Braided Jammy Breakfast Breads

Over this year I’ve conquered many a fear, but none that I am more proud of than my old fear of bread. Maybe I was just doing everything wrong before now, but after making these beautiful braids, it’s clear that this recipe is going to become a staple in my home. Inspired by two different people, this original recipe comes from Zoe Francois of Zoe Bakes, in her new book Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes A Day. I believe the original recipe used raspberry jam and cream cheese with a hint of lemon, so my second bread closely resembles that one. Last week, I came across Adrianna Adarme of A Cozy Kitchen, preparing her variations on this beautiful bread and by then, I was convinced. So, here we are, with one classic raspberry and lemon, and a second that tastes like breakfast and pie in one. What is it, you ask? Oh only blueberry jam with cinnamon cream cheese and maple glaze! I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s truly heavenly.

With next week being Christmas, I’ll be taking a week off to spend time with all my siblings and family together, as well as my best friend, who works with the Peace Corps and is home from Ethiopia for just two weeks!!! But never fear, for I will be back New Year’s Day with a fresh start to 2019 and plenty more to be happy about in the future. If you celebrate, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and a healthy, prosperous New Year full of food and happiness.

Some notes on this bread: I give the preparations for two variations of cream cheese, jam and glaze fillings, but you have total creative license here! Fill them with chocolate like my incredibly talented friend Taylor, fill them with different jams or homemade jams or make them savory! It’s totally up to you, and it will be delicious any way you slice it. Also, when following this recipe, she mentions that the dough is easier to roll and slice if it’s been chilled after it rises, I was slightly pressed for time so I skipped this step and found it to be perfectly manageable, but if you’re having difficulty with forming the shape, try to refrigerate the dough for a while! Finally, this dough should be cooled completely before it’s glazed so that the glaze doesn’t melt right off, but it would be delicious warmed up before eating. There’s also no need to double this recipe for two loaves, one batch of dough is divided into two.

Before we get to breading and braiding, here are 5 things to be happy about today!
ONE. The smell of bread baking and filling your whole house.

TWO. Having specific candles for specific holidays and seasons.

THREE. Hosting a dinner party with a signature cocktail.

FOUR. Star Wars Episode IV.

FIVE. Spending New Year’s Eve in your pajamas with friends and never having to venture into the cold.


Makes:
2 braided loaves
Prep Time: 1 hour
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Bake Time: 30 minutes

Bread Dough Ingredients

2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup + 2 Tbsp lukewarm water
1½ tsp dry active yeast
1½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup honey
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3½ cups bread flour

Filling Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, divided in half
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
½ tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided in half
¼ cup blueberry jam
¼ cup raspberry jam
Egg Wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water)

Icing Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar, divided in half
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Splash of vanilla extract
2 to 3 Tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp lemon zest
2 to 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Milk, to thin glaze as necessary

Steps

ONE. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon), mix together the beaten eggs, yeast, water, salt, honey, and melted butter. Add the flour and, without kneading, mix with a paddle attachment or with a large spoon until combined. Allow to rise, covered, in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

 

TWO. In two separate bowls, make the cream cheese fillings. In one bowl, mix together 4 oz. cream cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1 Tbsp granulated sugar. Set aside. In a second bowl mix together the remaining 4 oz. cream cheese, lemon zest, and remaining 1 Tbsp sugar.

THREE. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust your rolling surface with flour, and divide your dough in half. With the first half of dough, roll into a rectangle that is roughly 9″ x 12″. It may take some stretching, I found that it tends to shrink back at first.

FOUR. Transfer the rectangle of dough carefully to your first baking sheet. Using a ruler and a knife or bench scraper, lightly mark the dough into 3 long sections, this will make it easier to fill and fold. In the center third, spread an even layer of the cinnamon cream cheese, then top with the blueberry jam, spreading with an offset spatula to keep everything uniform.

FIVE. Using a pair of kitchen shears (or a knife), cut the two outer thirds into ½ inch strips all the way down. To form the log shape, alternate folding a strip from each side across the filling in a slant, from top to bottom, to form a braid. Wrap the tray in plastic wrap the baking sheet loosely in plastic wrap and allow to sit for an hour before baking.

