Easy bread to feed a hungry crew

monkey bread

A well-fed crew is a happy crew: this is no secret. Food is a love language for many, myself included. Feeding people, seeing their pleasure in something I’ve made, makes me so happy. I dug the minor challenge to create a yummy and totally gluten free dinner from our dwindling provisions for friends last week (who knew quinoa could make a tender chocolate cake?!). In the Chesapeake last fall, it was pull-apart bread (garlic herb deliciousness, dunked in soup) that made several nights with friends extra memorable: at Camp Quigley, soaking up the good vibes from Mary Marie, getting to meet her Frank, and catching up with the R Sea Kat crew… on Totem with friends from Annapolis as the main cabin on Totem filled not just with warm yeasty yummy aromas but with laughter and signing and the strumming of a guitar and ukulele. Food gets inextricably woven with wonderful memories. Another night, helping a boy-child-turning-man make the same recipe, I felt like I got to pass a baton of understanding how good it feels to see people appreciate the floury work of your hands.

Eleanor Q, Totem, and R Sea Cat at Camp Quigley

Eleanor Q, Totem, and R Sea Kat at Camp Quigley

Yesterday I made that pull-apart bread kind of at last minute as a way to fuel our crew up before a trip back to Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island. This natural wonder is one of the deepest known blue holes (sinkholes in the world); when we visited a few days prior, there was a busy class of learners. A lot of expensive gear being used for the first time. We kept to the fringe and hoped to come back for a quieter visit. Help with a ride (neighboring SV Akira had a rental car) made it a lock!

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Cliffs… 30ish feet off the water? High enough to get adrenalin pumping on the way down!

There was going to be swimming, and blue-hole-diving, and cliff jumping, and possibly a longish walk back to town afterwards. Fuel for humans required! The bread packs along well, it’s an easy recipe (OK, maybe it takes a little attention the first time), and how many fantastic yeast breads take less than two hours from start to finish? I started while sipping my morning coffee, and it hot out of the oven before our mid-morning dinghy ride to shore.

Slightly fuzzy screengrab from the video of Niall's jump

Slightly fuzzy screengrab from the video of Niall’s jump

This recipe is often called “Monkey Bread” (why? because you can easily eat it with your hands, I guess, pulling at hunks that peel effortlessly away from the loaf?) and typically prepared as a sweet cinnamon bread– but the same basic recipe and method, just a few ingredient tweaks, makes a killer garlic bread. Unable to choose between sweet and salty, I just made a loaf of each (doubling the recipe below).

I couldn’t resist posting a picture as we departed for our swim/hike/explore:this is for everyone that requested the recipe! When I looked it up to pass along, and realized just how different Real Boat Life can be in a step-by-step retelling of the recipe. Enjoy the “hardships” (not really) of cruising.

Ingredients

Bread
1/4 cup warm water
1 package (2 ¼ tsp) yeast
2 tablespoons softened butter, plus more for pan and bowl
3/4 cup milk, warmed
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus pinch for yeast 1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 1/4 cups flour

Coating
Choose either…

  • Sweet: ½ c butter, ½ c chopped nuts, 2 tsp cinnamon (or whatever! I pounded a couple of teaspons of cardamom seeds in my little mortar yesterday, because I love all things cardamom), ¾ c sugar
  • Savory: ½ c butter, 2 cloves crushed garlic, herbs of choice, ¾ tsp salt

…or do as I did, double the recipe and make a loaf of each of sweet and savory!

Real recipe instructions Boatlife version
1. Proof yeast: in a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water to which a pinch of sugar has been added. Stir; let the yeast soften and dissolve, about 5 minutes. 1. Water in kettle still warm from morning coffee. No fresh milk, will add some milk powder later, so start with a big mixing bowl and use a full cup of warm water now to take make up for that liquid. Stir in a bit of sugar, then sprinkle a spoonful of yeast on the top.

This is done from muscle memory as coffee has not yet hit bloodstream and exact measurements aren’t critical here.

2. In a mixer bowl, combine butter, warm milk, sugar, salt, and egg. Grease Bundt pan and a medium bowl. 2. Skip milk; add veg oil instead of butter because it’s easier and less precious, and nobody can tell in the recipe. Crack the egg in a separate bowl first, because you got the eggs from a roadside island stand and it’s not 100% clear that it’s fresh and unfertilized.

Stir mixture by hand, because a mixer is a waste of space on board. Don’t bother to grease pan, and absolutely skip the step of greasing another bowl! The dough will have plenty of melted butter or oil on it later and we don’t need more dirty dishes to expend fresh water on.

