

FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America) and 4-H are youth development programs that help prepare young people for careers in the rapidly changing world of agriculture. 4-H, which is offered in California by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension, allows members to choose from projects in science, engineering, technology, animal science education, nutrition, healthy living and many other experiential learning activities.

Each year the young competitors spend countless hours preparing for the field day, the largest of its kind in the state.

Meat judging is among the competitions at Ag Field Day.

“Competing in Ag Field Day instilled in me the importance of a strong work ethic, the value of research, and the benefits of scientific methods for solving real-world problems in agriculture,” said Yousef Buzayan, a 2011 Ag Field Day participant now double-majoring in Managerial Economics and International Agricultural Development at UC Davis.

Ag Field Day is run and managed completely by UC Davis students who gain valuable experience in leadership, communication, and teamwork.

“Of all my experiences at UC Davis, managing Ag Field Day was definitely the biggest challenge, and with it came the biggest rewards,” said Mary Kimball, executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, California, who helped organize Ag Field Day as a student in 1992. “I learned how to manage many moving parts, and I learned that the best way to get things done well is to do it as a team.”

So if you're in Davis and see thousands of high school students on campus, you'll know who they are: tomorrow's leaders striving and thriving in Ag Field Day competitions. The future of agriculture is in good hands.‚Äč

Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 8:51 AM

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