The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chestnut-Mincemeat Monkey Bread

freerk's picture

Chestnut-Mincemeat Monkey Bread

Chestnut-Mincemeat Monkey Bread

Baking is getting more festive by the day. The BreadLab is a mess after a trial bake for the X-mas specials that are up for the coming two weeks.


The flavor and texture of chestnut can really lift a dish, when used in moderation. The other week, running through Amsterdam's hottest local produce supermarket Marqt, there were some fresh chestnuts available. They would look real rustic, together with the red onions and roseval potatoes in the basket on the kitchen table...

They have been screaming not be wasted for looking pretty ever since, and today, when the sour cherries on syrup started their siren song, things started coming together. The theme clearly being nuts and fruits, let's cross the channel and ponder on that typical British dish;


Something allegedly edible that I managed to avoid for its name alone in the first two decades of my life. To the foreign ear it sounds like something with mutton sausage and a lot of gravy in it, that has been sitting in the cellar for three months. There is a lot of that where I come from. No need to explore.

Only to find out in the next decade that there is actually no meat involved at all, well... suet. But that was way back when. I do sometimes use lard and suet and the likes, but this sweet bread needs to go down easy with every one.

After making a basic mincemeat, boil the fresh chestnuts in their skins until tender, but still chewy. Chopping them up I decided to just chuck them in with the mincemeat, and that worked wonderfully well.

Sour cherries

Sour cherries belong to New Year's Eve for me. I never knew that until I rediscovered the taste of them recently, the syrupy variety. I was immediately taken back; in my young years, when the adults would be seriously boozing in the New Year, the kids were allowed to drink something that was called "children's-liquor" (No, I kid you not). It came in a bottle that vaguely resembled the grown-ups' version. It was a deep red, sweet as hell and... without alcohol (I guess the marketing guys drew their lines somewhere in the sixties...). But that didn't seem to matter to us, as I remember. For me it was one of the high lights; that entire day, going around the neighborhood to wish every one a Happy New Year, and every house I entered had a glass of that stuff waiting. My Italian shop around the corner carries some nice jars with sour cherries on syrup, the blue one;

Raisins, apples, lemon zest, currants. Take whatever you have lying around to whip together a fruity, spicy layer of mincemeat that will ooze through the monkey bread during the bake. The chestnuts are optional if you are an avid hater (there seem to be quite a few out there), but it does give the flavor a nice twist, and, if chopped coarsely and not boiled to pieces, a different texture that works well with all the sticky caramel and the soft buns.

Since my first monkey bread, traditionally round, was rising all over the place, out of its baking tin, I decided the second bake would have to be in the biggest tin around... and that happened to be a square one. A happy accident, I would say!

Square Chestnut-Mincemeat Monkey Bread

For the (mini portion) mincemeat:

1 small apple
100 gr. boiled chestnut, coarsely chopped
30 gr. raisins
25 gr. currants
30 gr. prunes
20 gr. sour cherries (on syrup)
dark beer, about 60 ml.
75 gr. brown sugar
pinch of lemon zest
dash of lemon juice
a nob of butter
pumpkin pie spice to taste, about ¾ tsp

If you like your apple firm, leave them out, while you bring the beer and all the other ingredients to a slow boil. When everything comes together and the butter is mixed in, add the apple and turn off the gas. Stir and cool.

You can find some good tips over here on how to boil your chestnuts, if you chose to go DIY all the way.

For the dough:

500 gr. bread flour
14 gr. instant yeast
150-175 ml lukewarm whole milk
2 beaten eggs
50 gr. butter
2 tbs honey
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1½ tsp salt

to sugar the monkey dough:

100 gr. caster sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

For the caramel sauce:

100 gr. butter
50 gr. dark brown sugar


Mix the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer. Add just enough milk for the dough to come together. Add the eggs and the butter little by little after about 4 minutes. Mix on low speed for about 15 minutes to develop an elastic dough. Transfer to an oiled container, cover and rest until double in size, for about an hour to one hour and a half at room temp.

Mix together the fine caster sugar with the spices. When the dough has risen, deflate it gently and shape into a cylinder. When the dough resists, give it a few minutes rest before you continue. Cut up the doughroll in small pieces, deliberately uneven in size and shape. Toss the dough pieces in the sugar and place in the oiled tin. They will expand considerably; loosely spread the first layer around your BIG (improv) monkey bread pan.

Scoop the cooled down chestnut-mincemeat over the first layer of dough, and then cover with a second layer of sugared dough bits. Cover and let proof untill the dough has puffed up.

Preheat the oven to 180° C. Heat the butter with the brown sugar and gently pour this over the proofed dough.

Bake for about 35 minutes, turning it halfway into the bake to ensure even browning. Be careful with the top; don't let it burn!

After the bake, let the bread cool for about 10 minutes before inverting the monkey bread onto a rack. Leave to cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy! You can really do me a big favor by endorsing the BreadLab initiative. Every 'like' will get us closer to funding a 6 episode documentary on 'the best bread in the world'. Thank you in advance!



