Sweet Cheese Strudel

This bread is our favorite Easter morning breakfast. In February, my oldest daughter Lucy usually starts asking me if I’ll make it this year for Easter, and she’s also been known to request it for her birthday. The original recipe comes from Beth Hensperger’s Bread for All Seasons. I’ve done everything here the same as the original, except sometimes I only use cream cheese (I don’t add the goat cheese), and I also braided this plait instead of rolling it like cinnamon rolls–and it turned out beautifully.

It’s a simple but dramatic loaf and one of the best ways to start any morning. I think perhaps tomorrow I’ll also add some blueberries into the filling–just a few! Oh, also note that it rests in the fridge overnight, so start the day before.

Sweet Cheese Strudel

Yeasted Sweet Cheese Strudel or  Cream Cheese Braided Danish

2 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 c. sour cream
6 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
2 eggs
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 t. salt
3 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (exact measure)

Sweet Cheese Filling
8 oz. fresh goat cheese (not Feta! that rookie mistake was embarassing), at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature [sometimes, I just use 16 oz. of cream cheese instead of goat cheese, and it is great either way]
2/3 c. sugar
1 egg
2 t. pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 large lemon

Brandied Almond Crust
1 egg yolk
1 t. good-quality brandy [or almond extract]
2 T. light brown sugar
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/2 c. slivered or sliced almonds

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of the sugar over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Warm the sour cream on the stove top or in a microwave to about 105 degrees, then add the butter pieces. Stir to melt.

2. In a standing mixer (or equivalent), combine the remaining sugar, eggs, lemon zest, salt and 1 c. of flour. Add the warm sour cream and yeast mixtures. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute, switching to a wooden spoon as necessary if making by hand. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 c. at a time. The dough will be rather soft and have a silky, translucent quality. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Cover the bowl with 2 layers of greased plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge overnight.

3. The next day, make the sweet cheese filling. With an electric mixer, blend together the cheeses, sugar, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest until smooth and well combined. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

4. Using a large dough scraper, scrape the chilled batter onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 3 equal portions. Roll out each portion in to an 8-by-12-inch rectangle, dusting lightly with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Spread each rectangle with one-third of the sweet cheese filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Starting from a long side, roll up jelly-roll fashion and pinch the seam together to seal. Pinch both ends to seal and tuck them under. (In the picture above, I spread the filling down the center and then cut the dough on both sides into one-inch strands, and folded them over each other to create the braid. I like the look much better.)

5. Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, at least 3 inches apart. Using a serrated knife, score each finished cylinder in 5 places across the top, no more than 1/4 inch deep. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

6. Bake in the center of the preheated oven 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the brandied almond crust. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, brandy, brown sugar, and allspice and beat briskly with a whisk. Using a pastry brush, spread the crust mixture gently over the tops of the partially baked strudels. Immediately sprinkle each strudel with one-third of the almonds. Quickly return the pan to the oven and bake until the strudels are golden, sound hollow when tapped, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, another 15-20 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the strudels from the baking sheet to a rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

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Orange & Chocolate Panettone

Panettone
I’ve been wanting to make panettone to have on Christmas morning for years, so I have had this recipe tucked away in a binder, waiting for the Christmas when I would be able to accomplish it. I’ve wanted to make this panettone in particular because, although I like the idea of an assortment of fruits and nuts in a Christmas bread, it isn’t that easy to find them where I live, and my kids don’t go for it. So, I thought that a more familiar orange and chocolate flavor would appeal to the whole family.

This year became the year for the panettone, which meant I actually had panettone paper liners (hooray!) and made the time to make this bread. But the thought that this would appeal to everyone? Well, I was wrong. The kids really wanted nothing to do with this bread. On the happy side, the adults just loved it. It was fantastic.

I know that the difference between store-bought anything and its homemade counterpart is usually quite distinctive, but this one really shows off. The texture is so much lighter and fresher and brighter than any panettone I’ve had before. The flavors are rich and full and the bread showcases them perfectly. Hopefully, when I bring this out in holidays to come, the kids will be more on board! This recipe comes from a 2009 copy of Martha Stewart Living. Also, note that this bread needs to be started at least 24 hours in advance, to allow for an overnight rise in the fridge.

Orange & Chocolate Panettone

  • 1 T. plus 1 1/2 t. active dry yeast (two 1/4-ounce envelopes)
  • 1/3 c. whole milk, warmed
  • 14 oz. unbleached bread flour (about 3 cups), plus more for surface
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 t. coarse salt
  • 10 oz. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 c. diced candied (glazed) orange peel (make your own!)
  • 1/2 t. pure almond extract
  • 1/2 t. pure orange extract
  • Vegetable oil, for bowl
  • 2 t. best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pearl sugar, for sprinkling
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 T. sliced almonds, for sprinkling
  1. Sprinkle yeast over milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough-hook attachment. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle 2 ounces flour (about 1/2 cup) and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar over top. Cover with plastic, and let stand for 1 hour.

  2. Add remaining 12 ounces flour and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, the beaten eggs, and the salt. Mix together on medium speed until dough forms a smooth, stiff ball, about 5 minutes. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition.

  3. Switch to paddle attachment, and mix dough on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and add chocolate, orange peel, and extracts. Mix until combined.

  4. Turn out dough onto a clean surface, and form into a ball. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

  5. Bring dough to room temperature [this can take a little while!!], and divide in half. Form each half into a ball; place each in a 5 1/4-by-3 3/4-inch paper panettone mold. Transfer to a baking sheet. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly beat remaining egg and the cocoa powder together. Brush glaze mixture onto panettone dough, and sprinkle with pearl sugar and almonds. Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes.

  7. Remove molds from oven, and run a wooden skewer horizontally through the bottom of each panettone loaf. Hang loaves upside down by propping ends of each skewer on 2 large, heavy cans [this step prevents the loaves from collapsing inwards. I was rushed on time and innovative thinking, so I just flipped them upside down. It worked fine because the loaves didn’t raise above the wrapper edges]. Let cool completely.