Alicia, you're right about two things: sugared strawberries are better, and it's really hard to say goodbye to a daughter. Oh, one more thing: that saying about getting only as much as you can handle--not sure I can buy into that one, either. Actually, you're right about many things...except raisins. Raisins are good.
I proved that once again today when I made the Cream Cheese Coffee Cake. OK, I'm totally out of order, but I really needed a project today, and I always make something special on Saturday mornings, so this fit in perfectly.
This really is quite the project, even though it wasn't that difficult. It just takes a really long time. Claire and I didn't have "breakfast" until about 11. Good thing I had cut up that ginormous melon I got at Whole Foods yesterday (making lemonade from airport lemons)--that tided us over nicely. Got up at 6:30, made dough (which comes together really fast in the food processor), and let it rise while I went to The Evil Empire (7:30 on Saturday morning is a great time to go there!) to buy cream cheese and other necessities. Got home, started laundry, did some dishes, and then Claire was up in time to make the filling for me. She did a great job with that. The directions for making the braid weren't all that clear, and even though I usually don't need pictures in a cookbook, some line drawings would have been helpful. Nonetheless, we rolled out the dough and brushed on the apricot jam and spooned on the filling and braided it up. I even used a ruler to cut the dough strips! Then another hour to kill--editing and laundry and dishes and trying to avoid the reality of a too-empty house. Finally it was time to bake that sucker. I hadn't noticed that you were supposed to shape the dough on the aluminum foil. Fortunately, I had formed it on a silicone rolling mat (thanks, Dad and Sharmyn!) that was oven-safe, so I could just transfer that baby to the baking sheet. I then made a little foil shield around the coffee cake to protect against leakage. If Julia hadn't taken the one operating camera to France (which was a good thing, mind you!), I could have shown you how that looked. But there was actually little to no leakage. And it really did "look spectacular" and "taste sensational". I made just half the recipe, but hardly dare say that there's one little end piece left. Let me just say that I only had three thin-ish slices. Don't know where the rest went (do you, Claire?)...
Verdict: it's a keeper. The dough is really nice to work with--rolled out easily and didn't give me any trouble at all. The filling was just right, and it looked pretty darned professional. If I can figure out how to upload cell phone photos, I'll show you just how good :-). In the meantime, here's the recipe I made:
Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
3 T. (1.5 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c. warm water
1-1/2 c. (7.5 oz.) flour (I used about half white whole wheat and half all-purpose)
2-1/4 t. (1 envelope) instant yeast (I have a jar of bread machine yeast in the fridge)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar
Mix together the water, butter, and egg in the measuring cup. Put the dry ingredients in the food processor and buzz until they're mixed. Then open the feed tube and pour in the wet ingredients. Process that for one minute. Mine formed a ball first, then got soft and mushy. It turned out OK, though. Then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for 1 minute. Put the dough into a greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for a couple of hours. While it's rising, get your cream cheese out of the fridge to soften.
1-1/2 t. water
1-1/2 t. rum
1-1/2 t. sugar
1/4 c. (1.2 oz.) golden raisins
1 8-oz. block cream cheese, room temp.
1/4 c. (1 oz.) powdered sugar
1 egg yolk (save the white!)
1/2 t. vanilla
grated rind of about 1/2 orange
about 3 T. apricot jam (don't mix this into the filling!)
Put the water, rum, sugar, and raisins in a microwave-safe bowl; cover and zap for 1 minute on high. Let that sit and cool while you mix together the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, and orange rind. When that's all nice and smooth, beat in the raisins.
If you have a Silpat or something like that, get that out. Flour it lightly and turn the dough onto that. Roll it into about a 12-inch long rectangle (maybe 12x8? I didn't measure...). Face the dough lengthwise, if that makes sense. (See? A picture is worth a thousand words!) Then mark about 1-1/2 inches on each side of the dough--these are the parts of the dough that will form the braid, and they need to stay "naked" for now. Brush the apricot jam onto the middle of the dough, then cover that with cream cheese filling. Now mark the bare dough at one-inch intervals, and cut it into strips, so that you have a sort of fan pattern on both sides. Now fold up the top and bottom like a burrito, and then carefully fold each strip over the filling, alternating to make a braid. If it looks good and the filling is covered, you're in good shape. Now cover the masterpiece and let it sit on the counter for another hour while you tend to your business. I bet you could also refrigerate it overnight, let it sit on the counter, and then bake it up in the morning. So anyway, shortly before your hour is up, preheat the oven to 350 and mix together
The egg white you saved
About 1 T. milk.
Pick up the Silpat and move it carefully onto a baking sheet. Uncover the dough and brush it with the egg white mixture (Maida wants another egg yolk for that purpose, but the white worked fine for me). Then roll up some long strips of aluminum foil into "snakes" and surround the braid with them, as a kind of side support. Now put it in the oven and let it bake about 25 minutes, until it's gorgeous and golden brown. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Maida says to let this cool to room temp, but we had it very warm and it was delicious. It's also delicious at room temperature. This should really serve at least 4, but it did quite nicely for 2.