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When I first came across the recipe card for “Ute Brownies” in my Grandmother Marcia’s notebook, I immediately wondered: How was she connected to the Ute tribe? And how did the Ute people and brownies have anything in common? That’s what happens when you thumb through recipe cards from a loved one who is no longer here. You have questions, and you hope to find answers.
I asked my mother if she remembered “Ute brownies.” She told me that Ute, pronounced “Ooo-da,” was the daughter of Grandmother Marcia’s friend, Mrs. Partain. I never met Mrs. Partain, but I did meet her recipe for cheese grits—one of my all-time favorite recipes. (I’ll tell you about cheese grits another day.)
Mrs. Partain’s husband used to take my mother and Ute to the local drugstore in Paragould, Arkansas called, “Highway Sundries.” This was the type of place that had an original soda fountain with a marble bar. He’d give the girls a quarter for a coke (which was a lot of money in the 1950s). They’d sip their cokes while seated in the tiny chairs that were popular in soda fountains back in those days.
I’m not sure if my mom and Ute ever nibbled on Mrs. Partain’s brownies while at Highway Sundries, but I’d imagine the brownies would pair well with a fresh coke.
I made the brownies tonight, and let me tell you: Mrs. Partain didn’t disappoint. These brownies are luscious, melt-in-your mouth brownies—the best kind. The recipe requires a few simple ingredients and about 30 minutes of your time. Word of caution: you may be inspired to eat all of the brownies yourself. Be careful.
Recipe by Ute’s mother, Mrs. Partain, my Grandmother Marcia’s friend
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening (soft)
- 2 unbeaten eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup pecans
Preheat over to 350 F.
Put everything in the mixer except pecans and beat on “speed three” for 2 minutes. Put in nuts and beat for one minute.
Bake for 30 minutes in 8 inch pan. Let stand a little while before cutting. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.
If I could travel back in time and place my childhood Christmas memories on a china plate, I’d ask my child self, “Tell me, what do your memories taste like?” I’d reply in between bites with a full mouth, “Like butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.”
Of all the good food I enjoyed over the holidays growing up in Northeast Arkansas, I’d have to say the one dish that I looked forward to more than anything else was Christmas morning Monkey Bread. The recipe demanded a half pound of butter, two types of sugar (brown and white), and soft Parker House rolls.
I made this for the first time today (yes, Christmas arrived early for me), and I almost devoured the entire pan of Monkey Bread by myself. Can you blame me?
Christmas Breakfast Monkey Bread
By Debbie Hodge, mother of Rob Hodge
Recipe appeared in the Paragould, Arkansas Baldwin Elementary School cookbook, Baldwin Bear’s Own Great Batch of Recipes in 1991. The recipe was called, “Quick Cinnamon Rolls” in the cookbook, but my family always referred to it as “Monkey Bread.” Maybe it isn’t “real” monkey bread, but who cares? It’s incredible.
I’ve made a few edits for clarification in the recipe below.
- 24 frozen, small Parker House rolls (or 12 frozen, regular-sized Parker House rolls)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter
For the cinnamon glaze
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 bunt pan, lightly greased
To prepare the bunt pan
Over medium high heat, melt 1 stick unsalted butter in sauce pan. Add brown sugar. Stir the butter/brown sugar mixture together until you have a caramel consistency. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a bunt pan.
To coat the rolls in cinnamon glaze
Melt 1 stick unsalted butter and set aside. In another dish, mix white sugar and cinnamon together. Roll frozen rolls in butter, then roll them in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Place in bunt pan. Do not layer. Add remaining butter and sugar. Cover with a towel and let set out on kitchen counter overnight.
The next morning
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before turning out on plate. (My note: refrain from eating all the rolls yourself. Remember, this is Christmas—don’t forgot to share.)