Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blueberry-Apple Cream Cheese Braid

My fiancee is a genius.  It's (part of) the reason I'm marrying her.  I'd known this all along, of course, but she proved it again this past week.  We were thinking about interesting things to cook, and she suggested we combine two previous creations: Simple Cinnamon Apples and our Strawberry Cream-Cheese Danish.  The result was a super-pastry unlike my belly has ever experienced, which only confirmed that I'm marrying the right girl.

Like we did with the Danish a while back, we'll make this recipe in stages to keep everything simple and straightforward.  It's easiest to start by making the cinnamon apples.  This is the same process I used here -- so feel free to check out that whole post for more details.

For the apples, you'll need some apples, some brown sugar, a bit of butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.  The six apples shown in the picture are about twice what you need - you can easily get away with 3 or 4 small-medium apples.  Who doesn't like leftover cinnamon apples, though?

Peel and chop the apples down into small slices, then season them well with the cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Give them a good stir and make sure they're thoroughly coated.

Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a skillet, then add the apples and slowly saute over medium heat for 10-12 minutes until they're tender, but not yet mushy.  Err a little on the firm side with these for use in the Braid, as you want the apples to have some texture after they're baked into the pastry.

Set the apples aside while we make the rest of the components.

It's time to make the dough for the pastry itself.  For the dough, you'll need all-purpose flour, some milk, baking powder, butter, and a bit of almond extract for flavor.

The dough is super simple to make - just combine all of the above ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, then press it together by hand into a large ball.

Next, roll the dough out between two sheets of wax paper until it's about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and about a foot wide by 16-18 inches long.  We'll come back to the dough once we make something to fill it with.

Here's everything that goes into the center of the braid.  You'll need blueberry preserves, cream cheese, more vanilla, an egg, and some white sugar.

You'll see that we ended up with "spreadable soft" cream cheese - this was a mistake on my part, and the texture of the filling suffered a little bit as a result.  Whatever process makes the cream cheese "spreadable soft" made the filling a little runnier than usual, so stick to a plain old brick of Philadelphia if possible.

Add the cream cheese, vanilla, sugar, and egg to a large bowl and mix well with an electric hand-mixer until smooth-ish.  You'll never quite get all the lumps out, but don't worry about it.

Mark the dough out into thirds, and spread a thin layer of the cream-cheese mixture across the middle third. Top the cream cheese with a generous portion of blueberry preserves right in the middle.

Next, add a layer of the cinnamon apples right over the top of the blueberry preserves.  If you're feeling saucy, you can add more blueberry and/or more cream-cheese over the top of the apples. We added a little more cream-cheese and it was fantastic.

Slice the outer thirds of the dough into roughly inch-wide strips, and fold them over one-another across the center, alternating sides to form a "braid" structure.

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees until the crust is just starting to brown.  If it gets much darker the bottom might burn, so err on the light side.

While the braid bakes, we'll put together a little topping.  We'll make a "frosting" out of powdered sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, and milk, and top everything off with some toasted almonds. This bit is totally optional, but adds a nice extra nutty note to everything.

Toast the almonds with a pinch of salt in a skillet, and whisk together the sugar, vanilla, almond extract, and milk in a small bowl.

While the braid is still warm, drizzle lightly with the frosting, then sprinkle with plenty of toasted almonds.

At last, it's ready to eat!  Serve up inch-wide slices (it's rich!) and enjoy either warm from the oven or cold the next day - it's very tasty either way.

Recipe: Blueberry-Apple Cream Cheese Braid
Prep Time: 25-30 Minutes | Cook Time: 20-25 Minutes | Difficulty: Medium | Servings: 10-12 Slices


  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 4 medium Apples
  • 1/3 cup (packed) Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 cup Blueberry Preserves
  • 4 ounces Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 cup White Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Milk
  • 1/8 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp Almond Extract
  • 1/4 cup Sliced Almonds
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Peel apples and cut down into thin slices.  Toss with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla to coat.  Saute with butter 10-12 minutes over medium heat until tender.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add softened butter, milk, and almond extract, and mix well.  Press together by hand until a loose dough is formed.  The texture will be rough.
  4. In another mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar, egg, and vanilla and beat until combined and creamy.
  5. Press dough between two sheets of wax paper and roll into a large rectangle, roughly 12 by 18 inches. Discard wax paper and place dough on a greased baking sheet.
  6. Mark the dough out by thirds lengthwise.  Add cream cheese mixture to the middle third, then cover cream cheese mixture with preserves.  Arrange a layer of apples atop preserves.  If desired, add additional preserves or cream-cheese on top of apples.
  7. Cut the outer thirds of the dough into strips roughly 1-inch wide.  Alternate folding strips from opposite sides over one-another across the center to form a "braid."
  8. Bake at 425° 12-15 minutes until pastry is golden-brown.  Toast almonds while braid bakes.
  9. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp milk, 1/8 tsp vanilla and almond extracts and whisk together with a fork to create frosting.
  10. Drizzle frosting over braid while still warm and cover with toasted almonds.  Serve warm or cold.

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