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.


Cinnamon Swirl Kuchen

This yummy kuchen is akin to coffee cake.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 and 1/3 cups sugar, divided
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and shortening. Gradually add 2 cups sugar; beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine milk and vanilla; set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk mixture, beating just enough after each addition to keep the batter smooth. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle 1 and 1/2 tsp. into a greased 10-inch tube pan. Pour a third of the batter into pan. Sprinkle with half of the remaining cinnamon-sugar; top with a third of the batter. Repeat layers. Smooth with spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour, 15 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, and remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

* I nearly double the cinnamon-sugar mixture, sprinkling 2 tsp. into the greased pan, and then using most of the rest layered in with the batter. I add more sugar to what I have left to use on morning toast (and afternoon and evening and midnight toast, if you must know).

* I drizzled on a glaze made from between 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups confectionary sugar, a few tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk (because I had some leftover in my fridge and, besides, it creates a nice glaze), a splash of vanilla extract, and a teensy amount of regular milk to make the glaze the right consistency.

* I bake this in a bundt pan. It could probably be baked in a 13 x 9 pan, too, though I've not tried that. It would bake much more quickly in a 13 x 9, so just keep an eye on it while it bakes.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This one's for you, Mary. (And, for the rest of you, I'll add a nicer picture the next time I make it. This was snapped at church yesterday morning. Not that you care or that it matters one whit...)

I usually add chocolate chips, because if I'm going to eat unhealthy foods, I might as well eat really unhealthy foods, but they can be omitted if you wish. This recipe is easily doubled, tripled, and quadrupled.

1/3 cup vegetable shortening (e.g. any kin to Crisco)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup ripe, mashed bananas
1 cup chocolate chips, if desired

Beat the shortening and sugar well. Add eggs and beat well. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately to the shortening mixture with the mashed banana, mixing between each addition. Pour into well-greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

* Allow your bananas to become as black as a moonless night before you mash them, but use them the split-second before they begin to ferment.

* I usually tent aluminum foil over the loaves during the last 15-20 minutes of baking so they aren't overbrowned.

* Wrap bread and allow it to sit overnight for fullest flavor.