What do you do for someone who just had a baby? You bring them food, and plenty of it. My friend Holly just gave birth to her daughter Alice Mae (is there a cuter name? No.), and I wanted to bring her something comforting for breakfast when I went over to meet the little monkey. I had just been reading about this recipe over on Smitten Kitchen, and so I decided to give it a whirl. It calls for a lovely sweet yeasted dough, a cream cheese spread and lemon curd. Well, I have a weird problem that makes no sense- I don't like lemon curd. I think it tastes metallic and sometimes sweet lemon breads remind me of lobster. I never claimed to be fully, you know, with it.
So anyway I thought I would swap out the lemon curd for homemade apricot jam, and then things would be right in the world (besides the whole oil spill thing, etc.). I was right! Apricot was just right in this pastry. It was still as tart as I imagine the lemon would be, but also warm and golden flavored. The cream cheese was essential, and next time I might even add a little bit more. I served this with dark cherries and pineapple soaked with booze, cause thats what new moms need.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (Really the only thing I did differently was swapping lemon for apricot.)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup (1 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sour cream or yogurt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 teaspoon water for brushing bread
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
Large, sparkling white sugar for sprinkling
Apricot cream cheese filling
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons (5/8 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sour cream
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 ounces) homemade apricot jam
First make the sponge. In a small bowl, combine the sponge ingredients. Stir well to combine, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.
Then make the dough! Combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough is a rough, shaggy mass. Switch to the dough hook and knead on until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 to 6 minutes. ??Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until quite puffy and nearly doubled.
For the cream cheese filling, combine all the filling ingredients (except the apricot jam) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free. Reserve the filling and apricot jam until ready to fill the braids.
To make the bread, gently deflate the dough and roll it out on a very well floured counter to a 10″ x 15″ rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper. With the side of your hand, lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, dividing it into three equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section, leaving the top and bottom two inches free of filling. Spread the apricot jam over the cream cheese filling.
To form the mock braid, cut crosswise strips one inch apart down the length of the outer columns of you dough (the parts without filling). Make sure you have an equal amount of 1-inch strips down the right and left sides. Remove the four corner segments. To “braid”, begin by folding top flap down and bottom flap up over the filling. Lift the top dough strip and gently bring it diagonally across the filling. Repeat on the right side, and continue down the entire braid, alternating strips until you are out. You can tuck the last couple that hand off decoratively under the end of the braid.
Carefully transfer the dough and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set it aside to rise for 45 to 50 minutes, until quite puffy.
To bake, preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves with egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.