3. When the yeast is foamy, add it to mixer bowl; mix well with dough hook, then slowly add flour. Knead on medium-low 1 minute. Place in the greased bowl; cover with plastic. Set dough in warm place and let rest 20 minutes. 3. Ingestion of coffee times nicely with yeast proofing. Over the top of the yeast, add about 2 cups of flour, salt, and about 3 tablespoons of powdered milk. If making sweet (instead of savory) bread, add ¼ cup of sugar too.

Stir to make a thick batter, then gradually knead in additional flour until dough is ready . It MIGHT be the 3 ¼ cups specified, but different flours and different climates mean variable moisture-absorption qualities; you have to do this bit a little by feel. Sorry/Notsorry. When dough is soft, a tiny bit sticky, and springs softly back from a poke- it’s ready.

No sane (power/water conscious) cruiser would dirty a second bowl, so clean dough bits off the sides, glug in a few tablespoons of veg oil, roll the dough ball to coat, and set it aside to rise… under a TEA TOWEL, because hello, we are not into single-use plastic! Turtles and whales and the future of the planet and all.

4. Make coating: Melt butter and put it in a bowl. In another bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts; sprinkle 2 tablespoons of nut mixture in Bundt pan. 4. Melt butter. It really is better with butter, but in a pinch (ran out of the last canned butter from Tahiti? Not lucky enough to have subsidized Kerrygold Irish creamy buttery goodness in the Bahamas?) Vegetable oil is fine. Making sweet bread? Put ingredients in a separate bowl. I never include nuts, because the kids object with interference from the sugar/spice mix, and we often don’t have brown sugar—just white. Whatever. I never measure this, either, just keep making a sugar/spice ratio that seems right. Making savory bread? Stir garlic, salt, and herbs into melted butter, no need for a second bowl.
5. Cut dough into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll into balls. Dip balls in butter, then roll in nut mixture; place in prepared Bundt pan. 5. CUT? What a waste of time and dishes! Just pinch off a golf ball sized glob. For sweet bread, dunk it in the butter (or oil), roll that slippery lump in the flavor bomb sugar/spice mix and toss in your pan. Savory bread is easier still with the all-in-one-bowl combo!

Perfection here is highly overrated; irregular globs offer more places to grab seasoning. Did you really think this was carefully braided or trimmed? Ha!!! This is dead easy and creates a beautiful, delicious results.

I like our trusty bread tins, but break out the bundt if we’re feeling fancy.

6. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise about 1 hour or until doubled in size. 6. Again, not with the plastic. Dish towels are your friend. If you’ve been motoring, the engine compartment is a great place to set the bowl. If it’s sunny out, a warm spot in the cockpit well works too.
7. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in oven preheated to 350 degrees. Let cool 15 minutes in pan when done. 7. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! AS IF A BOAT OVEN COULD HIT AN EXACT TEMP! Crank it up, set pan on a rack and hope for the best. If your oven is uneven (what, a boat oven uneven?!) rotate partway through as needed. Don’t worry about time so much, I mean, we’re not even sure what temp this is hitting! Just watch it.
8. Turn bread out of pan; cool 20 minutes on rack or plate. 8. You think I can keep anyone on board out of this when the boat is permeated with the tantalizing aroma of warm fresh bread? It doesn’t matter if you go sweet or savory, it’s irresistible. I can usually get them to wait till it’s been turned out onto a plate, and maybe a little longer if we have guests, but that’s it.

walkingpinterest monkey bread

Archetypical Bahamas, sort of

sailboat tropical sea cruising the bahamasCruising boats flow back to the US for hurricane season this time of year. Our path is counter-current thanks to our seasonally late departure from Florida and slow pace through the Bahamas. It’s less than 300 miles to Florida from where Totem lies at anchor near George Town; more than 1,100 nm of sailing stand between us and our hurricane season destination of Grenada. Compounding our situation: it is against prevailing conditions (easterly breezes) instead of with them. Yes, it really is time to get a move on!

Being off-sync means missing out on some of the expected (and anticipated) experiences of these beautiful islands. I have a long list of “must see” spots, favorites from respected friends seeking to share their love of the Bahamas. We’ll miss most of those spots. I don’t know how to justify our acceptance of this without sounding jaded, but we aren’t too fussed at the prospect of missing many of lauded Bahamas cruiser experiences. We’ll do we do best: make the most of where we find ourselves.

Meanwhile, Totem crew is hardly missing out on the rituals of Bahamian cruising life with various rituals and shenanigans to indulge in though a handful of stops in the Exumas–near Staniel Cay, and at our current anchorage near George Town.

