Cranberry Cream Cheese Braid
Makes 2 Braids
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour (approx.)
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce***
1. Dough: In large bowl, stir 2 tsp of the sugar with warm water until dissolved. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat milk, remaining sugar, butter and salt until butter is melted; let cool to lukewarm. Stir into yeast mixture along with eggs. Stir in 3 1/4 cups of the flour, about 1 cup at a time, to form shaggy dough. Dough will be soft.
2. Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding the remaining flour as necessary. Transfer to large greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
3. Filling: While dough is rising, beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. The cranberry sauce should be thick, not runny. If yours is too runny place it in a pot on the stove and add flour or cornstarch (1-3 tsp depending on how runny it is) and simmer to thicken. Cool before using.
4. Assembly: When dough has risen, gently punch it down. Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a 15″ x 9″ rectangle. Place on greased baking sheets. Spread the cream cheese filling lengthwise down center third of each rectangle. Spread the cranberry sauce on top. On each side, cut 1-inch thick strips towards the centre – do not cut through the filling. Starting at one end, “braid” the strips by folding them alternately at an angle across filling. Seal ends. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes. Optional: Brush with heavy cream or egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet.