Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid

So much dust. Shuffling papers, flying markers, scuffling footsteps. The crush of boxes being broken down, the shrill hum of students’ voices. As chairs were stacked and debris was cleared, the classroom started to look foreign. There was an alien quality to the space (cleanness, maybe? emptiness?) that made us all feel like we didn’t quite belong there anymore.

And we didn’t, really. It was the last, abbreviated week of school. The kids had one foot out the door, and the other was probably kicking someone under the table.

The teachers out there will give me an amen when I say that during those last few days, you fight a losing battle for your students’ attention. My middle schoolers and I work until the last minute — reflecting on how their writing has grown over the course of the year, finishing up our last novel — but there’s always a current of near-hysteria that runs through the classroom at the end of the year. I start to feel like I’m trying to hold back a tidal wave with a beach towel. At any given moment, they’re about to lose their little minds entirely and start surfing on the tables.

When I realize we’ve reached this point, the turning of the tide of sanity, I start pining for summer myself. Up until then, everything is a flurry of urgent business: grading projects, writing emails, blogging, creating curriculum. There’s barely a second to let the idea of vacation sink in. But finally, staring into a dozen sets of half-crazed student eyeballs, I see the bright summer sunshine at the end of the tunnel.

This year, I had the presence of mind to make a summer to-do list. It includes all of the mundane tasks I neglected while being a teacher 24/7 during the school year: clean under the bed, clean out the closet, reorganize the bookshelf. It contains resolutions reminiscent of New Year’s: join the Y, start exercising regularly, figure out summer meal plan. It contains techy bloggy things: move to self-hosting, spruce up Willow Bird Baking.

But something’s missing.

Know how I know? I recently re-read my Raspberry Almond Braid post from over a year ago as I was preparing to create this Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid.

When I wrote that post of yesteryear, I was on spring break and gushy about how much I loved the freedom. I listed 20 things I was enjoying, including things like running through the grass, playing fetch with Byrd, and reading. Oh, yeah. Things that are totally absent from what I’ve come to realize is my summer chore list.

Don’t worry, I’m going to fix it.

In fact, it’s only been summer vacation for one day now, but I’ve already read a book: the first of the Hunger Games series my students have been recommending to me. I’ve already done a mini craft project (a card for a friend that turned out wonky but hopefully lovable). I’ve already baked something. I’ve already taken a nap. So far, so good!

Apart from helping me realize the error of my summer ways, this Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid was also the perfect restful recipe: though the process is as simple as can be, the result looks and tastes phenomenal. The flaky, tender almond pastry surrounds a cream cheese filling in addition to the blueberry preserves, making this one of my new favorite things to eat. It’ll definitely get a heart on the WBB Recipe Index.

You have to make it as soon as you can — and then hopefully you can find the time for a summer nap in a lawn chair somewhere.

What are your family’s summertime plans?

Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid



Recipe by: Adapted from Luna Cafe
Yields: 10-12 1-in. slivers of braid, or about 4 servings

Dough and Filling Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 ounces best quality cream cheese
1/2 cup milk, minus 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup blueberry preserves (or your favorite preserves)

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Icing Ingrdients:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Directions:
Make the cream cheese filling. In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy and smooth. Set aside while you make your braid.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour (about 6 pulses). Add the milk and almond extract and blend into a loose dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead VERY LIGHTLY for 4-5 strokes. (NOTE: This is the step at which you can ruin the braid. If you overwork the dough, the pastry will be tough. Just gather the dough together and don’t worry about making it smooth. It will still look a little rough. That’s perfect.)

Between two sheets of waxed paper, roll the dough to an 8- by 12-inch rectangle. Turn dough out onto a lightly greased baking sheet and remove the waxed paper. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds. Spread preserves down the middle third of the dough and spread a thick line of the cream cheese mixture on either side of the preserves (still remaining in the middle third of the dough — try to keep your filling about ½ inch from the mark on both sides.)

Make 2¾-inch slight diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides (see photos below). Do not cut into the center jam-filled area. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side in a rotating fashion, over the filling. It will now resemble a braid. Bake in a 425° oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the top is lightly browned.

