Monday, May 31, 2010

Blueberry Braided Bread

Last week, I was having a stressful day and decided to let off some steam in a completely normal way- I decided to embark on a 4 hour baking project after work. And of course, I decided that the best thing to do would be to combine two recipes I'd never tried before. I mean, isn't that what everyone does on a weekday? So clearly not, but baking bread on a weeknight can be done without cramping one's schedule too greatly because there are big spaces of free time built into the process. And, amazingly enough, this project turned out to be a fantastic success.
I wanted to make a braided blueberry cream cheese bread, but most of the recipes I found called for an overnight rise. Finally, I found a recipe for a braided lemon curd and cream cheese bread on Smitten Kitchen that could be accomplished in one night. Ultimately, I chose to combine the bread from the Smitten Kitchen recipe with the filling from a recipe I found on Fresh Loaf, but I ended up making a few changes to both recipes. The bread recipe needed more liquid and a longer baking time for me, and I simplified the cream cheese filling recipe a bit.


6 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Sponge (above)
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, 1 for the dough, 1 beaten with 1 teaspoon milk and set aside for brushing the bread
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


2 cups frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice

8 oz. softened cream cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

First, combine the ingredients to make the sponge. Then set it aside and allow it to rise for 15 minutes. (During this time, I walked the dogs and got ready to go to the gym.)

Next, whisk together the yogurt, egg, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix in the sponge, then slowly add the flour. The original recipe called for 2.5 cups of flour, but I only used 2 and 1/3 cups and added a little milk at the end so that all of the flour would incorporate. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with saran wrap and allow it to rise for 60-90 minutes. (During this time I went to the gym, and stopped by the grocery store to get some cream cheese. I also made my fillings.)

While the bread is rising, heat the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice on the stove until the blueberries are thawed and boiling. Add the cornstarch and allow the berry mixture to thicken while it simmers.

Soften the cream cheese, then combine it with the sugar and vanilla.

Once the bread has risen and the fillings have been made, roll the bread out into a big rectangle on a piece of aluminum foil (this is crucial). Spread the cream cheese in a long strip down the middle of the rectangle, leaving plenty of dough on either side. Carefully spread the blueberries on top of the cream cheese. (I had some leftover blueberry sauce- I saved it and had it on my yogurt the next day- Yum!)
To make the braid, cut inch wide strips down the sides of the dough on either side. Make sure to cut the same number of strips on each side. Then fold the strips over each other over the filling to form the braid. (Please excuse my blurry camera- I'm not sure what happened...maybe some cream cheese on the lens?)Transfer the braided bread to a baking sheet (just carefully pick up the foil by holding either end, and then lift it onto the sheet. Allow the bread to rise for about an hour. (During this time, I made and ate my dinner, and cleaned up the kitchen.)

Brush the egg wash over the bread and then bake it at 375 for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before you slice it.

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