SylviaH's picture

Your monkey bread is wonderful as well as your mincemeat.  

My mom born and raised in England and used to make her own mincemeat.  I'm not that ambitious and purchase jars and add extra apple.

 I wish there were more mincemeat lovers in my family, including me..but your monkey bread looks so delicious...I may use up my one and only jar of fine imported mincemeat.  I had two jars but, just gave one away in my sack to our neighborhood monthly food collection.  I had planned on baking some steamed pudding..but now I think everyone will definately give those tempting little monkey balls a try : ))

I  love the shape of the loaf, too.  Reminds me of a wreath...I have a large round one I think will work fine.

Thanks Freerk for another charming recipe for the Holidays!



freerk's picture

I used to be an avid mincemeat avoider, but have turned around slightly in recent years. I still don't put halfway as much raisins and currants and what have you, than the average Briton, I suppose, but I like it very much, in moderation. I like the chestnut in this mincemeat, I might up the quantity in the next monkey bread to see what happens. The taste was there, somewhere, but it was more about texture; one of the things I have never liked about mincemeaty things is the squidgyness of it all. I like some textures in there :-)

Thank you for your comments, and make sure to have your camera handy in case you are going to give the monkey a try. I hope it works as nicely for you as it did for me!



OldWoodenSpoon's picture

I grew up on two traditional holiday pies for both American Thanksgiving  and Christmas dinner desert: pumpkin of course, and mincemeat pie as the second.  My mother also used to make "sweet pickled peaches" in a big stoneware crock kept on a shelf in our basement (cool and dry year around).  For her mincemeat pies she used a packaged, dry mincemeat in a small box from "NoneSuch", and a big dollop of the syrup (sugar, clove, cinnamon, steeped in peaches and juice for months) from the crock.  That pie has always been my very most favorite pie of all time, so when I married, my mother taught my wife to make it.  My wife, blessed partner that she is, makes me a mince pie every year at Thanksgiving (that's 37 pies and counting!).  We don't have a basement, nor a crock, nor home made "sweet pickled peaches" so my wife buys "Spiced Peaches" in a can from the market and doctors the syrup with extra clove and cinnamon.  I'm the only one that will eat it, so half goes in the freezer for Christmas and I enjoy the other half between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Freerk, if your Monkey Bread smells half as good as my mincemeat pie, then it should be something really special that flies off the table as fast as you can bake it.   It is absolutely wonderful to look at, and my memory can smell it from here.

Thanks for the reminder:  I have one piece of pie left in the freezer!

freerk's picture

The smell will be there OldWoodenSpoon, but taste wise I'm afraid I can't compete with months of brewing and stewing in cellars and such :-)

This is by no means a traditional mincemeat. It's a quick version that will give you the holiday kick though! And the kitchen did smell like bakers heaven (the second try that is, because I was happily chatting on the phone while the first try was burning its top off :-|)

I was a bit troubled by the sheer size of it (it was baked in a 13 inch square pan), it was gone in under 24 hours. My better half to a chunk to work, and came back for more. The rest has just magically disappeared. I can't actually remember eating more than 2 slices now that I come to think of it...

It's a real pleasure to me that you are going to sit down, maybe tonight maybe tomorrow, and enjoy that last piece of mincemeat pie from the freezer! Glad to be of service!


wassisname's picture

Wow!  What a treat!  Those ingredients look like a party even before they go into the bread, Freerk.  Nice!


freerk's picture

thnx Marcus!

EvaB's picture

its a rather aquired taste, as a child I didn't like it, but then again I didn't like fruit cake either. Pumpkin pie was a different story! However I have a matured palate now so mince meat is delicious. I usually buy a jar after or very near Xmas when its on sale to clear out, and stash it in the cupboard for next years pies. I now make tarts instead, easier to portion control, and for those who don't like it, they can avoid it by taking a currant tart, or pumpkin tart. And those who like all of them can take one of each and not feel terrible as the tarts are smaller than full sized pie slices.

Do you have a recipe for ecles cakes, which I remember fondly from a European bakery in North Vancouver, they made delicious ones, and so did the SuperValue bakery (a grocery chain) they had a bready, cakey crust with a mix rather like mincemeat in them, and were flat about 6 inches across. The only ones I can get now, are done with puff pastry, and covered in crystal sugar. They just don't taste the same. I made myself a recipe from several that I found on British food sites, and they certainly disappeared quickly enough. Not the best for my diabetes, but they were good.


freerk's picture

I would love to try your ecles recipe! Have you shared ithere? Hope to hear grom you!



EvaB's picture

I didn't know about Fresh Loaf when I made up the recipe. I couldn't find any online or in any cookbook I had and believe me I had a lot of them! Still do! But I had taste testers to critique the taste, and they declared them as good as any they had had at either bakery (we all lived in the same town, and we all visited the same area of North Vancouver, although at different times and without knowing the other was there! (small world syndrome)

I had to find it on my computer not an easy task but here it is: Hope you enjoy, tweak it anyway you wish, I didn't get the filling quite thick enough and that caused troubles with the baking (a couple ran out) but they have the right taste and that is the main thing. I unfortuantely don't have a picture or don't think I do, probably do but its in an archive and not easily available.

