Provisions: Orange Cardamom Monkey Bread

Make this pull-apart sweet bread with citrus dipping sauce on Christmas morning and you'll almost forget about the presents under the tree
December 24, 2015Words by Michael van VlietPhotos by Megan McDuffie

6:59 am, Christmas morning, 1992. I’m eight years old and lying wide-awake in my bed. An hour earlier my brother and I attempted to sneak down the world’s squeakiest staircase and into the living room, but were driven back by the grumbling voices of our parents. They set a time, and, like prisoners confined to our cell, we lay quietly on our bunks, anxiously awaiting the moment of our release. Time stretched out indefinitely. It felt like an eternity. 

Apparently Santa hates scurvy. 

The moment the clock clicked over to 7:00 am, we threw off our sheets and tumbled down the stairs like an avalanche. Twelve seconds later, we were jumping up and down on my parent's bed in delirious excitement. "Can we open the presents now? Can we open the presents now?” 

In order to distract us, my parents allowed us to retrieve our stockings from the mantle. But due to the way our family treats stockings, this only made matters worse. Santa Claus put Game Boys and Nerf Guns in other kid’s stockings, but he left us oranges. Like, an entire stocking full of oranges. To be sure, there were a few minor gifts mixed in as well — some silly putty, a slinky, maybe a small Lego set — but the vast majority of the stocking was filled with Florida-grown citrus. To this day, nobody has been able to extract a satisfactory answer as to why. Apparently Santa hates scurvy. 

But kids don’t know anything about scurvy, so as soon as we realized our stockings were just giant fruit baskets, we began clamoring to move on to the main event. At this point my mother would leap into action and into the kitchen to begin preparing what would become an ongoing Christmas tradition: monkey bread. 

This monkey bread was the only thing that could compete with our attention on Christmas morning.

Not only was this cinnamon flavored pull-apart sweet bread a crowd favorite with us kids, but it was the only thing that could compete with our attention on Christmas morning. If left unchecked, we would rip through every single present in minutes, if not seconds. And after we were done, we'd probably turned on the Christmas tree and tear off all the branches. So it was critical we had some other outlet to split our attention. If we were going to rip something apart, my parents figured, it might as well be monkey bread. Otherwise we might turn on the house. 

So every Christmas day, before we are allowed to open any presents, we must patiently wait for the monkey bread to come out of the kitchen. But as soon as it’s set on the coffee table, it’s game on. 

To pay tribute to this Christmas morning tradition, we’ve developed our own special Orange Cardamon Monkey Bread. My mother used canned Bisquick dough, but this is 2015 and everything has to be more complicated, so we made the whole recipe from scratch. (There’s no shame if you want to skip the “making bread from scratch” nonsense and buy ready-made dough instead. Seriously. No shame.) The cardamom seasoning gives the bread a distinct flavor while the orange zest dipping sauce lends a subtle nod to the Santa of my youth’s inexplicable fondness of citrus. Make the day before and pop in the oven Christmas morning. [H]

Michael van Vliet is one half of the team at Fresh Off the Grid, a camp cooking blog. They feature recipes specifically designed for cooking in the outdoors, written on the road as he and his girlfriend travel the United States.


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