This is a variation on an earlier recipe (Lemon Sweet Bread). The lemon bread is fantastic as is, but a couple of weeks ago I was at a local bulk foods store and bought some dried tart cherries. Then I wondered what to do with them. It came to me that since you can buy cherry danishes, why wouldn’t this bread work with a cherry and cream cheese filling. Long story short: I learned that you can make lemon curd with cherry juice and it is delicious, and that I actually like this version of the bread as much as the original.
I won’t retype the recipe again here, since it is already posted on this blog. I did, however, photograph the “braiding” process so I’ll post those, along with my new filling recipe.
1/2 cup tart cherry juice (I wouldn’t use anything with added sugar. R.W. Knudsen makes an organic 100% tart cherry juice that I have used twice, with great results. If that’s too hard to get your hands on, a juice blend could be used, but the filling will not have such an intense cherry flavor)
1 large egg
2 T. chopped dried tart cherries (optional)
3 T. sugar
2 T. butter, cut into pieces.
In small saucepan, cook down the cherry juice over low heat until it is reduced by half. Let cool. Then whisk all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until butter melts and mixture thickens enough that the whisk leaves marks on the top (~5 minutes, maybe a little longer). Allow to cool before filling bread.
Cream Cheese Filling:
2/3 c. cream cheese (I used neufchatel)
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. plain yogurt
~1 t. almond extract (more/less to taste)
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Mix all ingredients and beat/stir until very smooth.
If you want, once the bread has finished baking, allow it to cool a bit and mix up a glaze of powdered sugar, a little milk, and almond extract (I’m sorry, this is the part of the recipe where I just didn’t measure! My creative process is unorganized…). Using a spoon or plastic bag with the corner snipped off, drizzle over the loaves.
Braiding instructions, with photos: After rolling dough out, you need to mentally “divide” the rectangle into three long columns. You can either eyeball it, or gently press lines lengthwise in the dough to make iteasier. Spread half of the cream cheese mixture down the middle of each rectangle, and top that with half of the curd. Leave about 2″ empty on either end so it doesn’t ooze everywhere as you fold and braid the dough.
Now take a knife or bench scraper and cut 1″ strips all the way down the two side columns. Make sure you have an equal number of strips on the right and left. Slice off the 4 corner pieces and fold the top and bottom pieces (those 2″ that didn’t get filling spread on them) over the filling. Then, alternating between left and right, pull the strips diagonally down over the filling. You don’t want to stretch them too much, but make sure the filling is almost completely covered. The bottom pieces can be crossed and tucked under the end of the loaf. Repeat with the second piece of dough.