“Wait. Are you serious, you’re planning to bake bread for dessert?”
Why yes, I am.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to making any “traditional” festive bread this month – my bid to try a generations-old julebrød recipe fell apart as I scrambled to finish up some last minute experiments before heading home. I do have to say though, in many ways this blueberry cream cheese braid is festive in its own right, because I’ve been making it for many big events like birthdays and department holiday parties and graduations and now, New Year’s. I baked up a storm for my family’s New Year’s party tonight, and we all agreed that breads like a blueberry cream cheese braid can make pretty darn good desserts after all.
Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid
Makes 2 braids
– 1 tbsp instant yeast
– 1 tbsp sugar
– 1 1/2 cup warm milk
– 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 2 1/2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
– 2 cups blueberries
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup cornstarch
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
*I’ve made this from scratch before, but if you’re really in a pinch, I’ve also, erm, “cheated”… and used blueberry pie filling before.
– 1 egg
– 1 tbsp milk
Cream Cheese Filling
– 3/4 cup cream cheese, softened (I don’t measure and just use an 8 oz. package of cream cheese)
– 2 tbsp sugar
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tbsp of the egg glaze
To make the sponge: mix the sugar, yeast and flour together in a bowl. Pour in the warm milk. Beat until smooth, then cover and let it sit for 30 min.
Add the eggs, salt, sugar and one cup of flour to the sponge, and beat until smooth. Then, add the butter in small chunks and beat well – work those upper arm muscles! Add the remaining flour a handful at a time and mix in until a soft but kneadable dough is achieved and the butter is thoroughly incorporated. This is why it’s important that you start with room temperature butter.
Knead the dough by hand or with a mixer for about 5-8 minutes. It should feel smooth and satiny by this time. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, around 1 1/2 to 2 hours. My kitchen was a bit on the cold side so I let it happily incubate in a slightly warm oven (turned on for about 10-20 seconds?) instead of letting it sit out on the counter.
recover the bowl with plastic wrap or bag, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, make the fillings before shaping the braids.
Blueberry filling: combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly.
Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool. It will thicken as it cools.
Egg glaze: combine the egg and milk in a bowl and lightly beat until combined.
Cream cheese filling: combine all the ingredients in a bowl
and mix until combined.
Once your filling has cooled off, take the dough out of the refrigerator. It will have risen with all its might overnight, like this:
Gently deflate it and divide into two pieces, one for each braid. Use a rolling pin to shape each piece into a thin (~ 1 cm / slightly less than 1/3-inch thick) rectangle.
Spread your cream cheese filling, then blueberry filling on top, in the center of the dough. It’s hard (heh heh) but try not to overdo it because too much filling will make it harder to braid, and you’ll end up with a pretty messy and leaky loaf.
Slice the sides of the dough at an angle so you end up with tabs around 1 inch wide. We’re going to use these tabs to form the braid.
Alternating from side to side, fold the pieces in over the filling. When possible, gently press on the tabs to seal the folds. Floyd at The Fresh Loaf has a good photo of how to do this step. You’ll end up with two braids that will probably look a lot neater than these ones:
After it has been fully folded, glaze the braid with egg wash. Cover loosely with plastic – you can place the entire baking pan in a clean kitchen garbage bag. Set aside to rise until puffy looking and doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes.
Just before placing the braid in the oven, glaze it again with any remaining egg wash. Bake on the center rack of a preheated 350F oven for approximately 35-40 minutes, rotating the pan once after 20 minutes so that it bakes evenly. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for at least half an hour before slicing.
Blueberry cream cheese braid crumb:
Here’s a point-and-shoot photo of the spread for tonight’s baked goods. Freshly baked homemade bread = great party!
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Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!