People think I am crazy when I tell them how I relax on the weekends....I knead dough, I watch yeast proof and bubble, I covet the rising of my loaves and delight in the smell pervading through the house. The week has been strange and hectic as I mentionned a couple of days ago and yet the only way I know to relax and recover from it is by making breakfast treats for us or the neighbors. I have got scones in the oven as we speak and we just devoured a half of this beautiful cream cheese braid you see up there.
It seems that I have done a lot more bread baking than actual dessert making this week but what you don't see is the behind the scene...There was a couple of birthday cakes, a French croquembouche for a wedding rehearsal and a whole lot of chocolate making. Granted some weeks my kitchen ressembles more a bakery than a restaurant but I am ready for a change with a couple of great events that are coming up. I also have to confess that the weather has been so nice that I have been caught playing outside when I should have been doing more adult chores (paying bills, cleaning, etc...no fun!)
What is special about this braid...? The cream cheese replaces most of the butter and leaves you with a very soft dough, very creamy without being over the top. The same dough can be the base of multiple variations and I usually do a hazelnut or almond filling alonside this one because it seems that one is never enough!
The inspiration to replace the butter with the cream cheese came from this recipe. The Fresh Loaf is a mine of knowledge and ressources for novice or advanced bakers and this blueberry braid filled with all that creamy goodness made me want to incorporate the cream cheese in the dough to see if the flavor would mellow through it and if the dough would be nice and soft as a pillow. I also have to say that I was getting a little lazy with the whole rolling, spreading the cheese inside, braiding, etc... thus dumping the cheese in the Kitchen Aid alongside the butter. It worked one night and I never looked back!
Cream Cheese Braid, inspired from the Fresh Loaf:
Makes 2 braids
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cup warm milk
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 oz. butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tb. melted butter
For the sponge: mix the sugar, yeast, and flour together in bowl. Pour in the warm milk. Beat until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1/2 hour.
Add the eggs, salt, sugar, and one cup of the flour to the sponge. Beat until smooth. Then add the cream cheese and butter in small chunks and beat well. Add the remaining flour a handful at a time and mix in until you get a soft dough.
Knead the dough by hand or with a mixer about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise and room temperature until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Deflate the dough, recover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, take the dough out of the fridge, deflate and divide in 2 equal pieces. For the braid, I divide one piece in too and twist them together (so not exactly the conventional braid, but at this point I can't wait any longer!!). Place it on parchment paper lined baking sheet, allow to rise 45 minutes, brush with some egg was and bake at 375 for 20- 25 minutes.
Take out of the oven, and while it cools a little, prepare the glaze. Add enough milk to the powdered sugar and melted butter to make a soft spreadable glaze and our all that goodness on your braid...and go ahead and eat because after all that you really deserve it!
Do the same for the other braid, or roll out into a rectangle and fill with your avorite filling and braid it according to the recipe on the Fresh Loaf. The details are great and you can't mess up, makes me wish I ad blueberries left because I have the other loaf awaiting its fate in the fridge...