This week's Sunday School lesson is about Cleopas's walk to Emmaus, where the newly-risen Jesus appears to him and another disciple, but they don't know it's Jesus until they arrive at their destination and Jesus breaks bread with them. All the lesson plans I read about where about seeing, and involved seeing games, which didn't really seem quite right.
I feel that way about a lot of children's Sunday School lessons, to be honest. They are focused on a secondary element of the story, and because of that, they don't really foster an understanding of the story or the lesson. If the story is about Jesus as the shepherd, and the craft involves making cotton-ball sheep, I mean yeah, it's technically related to the story, but will kids really remember what the story was, if you ask them a week later?
So oftentimes my lesson plans diverge sharply from the script. This is one of those times. If the divergence leads me to a baking project, well, so much the better.
I thought it might fit better if the kids had a treasure hunt, leading them to a picnic with bread they can break apart together. I feel like that fits more with the "revealing" aspect of the story. A few minutes later, and I knew the perfect bread for the occasion: pull-apart bread, also called Monkey Bread.
I have no idea why it's called Monkey Bread, and it sounds like no one else does either. Also, Monkey Bread seems to signify a certain type of rich bread smothered in sugar and butter. So that's why I'm calling it pull-apart bread. Just trying to manage expectations.
I got the recipe from here, but with a lot of variations.
You will need:
3 cups of AP flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, divided in half
2 teaspoons or one packet yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1. First, grease a round aluminum cake pan or bundt pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast. Set aside.
3. In a small pot, melt the milk and 1/4 cup butter on low heat.
4. When the milk and butter mixture is slightly warm, about 120-130 degrees F, mix it and the egg into the flour mixture and whisk until well-combined. I poured the milk and butter into the flour first, then the egg to ward off curdling.
5. Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a nice dough that isn't sticky but is still workable. Here's what my dough looked like after one 1/2 cup, and after a cup (I didn't need the whole extra 1 1/2 cups of flour). At some point I switched from mixing by whisk to mixing by hand.
Ok, I think I added 1/4 cup of flour after this because I could see it was getting close.
6. I let it sit for ten minutes to let the hydration work its magic and the gluten formation to start. I stretched and folded it a few times to help with gluten formation and structure.
7. Then I moved it to a floured countertop.
8. Using the bench scraper, I cut the dough into twelve pieces. Next time, I will probably cut it into 24 pieces, because that's more fun.
9. I let them rest for about five minutes, then I rolled them into balls.
10. I let them rest again while I melted the other 1/4 cup of butter in the microwave. Carefully dip each ball into the butter and roll around to coat. Then place each ball into the greased cake pan. You will have butter left over, but don't throw it away!
11. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or my new favorite thing, shower caps for covering food:
12. I let them rise for about two hours, until they looked like this:
13. I preheated the oven to 375 degrees F, and used the leftover melted butter to cover the top of the loaf. Then bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.
I left it in the pan to cool, then dumped it onto a cooling rack.
I'm pretty excited, and I think the kids will love their treasure hunt to reveal this fun bread. You could make it with any dough I think. Happy baking!