Eccles Cakes

From the Kitchen of: Eva Beaton

Oven Temp: 400° F

Time:  20 min

Servings: depends on size of round cut.


¾ cup dried currants3 tbsps butter at room temperature
1/3 cup golden raisins or sultanas2 tbsps fresh lemon or orange juice
¼ cup, packed brown sugar1 – 3 tsps of fresh lemon or orange zest
¼ cup chopped candied orange or lemon peel½ cup rum, brandy or whiskey
½ tsp of nutmeg or to taste 

Instructions:  Take the dried fruit and peels, along with the rum, fruit juices and zest and the nutmeg and butter and place in a small pot, bring to boil, and take off the heat to soak up the moisture. Use the most dried out fruit you have as it takes up the flavourings and plumps up well.

This needs to be very thick and no juice so if it doesn’t take up all the moisture put back on the stove and cook it until thick. Or you may add some cornstarch or thickening to it but that adds carbs and I don’t do that. 

 Make up the crust from your favourite pie dough or make the cream cheese piecrust as follows: Take 1 1/3rd cups of flour (plain all purpose), ½ tsp salt, and 1 8 oz or 250 gram pkg of cream cheese, place all in a bowl and cut the cream cheese in, or if you have a food processor use that with the knife blade, and process until the crust forms a ball in the bowl. Cut the cheese in very finely if doing by hand as it needs to be in smaller pieces than lard.  This probably should be repeated twice for the amount of filling above, and if not used can be kept in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for at least a month. Makes great lower fat piecrust and its less greasy.

I use a 3-inch cookie cutter and cut rounds of the dough, as the folding method didn’t work for me. I simply placed a tbsp of the filling on one round and wet the edges and crimped with a fork like a piecrust. If you have one of the perogy makers or the half moon pie makers this would work as well. I lightly rolled the pies before putting them on the pan, this makes the filling show through and the crust should be thinly rolled to begin with. Snip with scissors in v shapes as is traditional.

Bake in 400 ° F oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Can brush them with cream or egg wash to enhance the browning.  Cool on rack and enjoy the taste.


The fruit can be varied to suit your taste and budget, I like to try different flavours, and the ones that I used to get from the bakery, had dark currants and raisins, and some dates, with mixed peel and no rum. I think these would be good with the addition of dried apples or apricots and if you can use a small clemetine or mandarin orange in the filling, I generally use the food processor to chop the whole thing up fine, for my cookies, but that wouldn’t work for the cakes, so you would have to juice the orange and then finely chop the peel and pulp left over.  It would taste totally different if you used limejuice and zest with the rum, its one of those recipes that you can play with and adapt to your tastes. Spices can be altered to suit but I like just the nutmeg myself.

Per serving:








 These were a big hit, and unfortunately too good, they up the blood sugar quickly, its all the sweets! If you made them bigger, they would be easier to work with. But the three inch size was better for portion control of those who simply can't stop at one! The only directions I found said to lay the crusts out and fold the filling into the crust, and then roll the filled crust to flatten it, into a thinish cake. I tried that and it didn't work for me, so I just filled the cakes like I would any flat tart of half moon pie, and then lightly rolled them to thin them down and distribute the filling evenly. They are sort of a learning process. The scissors are just used to snip the top side for steam vents, and they make a sort of chevron vent. The filling has to be very dry or thick so as to not run out the vents or split the seams.

Hope you can make them up and enjoy them, its really just a sort of mince meat without the meat or lard or suet, and baked or fried (probably the first ones were cooked on the griddle) instead of searved on a plate.


breadsong's picture

Hi freerk,
Your monkey bread looks lovely, and reminds me of favorite flavors of the past (a pear mincemeat with rum that I haven't made in years) and a new favorite flavor discovered this year (chestnut).
Your speculaas rolls are on my baking list for this season, and now, mincemeat (your recipe looks intriguing, using the dark beer). Thank you so much for all of your wonderful ideas!
Happy holidays :^) from breadsong

freerk's picture

I feel a little guilty that I called it "mincemeat" because it is the quickest mincemeat ever, and thus hardly the "real thing", but it DOES work in the recipe. The dark beer comes from my mother. Actually I should say ; stout or ale, as I don't think that any old dark beer will work :-) Guinness is always a good bet.

I am getting ready to fetch some almond paste (or whipping it together myself since I still have a bucket load of almonds) and make some more speculaas rolls tonight. They are an absolute hit!

AND today Hermé's Macaron book was delivered. I am actualy typing this and at the same time taking in recipes like "mandarin orange macaron with pink peppercorns" and white truffle and piedmont hazelnut macaron" *droooool* you should see the pics....Luckily work is slowing down for the holidays :-)