The Essential New York Times Cookbook (Nancy Reagan's Monkey Bread)

About a month or so ago, I received a copy of a new cookbook.  Normally, I'd have gone through it quickly and  select a recipe or two to try and put a review together.  This cookbook was different from any other I had received to review.  The Essential New York Times Cookbook is comparable to an encyclopedia of recipes that have been published in the New York Times over the last 150 years.  Yes, this comprehensive book holds recipes that are testaments to the cooking of the past as well as the present.

Amanda Hesser took on the incredible task of selecting and testing these recipes over several years.  You think that Julie Powell's Julie/Julia project was a monumental task, I think this one goes beyond that one.  Amanda Hesser spent years pouring over these recipes to determine what recipes would be worthy of being included in this comprehensive homage to recipes submitted to the New York Times.

This is one of those cookbooks that you can sit down and peruse and read like a book.  Each chapter has an introduction written by Amanda Hesser and her style shines through.  If you have read and enjoyed any of her other books or compilations, you will  find her voice in each page of this cookbook.  This is why it took me some time to decide what to make and share here.

I had marked the Banana Tea Bread, but because I have made so many different banana breads here I decided I needed to look for something different.  Something that might challenge me a bit more than another quickbread.  When I saw the recipe for Nancy Reagan's Monkey Bread I was intriqued.  Why?  Because I have a good friend who makes Monkey Bread for her kids and they rave about it all the time.  She uses frozen bread dough from the grocery, so I latched on to this "from scratch" version and gave it a try.

The recipe is a yeast bread and unlike what I had expected, it was not a sweet bread.  As it turns out, there are two different types of Monkey Bread.  According to Ms. Hesser, in the South they make it savory and serve it with fried chicken.  It was easy enough to make and made me realize that I need to play around with bread baking more.  I enjoyed kneading the dough and creating it from scratch.  Something I have not attempted in quite some time.  Now, I did follow the recipe to the letter and when I turned the pan over to put it on the rack, it partially fell apart.  No matter, it was still a tasty bread, but not as pretty as I would have liked.

 The taste was that of a nice yeast bread, nothing extraordinary.  The texture was a little crisp on the outside with soft, chewy goodness inside.  I would venture to say dipping it in a bit of seasoned olive oil would be a very nice way to enjoy the bite-size pieces.  Or even serving it along side a nice pasta dish covered in a rich tomato sauce.  This bread would sop up the sauce perfectly.

Note:  I received a review copy of the cookbook.  I was not compensated for this review in any way and have provided my honest opinions in this post. 

Now that I've made this version of Monkey Bread I am going to have to try others so I know what all the fuss is about.  Here are some that I think may get tested sometime soon.

Pillsbury Grands Monkey Bread
Classic Monkey Bread from Baking Bites
 There's also this recipe over at Tasty Kitchen (PW's recipe sharing site) that looks like a good possibility.

Nancy Reagan's Monkey Bread
Source:  The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 tablespoons unslated butter, melted
  1. Butter and flour  a 4-cup or larger ring mold or tube pan.  Whisk the yeast with the milk in a large bowl.  Whisk in 2 of the eggs, then whisk in the sugar, salt, and 4 cups of flour, switching to a wooden spoon when the dough gets stiff.  Stir in the softened butter and knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together in a ball.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until it forms an elastic ball, sprinkling with and working in up to 1 cup of flour to keep dough from getting sticky.  Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Pour the melted butter into a small bowl.  punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface.  roll the dough into a log and cut into 28 equal pieces.  shape each piece into a ball, dip in melted butter and place in the prepared pan, staggering the pieces in 2 layers.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  4. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Beat the remaining egg and lightly brush over the top of the bread.  Bake until the top is nicely browned and dough is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.  Test by turning out the loaf onto a rack; the bottom and sides should be nicely browned.  Turn upright on another rack and let cool slightly before serving.

Please note that all photos and content belong to Patsy Kreitman, unless otherwise noted. If you want to use something please ask first.
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Jamie said…
Sounds like an interesting cookbook. Your version of monkey bread looks good. You have to try the sweet version too. I've made PW's monkey bread and it is super easy and soooo good!
Shelby said…
I think resturaunts should take this concept and make monkey bread instead of whole loaves...would be a lot easier to pull apart! Looks great Patsy!
Bren said…
oh this bread looks so amazing. i loove it. but, i'm on a serious break from bread for 2 months. so for now, i'll just look at everyone else's!

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