I'd never heard of Monkey Bread until a few weeks ago. The name immediately caught my attention. The image of monkeys picking at a loaf of bread as they would nits off each other's backs came to mind. Charming, I thought. I wanted to know more about it.
Not that there's much to know.
The etymology is vague. The term "Monkey Bread" has several possible origins: some people believe that the bread resembles the shape of a monkey puzzle tree, but I feel that these people are out of their heads, perhaps having fallen from the top of one the trees themselves. Other people believe that the name derives from the act of pulling the pastry apart with the fingers, much like monkeys might do, if they were presented with such a treat. I have ruled out the theory that this was a bread frequently baked and fan-mailed to the likes of Mickey Dolenz or Davy Jones by swooning teen-aged girls in the 1960's because the spelling is all wrong. The timing, however, is only a decade away from being correct.
Also known as Hungarian Coffee Cake, Bubble Loaf, and, my favorite, Pinch Me Cake, the term Monkey Bread didn't start popping up until the 1950's in various women's magazines. The dessert itself-- basic yeast rolls coated in cinnamon and buttery caramel-- is close kin to both the Sticky Buns of the Pennsylvania Dutch and the more savory Parker House Rolls of, oh, I don't know, Parker Posey.
Whatever the origin, it's a wonderful treat that lends itself to lazy weekend mornings. Pinch off a loaf for loved ones to wake up to. Or, if you have no loved ones, bake one for yourself and then neglect to shower, change clothes, or leave your house all day, revelling in your own, sweet, cinnamon smell.