Cream Cheese Braid
The natural tanginess of cream cheese gives this bread a subtle but distinctive flavor, reminiscent of cheesecake.
INGREDIENTS | YIELDS 1 LOAF
- 1 cup warm water
- ¼ cup honey
- 3½ teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
- 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, diced
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt
- 3–4 cups bread flour
- 1 egg white
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, combine water, honey, and yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Add 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, butter, eggs, all-purpose flour, and ¾ teaspoon salt; stir to combine. Add enough bread flour to create a firm dough. Add flour only to reduce stickiness. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 8–10 minutes. Return to bowl, dust the top with flour, and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Turn risen dough onto a floured surface, divide into 4 equal portions, and form a 4-strand braid. Place onto prepared pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and proof for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F.
Whisk egg white with a pinch of salt and brush the top of the risen loaf. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding, about 30–40 minutes. Cool the loaf completely on a rack.
In a small bowl combine remaining package cream cheese with powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Drizzle over bread before serving.
The 4-Strand Braid
The 4-strand braid is a bit trickier than the 3- or 5-strand. The pattern is as follows: 1 over 3, 2 over 3, 4 over 2. It is a little like a standard braid, with an added twist in the middle. The finished product has a raised center that looks like a spiral staircase. It may be necessary to roll the loaf over to find the prettiest side before baking.