Little Baby's Caramel Apple Monkey Bread

Today I am 36 weeks pregnant with Little Baby.

This is the point when most women excitedly think about their new baby coming home—and they stress over the imminent labor that is coming and plan for the upcoming months of blissful chaos.

I am doing many of these things; I feel electric with excitement, I am obsessed with this little lady—but I am also consumed with fear. 

We lost our first daughter, Willa, at 40 weeks; she was big, strong, perfect. But she passed away.  After a traumatic labor, we came home to a quiet house and were forced to drastically readjust our visions of the future.

Now, two years later, I am having an intense case of déjà vu.

I’ve been here before—36 weeks pregnant, waddling around, having everyone and their mother ask when I’m due—but our baby didn’t come home.

Slowly we put her things away; we repacked and stored diapers, carriers, and bottles. And now, here I am blowing the dust off these things and feeling hopeful, but also a little bit like a fool.

My baby is coming home, right?

You might say “of course,” but the only experience we’ve had is one that ended with pictures, a lock of her hair and remembrances of the softness of her cheeks—things that we cherish, but not the lifetime of memories we thought we were promised.

We love this new baby. We love her arguably more than any other pregnant couple loves their baby. Many people fall for their little one when they see their baby’s eyes or hear their baby’s voice for the first time. But when all you know is the pregnancy part of it all, you end up really appreciating the moments prior to birth.

We talk to Little Baby constantly. We read to her, sing to her, take her on adventures. I am so happy she is alive today. I am so happy to have her kick me in my ribs, dance on my bladder, and make my body feel like a swollen, achy shadow of its usual self.

We revel in the fact that she is with us today and pray that she is tomorrow, too.

We live for today, we love her today.

It hasn’t been easy. We spent almost a year just trying to get pregnant, a struggle in itself, especially when you know the hardest nine months are still to come.

We have navigated the outside world as people innocently ask questions like “Is this your first?” And we have smiled politely as people talk about pregnancy complaints and fears of bringing home a newborn.

It’s hard to have complaints or to focus on anything that a regular woman with a regular pregnancy focuses on. We have literally only one goal—to bring our baby home—alive.

Everything else seems so trivial. In the end, this all makes me a terrible pregnant lady to talk to.

When I meet someone else who is pregnant, I find it hard to talk to them. I don’t ask the normal questions, or have anything engaging to say about the best breast pumps or diapers.

Unfortunately I’ve learned that being pregnant—even 40 weeks pregnant—does not always mean that you will be bringing a baby home.

And it is a hard lesson to unlearn.

This doesn’t mean I’m not ready for her. There came a point when I realized I had to start planning for this baby. I gathered the odds and ends we never got around to getting when we were expecting Willa. I realized many of my baby products were expired and got new ones. And the first time I bought baby clothes again brought on a whirlwind of emotions.

The closer we get to the due date, the more excited we feel—and the more scared. These emotions just go hand in hand. There is nothing anyone can say to change this.

Everyone can tell you that you’re just being an overly concerned mother, and hey, it’s probably good advice because it probably will be fine, but that fear is an impossible feeling to shake.

As we make room for Little Baby, we have to disrupt the perfect, untouched sanctuary that is currently Willa’s room.

We have moved things that have not been touched since she passed, and we’ve rearranged cards, pictures, and outfits of hers that we have come to love exactly where they are.

I hate having to move a single thing of hers. It’s a battle—one I fight with daily. I know I will create new spaces for her and new routines to honor and love my Willa, but it still sucks.

Here’s the good news: if I look within and really search, I do feel deep down that this baby is coming home. I don’t know where that feeling comes from, but I just focus on it. I try not to think about the “what ifs." These are not productive thoughts.

Instead I hold on to that nugget of hope, of faith. I let myself get excited when I can; I try to believe even if doubt is chasing after me. I’m trying and that’s all I can do.

For Willa, I made Willa’s Lemonade Cheesecakes—using some of her favorite things. And so I decided to write a recipe for my Little Baby as well. She is a fan of carbs, apple cider, and—just like her sister—loves her sweets. Because of all this, I made her sticky, gooey, caramel apple monkey bread with cider cream cheese icing.

Like my baby, it’s sweet, fun, a little silly, and makes me smile—just like she makes me smile every time she kicks a little “hello.”

It will warm your belly—just like she warms my heart.

Little Baby's Caramel Apple Monkey Bread with Cider Cream Cheese Icing

servings: 8-10

Cider Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1¼ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Little Baby's Caramel Apple Monkey Bread:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (½ cup)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • Four 7.5-ounce cans Pillsbury Biscuits, country style or buttermilk (10 biscuits per can)

Cider Cream Cheese Icing:

  1. In a small pot over medium high heat, pour and cook the cider until it is reduced to ¼ cup.
  2. Place the cream cheese in a large bowl; pour the hot cider over the cream cheese, whisking until both ingredients are well combined.
  3. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt, and mix well. Set the frosting aside.

Little Baby's Caramel Apple Monkey Bread:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large pot over medium heat, add the butter and apples and cook them until the apples are slightly tender—3-5 minutes. Then add the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the salt; stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved—1-2 minutes.Turn off the heat and add the cream, then set the mixture aside.
  2. In a large bowl or plastic food storage bag, combine the granulated sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Then cut each biscuit into 4 equal pieces and toss them in this cinnamon sugar mixture. It may be easiest to work in batches.
  3. Grease a bunt pan or loaf pan with cooking spray and add about ⅓ of the cinnamon sugar-covered biscuits. Top that with ⅓ of the caramel apple mixture. Repeat this layering process twice; when you are finished, you will have used all of the remaining biscuits and caramel apple mixture. Bake the monkey bread until the top of it is brown and the biscuits in the center of the pan are set—about 40 minutes.
  4. While the monkey bread is in the oven, make the Cider Cream Cheese Icing. When the bread is finished, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes in its pan. Invert a plate over the monkey bread in the pan. Then hold the plate and pan together and quickly flip them over, so that the monkey bread drops onto the plate (use oven mitts, the pan will still be warm!). Lift off the pan. Drizzle with the icing, and serve warm.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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