Monday, December 11, 2006

Fill -In-The-Blank Cheese Braid

I just made this for the first time last week for church, and I love it. One, it completes its first rising overnight in the refrigerator. Two, it pleases my belly. Three, in spite of this post's length, it's really quite easy to make. Four, it didn't allow me to ruin it. I used bits of two different recipes to make it, then because I didn't tell my kind husband the dough needed to rise a second time the next morning, he watched the girls while I accidentally slept in. Sooo, I shaped the dough in a mighty-awful-rush and threw it in the oven without letting it rise a second time like I was supposed to. Whaddya know, it still turned out lovely, and we made it to church with seconds to spare. (And, yes, those are the loaves on our car floor, but they're on a cookie sheet, for Pete's sake! Try to guess which loaf was my first try at braiding...)

The cheese filling can be altered to suit your tastes, and the dough doesn't have to braided (see end of recipe for both).


2 scant tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup sour cream (I even used fat free sour cream. Still could't ruin it!)
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups all-pupose flour

(I'll give the flavoring I used this last time, but alter it to suit.)
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
a bit less than 3/4 cup sugar
1 egg + one egg yolk
a bit over 1 tsp. almond extract

2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. almond extract
(Or, do as I did, and use sweetened condensed milk and the tiniest amount of regular milk.)

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a saucepan, heat sour cream and butter to 110 to 115 degrees F (I just heated it and finger-tested it to the same warmth I use in water for bread recipes). Add to yeast mixture. Add sugar and eggs; mix well. Gradually add flour; mix well. Do not knead. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, in a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, and extract until smooth; set aside. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; divide into two portions and roll each into a roughly 16 X 10-inch rectagle. Place dough on greased baking sheets. Spoon half of the filling down the center third of each rectangle. If you want to braid the dough, make cuts on either side of the filling, creating strips about one-inch wide and about three inches long. Then, simply fold the strips over the filling, angling them slightly and alternating sides as you lay them across. Pinch the end seam shut if filling is spilling out; otherwise, it should be fine. Cover and let rise in a warm place util doubled, about one hour (remember now, this is the step I skipped without ruining them). Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over warm loaves. Cool on wire racks and refrigerate any leftovers.

Alternate Loaves

If you don't want to braid the dough, roll it into two 16 by 10 inch rectangles and place on greased baking sheets. Spread filling down the center of each rectangle. Fold lengthwise into thirds; pinch side seam and ends to seal. Also, if you want, you can make several one-inch diagonal slits in the center of the loaf before baking to enhance its appearance. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled and bake as for the braided loaves.

Future Filling Alternatives
* Use any flavor extract, to taste, in place of the almond (e.g. vanilla, lemon, cherry)
* Add a bit of lemon or orange peel
* Spread loaf with raspberry jam (or peach, etc.) before spreading filling over dough
* Spread some cherry pie filling on top of the cream cheese filling before folding dough and sealing
* And, lastly, I'd like to try thinly slicing some canned peaches and spreading them on top of the filling before sealing. Yum.


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