In a small glass measuring cup with a pouring spout, combine the sugar, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Drizzle over the top of the braid. If desired, sprinkle on the toasted sliced almonds while the icing is still wet. Serve warm.

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35 Comments

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35 responses to “Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid

  1. Ooh, this looks divine! I’ve made a raspberry version, but I bet blueberries are delish, too!

  2. Sophia Spach

    I can’t even tell you how great this looks! Beautiful pictures as well 🙂

  3. This looks so amazing. Hard to believe you describe it as simple!

  4. Looks amazing!! I need to make summer resolutions myself. One definitely involves working out!! If you figure out how to go self hosted, let me know. It’s one of those things I NEED to do and don’t know how!! See you on the 17th?!

  5. Unfortunately I don’t get much in the way of a summer vacation so I’ll just have to live vicariously through yours! I’m all for taking things day by day, slowly, just doing what feels right.

    And quite frankly, making danishes always feels right. This looks so good!

  6. jamhandsblog

    That is so incredibly beautiful. There are few things better to eat at breakfast than a tasty cream cheese braid 🙂

  7. I loved the “current of near-hysteria” description and surfing student analogy. It depicted the end of year perfectly. This recipe looks fabulous too! But, baking is way down on my summer list. I just paid my overdue bills today. Tomorrow I attack the giant bags of gross that the kids bring home from their lockers – blech! I did run across a beer marshmallow recipe today however. They sounded fun and yummy!

    • HA oh yes, overdue bills. Must get to those 😉 Good luck with those locker bags — so glad I got to send those AWAY from myself as opposed to bringing them home with me!

      Did you see the beer marshmallows on How Sweet It Is? Love her blog! I think they’re making the rounds now, though, because it’s such a good idea.

  8. Happy Summer Vacation:-) It’s hard to always do everything you want to do, but that’s ok! This looks amazingly delicious.

  9. Wow – and yum – and I might have to have this made for me!
    Looks so yummy.

  10. I had made your raspberry braid and added my own cream cheese filling… it really does add that “somethin’ somethin'” special!! Thanks so much for this recipe!! It really has become my go-to when company comes!!

  11. My summer vacation doesn’t start ’til the 23rd. Sigh. I haven’t made my list yet, but this scrumptious braid certainly should be on it when I do. A slice of it would be so much more rewarding than cleaning the basement, which will also be on the list. One more week of antsy second graders!

  12. Just stunning and it looks eye rolling-ly delicious! I love the combination of blueberries and cream cheese, a match made in heaven. Fantastic post!
    -Leila

  13. i want some , yum!!! looks very good 🙂

  14. Yay summer break! Sounds like a superb time to get started on all that forgotten stuff. Really hope you enjoy doing it and that you get in lots more baking 🙂

    I LOVED Hunger Games. I’m stoked you liked it, too!

  15. Gorgeous! And on my to-do list is a braided, cheesy, fruity filled coffee cake, believe it or not! And no yeast? Even better! This is one stunning braid and mouthwatering coffee cake and you have hooked me!

  16. I’ve had the raspberry braid bookmarked forever and frequently turn to it to make…but then always seem to need to serve a larger group. Now that I’ve seen this one too I am DROOLING…MUST make one of them soon!!

    Enjoy your time off! 🙂

  17. Gorgeous recipe! And beautiful writing. And you’re right: my lists consist of chores. I need to change that.

    Brave to teach writing to summer-pining middle schoolers… I remember that crazed feeling very well.

    Thanks for visiting my site. I’m bookmarking yours.

  18. wow what an amazing cake so professional enjoy your break from teaching

  19. Looks delicious! Enjoy your summer vacation!

  20. I can’t believe how simple this recipe is for such a beautiful and delicious result! I’m on summer vacation as well, so I should be able to find some time to make this! Thanks for sharing.

  21. wow, simply wow! I absolutely love this braid, I wish I could bake as well as you, am not even attempting to make it

  22. Wow Julie, that bread looks amazing. Can’t wait to try it 😀

  23. Gorgeous as always Julie!! I hope you definitely find time in your Summer to-do list for some fun and relaxation!

  24. Kristin

    I just made it, and it’s sooooo delicious. I’m definitely going to try this with other fruits too.

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