At Big Majors Spot, sundowners were hoisted each evening on “Pirate Beach” (there’s a sign and everything) at 5 sharp.

Jamie brings in our Meori trug: nibbles on one half, beverages in the other side's nested compartment.

Jamie brings in our Meori trug: nibbles on one half, beverages in the other side’s nested compartment.

3- beach gathering

Sailboat 50 50 underwater photo Bahamas clear blue water

Boston whaler, Float toy, and red wine: what could possibly go wrong?

6- Pirate beach view 3b- float toy 3c- what could possibly go wrong

The same setting held a handful of health-conscious cruisers gathering to exercise in the morning.

5- vessel relics hang over the potluck buffet

The gentle workout is led by former nurse and unfailingly upbeat Laurie from MV Forever Young, who lends her considerable positive energy to make fun for all: she organizes potlucks periodically too, typically to share from the bounty of mahi she and her husband catch.

Anchor lights come up as dinghies head home

Anchor lights come up as dinghies head home

Game time on the beach: whiling away an afternoon in the shade playing Mexican Train dominoes with new and familiar cruisers.

7b Mexican train dominoes beach

Beautiful view, cool drink, good conversation, and a fun game—OK!

A few minutes dinghy ride away are the pigs. THOSE pigs, the famous Bahamian swimming pigs, which now crop up on Cays all over the islands but reputedly originated here. They’re cute—I guess? Juvenile piglets are charming, but the bigger pigs—and they get BIG—have a reputation for literally biting the hand that feeds them. I think I know more people who were injured by the pigs than not! We had to check them out but with some apprehension.

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Mairen and Siobhan’s body language express how we all felt

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This large sow (300 pounds?) did an effortless lap around the dinghy hoping for a handout. Pork belly!

The anchorage would fill and drain cyclically with weather forecasts, as boats took advantage of good conditions to get across the Gulf Stream. Silver lining: as boats intersect heading in the opposite direction, we’ve been able to have some memorable meetings. Many moons of following Allison and Bo from Sailing B+A, messages traded, and they were even more fun in person than I ever imagined.

Love meetups with people we've 'known' online!

The dynamic and engaging crew of Selah: love meetups with people we’ve ‘known’ online!

Snorkeling with them and the awesome Ruby Rose crew, Nick & Terysa, to Thunderball grotto and taking advantage of Bo’s skill for the “us-ie” to get a group shot:

12 Us-ie with Selah and Ruby Rose

Biggest treat for the kids: TEENS, as we converged with multiple kid boats in their age range. A real treat and one that buoyed their spirits.

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Speeding their way to hang out with other teens on Allegro

Tracks that converged, intersected, and moved on in different directions refreshed an aphorism of the cruising life. Goodbyes happen all too often. It can be especially hard on the kids, who have fewer opportunities to hang out with peers.

beach sunset

Teen conversation circle on the beach

The flip side: these encounters grow a circle of amazing people in our lives. Goodbyes aren’t forever, and the other reminder is that in a round world there are ample opportunities to meet again. Next to Totem: SV Infini, who we last shared an anchorage with in Thailand more than three years ago!

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Land your dinghy by the kiln-looking rock, then look for cairns to find the path

I do wish we could have stopped in more of the “amazing—you’ll love it!” spots along the Exumas. We made a few and tips from friends and readers here lead us to great spots, like the cave north of Little Farmer (thanks Jessie!).

cave swimming stalactites swimming

20 sweaty uphill minutes later, Mairen cools off in a stalactite hung cavern

But the out-island experiences we hope to find ahead draw me even more! We’re stocking up in George Town, with an eye on winding through out islands on our way to the BVIs. This is THE scene for cruisers in the Bahamas, with over 300 boats during peak season a couple of months ago. Organized activities cover every day and night of the week, from “beach church” to water aerobics and poker / hold-em nights. I’m pretty sure there’s a coconut painting class. The small-scale taste of this near Staniel Cay was a lot of fun–the bigger cast, not quite our bag. A blast for folks who make this their home-away-from-home but the quieter, more remote islands ahead are what I’m excited about. That said, WOW is George Town convenient for getting things done! We filled a propane tank, topped up some diesel, and chose from a grocery store spread that included such Bahamas-luxury-items as asparagus, leeks, shallots, and mushrooms… and the best price on lettuce I’ve seen since we arrived in the Bahamas. I think there are 11 heads of romaine in our fridge right now!

With luck we’ll have weather to go offshore from Mayaguana and make easting; the route is as certain as the forecast two weeks out! Along the way, enjoying wherever Totem’s anchor drops.

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