Apple Cream Cheese Braids
Bread! That paragon of carbohydrates that is the cornerstone for so many a meal…be it the breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you can find bread anywhere and everywhere. From little dinner rolls to crusty French batards, no meal is really complete without it!
But, there are so many different types of breads out there. We’ve already checked out one of them, quickbreads, with the banana bread recipe which achieves its leavening by way of baking soda/powder. Mix it up quick, throw it in a pan, bake, and done. But what about those “traditional” type of breads where you use yeast? I know in my mind, that’s what I call bread making…figuring out how to activate those little critters, adding flour and salt, and kneading and shaping…
Now, by most standards, I am still very much a bread making novice. Much like my skiing abilities, my dough and bread making skills still need some more honing and practice. I attempted a buttermilk cluster for this past Thanksgiving, and while pretty tasty, they weren’t quite the fluffy, leavened rolls they should have been. Honestly, you could have easily bludgeoned someone and done mortal harm with them…
Grub weaponry aside, I am undeterred and have moved on with my latest project, fruit braids. With the help of my friends at The Fresh Loaf I’ve been refining my skills and came upon this recipe that just looked way too good to not try out. It looked absolutely scrumptious and seemed pretty easy enough for even a novice like me to accomplish! It was a win/win!
To note, this recipe is a bit time consuming…be prepared to spend 2 separate sessions preparing the dough…most of it being spent waiting for the rise times, but outside of that, this is really a cinch to put together! The fillings take all of 15 minutes to prepare. I added a bit of cardamom for bit of a twist to the traditional cinnamon and sugar pairing…a little trick I learned from a different apple tart 😉
Couple of things that I learned…When you’re kneading, just keep kneading until you notice the dough change in composition and texture. It’ll just become smooth and satiny…trust me. Also, the “cold rise” or the overnight refrigeration is key. The cooler temperatures will retard the yeast’s growth, giving it a much slower rise, but allowing the bread to develop a more complex and sweeter flavor. Don’t skip that step!
Apple Cream Cheese Braids
Adapted from The Fresh Loaf
Makes 2 braids
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cup warm milk
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) butter, cubed
2 cups of freshly cubed Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup pecans, toasted
1/3 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon milk
Cream Cheese Filling
¾ cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon egg glaze
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the sponge: Mix sugar, yeast, and flour together in bowl. Pour in warm milk and beat until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temp for ½ hour.
Add eggs, salt, sugar and 1 cup of flour to the sponge mixture. Beat until smooth, then add butter in small chunks and beat well.
Add remaining flour a handful at a time and mix in until a soft, but kneadable dough is achieved and butter is thoroughly incorporated.
Knead dough by hand or with a mixer until smooth and satiny, about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 ½-2 hrs. Deflate the dough, recover bowl, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, make fillings before shaping loaves.
In a small pot, combine butter, brown sugar, and chopped walnuts over medium heat. Stir until combined. Add apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, cardamom, and corn starch. Combine and heat until you get a gooey concoction and mixture has become slightly translucent. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Egg Glaze: combine egg and milk and beat until well combined in small bowl.
Cream Cheese Filling: combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.
Once your filling has cooled, take dough out of refrigerator and gently deflate it. Divide into 2 pieces. Use a rolling pin to shape each piece into a thin (1cm) rectangle.
Spread your fillings in center of dough.
At an angle, slice the sides of the dough into tabs approximately 1 inch wide.
Alternating from side to side, fold the pieces in over the filling. When possible, gentle press on the tabs to seal the folds.
After it has been fully folded, glaze the braid with egg wash. Cover loosely with plastic. Set aside to rise until doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes. While it is rising, preheat the oven to 350.
Just before placing the braid in the oven, glaze it again with any remaining egg wash. Mix topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of braid after final egg wash. Bake on the center rack of the oven for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, rotating it 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.