 

SIX. Repeat steps two through five with the second type of cream cheese and jam, and allow to rest for an hour.

SEVEN. When there’s about 15 minutes left in the bread’s hour long rest, preheat your oven to 350ºF. To bake, brush each loaf with your prepared egg wash, and bake for 30 minutes, switching trays halfway through to ensure both loaves brown evenly.

EIGHT. While the loaves are cooling, prepare the glazes in two bowls. In the first, mix ½ cup powdered sugar with cinnamon, vanilla, and maple syrup. If it’s too thick for pouring, it can be thinned with milk as necessary, or thickened with more powdered sugar. For the second, mix the remaining powdered sugar with lemon zest and lemon juice, adjusting the amounts of lemon juice and sugar as necessary so that the glaze is opaque and thick.

NINE. When the breads have cooled completely, drizzle generously with the glazes (with a spoon or with a ziplock with the tip cut off) and enjoy at any time of the day or night, but specifically for breakfast with a cup of coffee by the Christmas tree or on the couch.

YUM!!! xoxoxoxoxoD

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Classic Focaccia

If you’re even slightly a food person like myself, you’ve probably seen or heard about the new Netflix show Salt Fat Acid Heat. I admit that since its premiere, I have watched it through at least 3 times, crying, laughing, and planning food for the future. The premise behind the show comes from a cookbook of the same name, written by Samin Nosrat. Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat, the four elements of good cooking. Master the balance of these, master good cooking. The special is broken into 4, each in a different location and each tackling a different element. Unsurprisingly, the episode that I felt myself watching over and over again centered around Italy. Titled “Fat”, it tackled just what makes Italian food so good, from the olive oil, to the pork fat, to the cows milk cheese.

The recipe that caught my eye for sure was this focaccia, and even though I have a deep-seated fear of bread making, nothing was going to stop me from this. It is SO good, so crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside, rich and salty and perfect for dipping in coffee (the Ligurian way) or eating straight from the oven. It reminds me so much of the Schiacchiata bread that makes the best sandwiches in Florence, which I’d get on my way home from school and finish eating before even getting to the steps of my apartment. I would give literally anything to be back there right now, but until then, this is pretty close to perfect. By the way, the original recipe can be found here, but I tried to keep this as close to the original as possible!

Before you go become your best bread-making self, here are 5 things to be happy about today:

ONE. Puffy winter coats.
TWO. Keeping your room cold so that you can sleep with two cozy blankets.
THREE. “Flannel Fridays”.
FOUR. Apple cider cocktails.
FIVE. Impromptu photoshoots.

Makes: About 24 pieces of focaccia
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Time: 12-14 hours
Bake Time: 25-30 minutes

Ingredients

2½ cups warm water
½ tsp active dry yeast
2½ tsp honey
5 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp large crystal kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt, for sprinkling
1½ tsp kosher salt (for brine)
1/3 cup warm water (for brine)

Steps

ONE. In a medium sized bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and honey and stir until dissolved. In another large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add in the dissolved yeast mixture and the olive oil and stir until everything is just combined. At this point, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to ferment overnight or for at least 12-14 hours.

TWO. When the dough has finished fermenting and is more than doubled in size, spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil on an 18″ x 13″ baking sheet (a baker’s half sheet) so that the whole sheet is covered. Gently release the dough from the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula, and carefully add to the baking sheet. Add another tablespoon of oil and gently stretch the dough so that it covers the entire bottom of the sheet evenly. Because the dough will shrink at first, over the course of 30 minutes gently push the dough back to the corners until it stays.

THREE. Press your index, middle and ring fingers into the dough at an angle to make the signature focaccia dimples. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the warm water and salt until the salt has been totally dissolved. Pour this brine over the whole sheet evenly, and then proof for a final 45 minutes.

FOUR. About 30 minutes into this final proof, position your oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 450ºF. To bake, either place a baking stone on the oven rack with the baking sheet on top of it, or flip another baking sheet upside down and place the baking sheet with the dough on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is crisp and golden brown.

FIVE. To finish, generously drizzle olive oil over the top (it will sink into the bread), and sprinkle with flaky salt. Serve thick slices warm and try not to eat the entire sheet yourself, but if you do, I won’t judge.

YUM!! xoxoxoxox