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Halloween spider monkey bread bowl

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Most of the time, Halloween-themed food isn't scary – it's cute. And that's what my colleagues and I came up with for our newspaper's Halloween photo spread recently – although there was one that I think was a little gorier than others (look at the photos and you'll probably be able to tell. Hint: fingers and eyeballs).
What was disturbing was the fact that grown women had so much fun making the dishes!
I made cheesy monkey bread in the shape of a spider with leggy breadsticks and a built-in cavity for the dip. You can find spider bread bowl dips all over the Internet – I just made mine into bread that you could pull apart into individual cheese-coated pieces.  
Here are my own pictures of the dishes we made for the spread.
Halloween spread
For professionally taken pictures by The Star photographer Yap Chee Hong, go to the link above (the print version of the article was beautifully laid out). Chee Hong really took his time to get the best shot for each dish. The only downside is we had to wait ages before we could get at the food! My "spider gut" cheese dip had congealed by then, but it didn't matter one solid glob.
Spider-shaped Monkey Bread Bowl
Serves 12

1 quantity buttermilk bread dough
150g unsalted butter
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup shredded cheese (eg. Mozzarella, Cheddar)

Additional stuff
Marmite or other black ingredient for decoration
Chilli-cheese dip
Chilli or tomato sauce

Grease a large baking sheet and a medium oven-proof mixing bowl (or use a domed-shaped baking mould). Cover the outside of a small ramekin with foil and grease the foil.
Remove ⅓ of the dough and divide into eight equal portions. Roll each portion into 20cm lengths, tapering the ends if desired. These are the spider's legs.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Let it cool slightly (it should still be a little warm).
Combine the Parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic powder in a bowl.
Dip each leg into the melted butter and then coat in the Parmesan-parsley mixture. Lay the leg on the baking sheet in a curvy "V" shape. Repeat with the other legs. Cover the sheet with a clean tea towel.
Remove a small portion from the remaining dough and form into balls for the spider's head and bulging eyes. Dip the top of the head in the melted butter and sprinkle with Parmesan-parsley mixture. Place on the baking sheet with the legs.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190°C. Place the foil-covered ramekin upside-down in the middle of the prepared mixing bowl (or domed-shaped baking mould).
Press out the large portion of dough until about 1.5cm thick. Slice into 1.5cm squares. Dunk a few pieces into the melted butter, then coat with the Parmesan-parsley mixture. Put a layer of the dough into the bottom of the mixing bowl around the ramekin and sprinkle with a little shredded cheese. Continue layering the coated pieces of dough and cheese. The final layer should cover the upturned ramekin. Cover the bowl with a tea towel.
By this time, the legs and head will be ready for the oven. Bake until golden and crisp, 10-12 minutes. remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Bake the spider's body until golden. Cool in bowl/mould for 10 minutes, then upturn onto a wire rack. Remove the ramekin. If the body is pale, return to the oven (without the bowl/mould) to brown.
Place Spidey's body on a serving platter/board. With a paring knife, make eight slits in the form of a small "X" about 3cm from the top and equal distance apart around the body. Poke one end of the legs into the X's. One or both of the front legs can be in the air for a bit of drama.
Dot Marmite on the eyes for the irises and eyebrows. Carve out sharp teeth on the head and colour with chilli or tomato sauce. Attach head to the body with toothpicks.
Insert a ramekin or other small container into the cavity and fill with dip. Serve the spider.
Note: Next time, I'll try making this free-standing instead of moulding it in a bowl so that the individual dough pieces can puff up and the body of the spider will be knobby instead of smooth.

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