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When my husbands son and his friends were much younger, there were "butter braids" that were always around. They were a sale item for school/activity fund-raisers. The fund-raiser offerings were always: Girl Scout Cookies, Boy Scout Popcorn, Wrapping Paper and Butter Braids. (I do believe we have enough wrapping paper for the next 50 years!) I remember the first year making a cherry/cheese butter braid as part of our Thanksgiving celebrations and everyone loved it! I wanted to see if I could re-create the same braid.
The fillings are up to you - you can use any fruit curd or fruit preserve that you like (lemon curd would be magnificent in this too!) You can also flavor your cream cheese as well (think cinnamon cream cheese and apple jam combo) My suggestion - if you think your jam, jelly, curd or preserve is too 'thin' and runny...make sure to add some clear-jel or cornstarch to thicken before spooning down center of braid. ~Enjoy! Diane
Homemade Fruit & Cheese Breakfast Braid
1/4 ounce package yeast (Instant Yeast)
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, *optional
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Cream Cheese Filling:
2/3 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup your favorite prepared: fruit preserves, jam or curd
*I used Cherry Preserves
In a small cup, dissolve yeast in warm water (water that is hot enough to activate your yeast, add a pinch of sugar to this to enhance yeast production) and set aside.
In a large cup, place the unsalted butter and microwave until the butter is almost melted, add in the milk and continue microwaving until the milk is warmed through.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix warmed milk & melted butter, sugar, and salt. Once lightly mixed, add in the egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Pour in the yeast/water mixture and mix in remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough is easy to handle. Change over paddle on stand mixer to dough hook at this time.
Knead dough in your mixer with the dough hook, (or by hand on lightly floured surface) for approx 8 minutes. I set my timer and watch the dough at the 6 minute mark - to see if the ingredients are being pulled up off the bottom of bowl, if not - then I more flour (2 Tbs at a time) until ALL the dough collects off bottom of bowl.
Once dough is ready, oil a large container very lightly with olive oil, place your dough ball in, give the ball a quick clock-wise turn (this coats the dough in a bit of oil) and flip back over, cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I let my dough rise in my oven which has been preheated to my lowest setting (170) and then turned off immediately...I leave the oven door open just a bit for about 5 mins, then close and let the dough rise inside oven (this creates a warm, draft free environment)
Once doubled in size, gently punch down dough and divide in half.
Filling & Baking:
Cover half with plastic wrap and set it aside as you roll out the first piece into a 10" x 15" rectangle. Rolling on parchment paper makes moving the bread to the baking sheet much, much easier. Lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, to divide it into 3 equal sections. Spread half the cream cheese filling down the center section, and top with half the fruit preserves, jam or curd, leaving 1" free on all sides of the filling.
To form the mock braid, cut 1" crosswise strips down the length of the outside sections, making sure you have the same number of strips down each side. Beginning on the left, lift the top dough strip and gently bring it across the filling diagonally. Repeat on the other side with the top dough strip, so that the two strips crisscross each other. Continue down the entire braid, alternating strips to form the loaf
Repeat the rolling, filling, and braiding steps for the second piece of dough, using the remaining cream cheese filling and fruit filling. Set both loaves aside, lightly covered, to rise for 45 to 50 minutes, or until quite puffy
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves with egg wash (one lightly beaten egg, 2 teaspoons water and a pinch of salt), and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Refrigerate any leftovers.
Yield: 2 loaves.
Recipe Adapted from: King Arthur Flour (cream cheese filling) and All things Food - Cooking with Mary & Friends (dough)
Photos by: Diane Baker for Canning and Cooking at Home
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Diane Baker: Owner & Creator of Canning and Cooking at Home