Carrot Cake Cookies

‘Tis the season for fall flavors! Nature is offering an abundance of root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and fruits to make use of in our fall baking.

Thinking about autumn can bring about some pleasant thoughts. While it is common to think about cozy scarves and pumpkin lattes, the symbolic meanings of autumn are more profound than you think. Ancient cultures, science and astrology have associated many aspects of this beautiful season to human life. These symbolic associations are powerful reminders that Mother Nature has an incredible influence on our lives.

These fall cookies are full of green zucchinis, deep orange carrots and bright red apples, colorful representations of the changing season ahead.

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Carrot Cake Cookies
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, flaxseed, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda & salt.
  3. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together applesauce, honey (or maple syrup), egg & vanilla. Mix in the melted butter.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the nuts/seeds, grated zucchini, carrot & apple.
  5. Use a large scoop or measuring cup to drop 1/4-cup portions of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Use your fingers to gently shape the cookies and flatten slightly, as they won't flatten on their own during baking.
  6. Bake 14-15 minutes, until set and lightly golden. (If baking more than one pan at a time, be sure to rotate the pans halfway through the baking time.)
  7. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mini Rhubarb Dutch Baby Pancakes

I enjoy to make miniature versions of food whether its sweet or savory. I’m not sure where that ‘obsession’ came from. It could be that having worked in the commercial food industry for many years, you always prepared food in large quantities or maybe because now its just for the two of us. Whatever the reason …. its fun! I’m sure you are probably quite familiar with the Dutch Baby or German pancake. I have featured them on the blog numerous times over the years.

A cross between a pancake and a crepe, a Dutch baby begins with the thin pancake-like batter which is poured into a hot skillet or an oven proof dish. When the edges of the pancake are brown, it is ready to come out of the oven. The center is perfect for adding sweet or savory ingredients.

The recipe is a basic, universal one that can be adapted in a number of different ways:

  • Add berries or other fruit to the batter
  • Add different spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, chai spices, or switch up the extract to use almond, lemon or orange.
  • Top with whipped cream, mascarpone, whipped maple butter, jam, peanut/almond butter or a fresh fruit compote.
  • To make a savory version, omit sugar & vanilla and add veggies & herbs.

Brion & I are having mini rhubarb Dutch baby pancakes today. Should be good!

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Mini Rhubarb Dutch Baby Pancakes
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Ingredients
Roasted Rhubarb Sauce
Dutch Baby Batter
For Baking Pan
Servings
Ingredients
Roasted Rhubarb Sauce
Dutch Baby Batter
For Baking Pan
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Instructions
Rhubarb Sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a saucepan, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, flour & spices. Stir until combined. Roast in oven, uncovered, for about 25 minutes or until tender & thickened. Remove from heat & keep warm.
Dutch Baby Batter
  1. In a blender, combine pancake ingredients & blend well until frothy. Leave in blender while you prepare muffin tins.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place a 12-cup muffin tin in oven.
  3. When the oven is heated, melt the second 2 Tbsp butter. Remove hot muffin tin from oven & quickly brush bottoms & sides of pan with melted butter. Turn blender on for a few seconds to re-mix batter, then quickly pour into hot muffin cups, dividing equally between 12 cups, filling about 1/2-2/3 full.
  4. Place in oven & bake for 15-18 minutes, or until puffy & deep golden color. Remove from oven (pancakes will quickly deflate). Place pancakes on serving plates & spoon warm rhubarb sauce in them. Top with a bit of either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Grated Shortbread Bars w/ Saskatoon Berry Filling

Ever thought of grating your shortbread dough? Perhaps frilly doesn’t quite capture these bars. Airy doesn’t quite fit either, but compared to other shortbread I’ve made, that’s exactly what they are. You see, instead of the dense texture associated with many recipes for shortbread bars, these are light (but no less buttery) because you shred the frozen dough on the coarse holes of a grater before baking. The final product is almost chewy, with an open-crumb texture, something that you wouldn’t get if you just rolled the dough. By avoiding the use of pressure, the dough bakes with all the air pockets between the grated pieces, melding into an almost fluffy result which crumbles and melts in your mouth. The glue for the two layers is the saskatoon berry filling.

Here on the Canadian prairies we have a native berry called a ‘Saskatoon’. These berries are very special …. the kind of special that only comes once a year. Saskatoon berries look much like blueberries, but in fact are part of the rose family which includes apples, cherries, plums and of course roses. Trying to explain their flavor to anyone who has never tasted them is difficult and elusive. They’re sweet, dense, rich, seedy, slightly blueberryish, more almondish, a bit apple-y, dusky and deep. Like I said …. difficult to explain!

At this time of the year when these little gems are available, I always like to make numerous things with them as they work well in either sweet or savory applications. They certainly make a nice filling for these shortbread bars.

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Grated Shortbread Bars w/ Saskatoon Berry filling
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BARS
Ingredients
Saskatoon Berry Filling
Shortbread Crust
Servings
BARS
Ingredients
Saskatoon Berry Filling
Shortbread Crust
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine berries & water & simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. In a separate bowl, mix sugar & cornstarch; add to berries & combine. Stir in lemon juice & vanilla; simmer until mixture slightly thickens. Set aside to cool.
Shortbread Crust
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, cardamom & salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in butter & lemon zest. Mix ONLY until combined, divide in half & wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Place in freezer until slightly frozen.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer. Using the large hole side of a 4 sided grater, grate dough into a 4 1/2" x 14" baking pan. Pat the dough but don't press it, so it gets evenly spread in the pan.
  4. Carefully place the saskatoon filling evenly over the crust. Grate remaining ball of dough & carefully spread on top.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until shortbread is golden. Cool to room temperature on rack. Cut into 14 bars. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • I found that if I placed the pan of bars in the freezer for about an hour, I was able to cut cleaner slices.

Apricot Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart

Strawberry-rhubarb … raspberry-peach … blackberry-plum … the possibilities for combining summer fruit in amazing ways are truly endless. I’ve recently became aware of the apricot, strawberry & rhubarb combination. This combo had never occurred to me, superseded as it is by the mighty strawberry/rhubarb duo.

Fruit tarts are stunning desserts that look like they should be in a French bakery window, but the truth is they can easily made at home. This super simple, mixed fruit tart with an oat pastry really celebrates the flavors of the season.

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Apricot Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart
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Oat Pastry
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Ingredients
Oat Pastry
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Instructions
Oat Pastry
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, spices & salt. Add melted butter & vanilla; stir to combine. Press 2/3 of mixture onto the bottom & up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan; set aside.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Prepare fruit & place in a mixing bowl; add the orange juice, vanilla, sugar & spices. Stir to coat & set aside.
  3. Pour the fruit over crumble mixture; sprinkle the rest of the crumble around the outside of the fruit.
  4. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust turns golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Pineapple Meringue Tarts

There’s just something incredibly refreshing about pineapple tarts with their tangy, bright, acidic flavor nestled in shortbread crusts. Adding meringue puts a tropical twist on the classic meringue pie making them a perfect summer treat.

When it comes to making meringue, simple ingredients and instructions can lull you into thinking preparation is quick and easy. Make it once under the wrong conditions, however, and you may quickly change your mind.

Meringue is temperamental. Getting it right can be a tricky process. Weeping meringues aren’t very pretty. The meringue pulls back from the crust, moisture beads on the topping, and a clear liquid forms below the crust. It doesn’t hurt the pie but it’s not presentable.

Years ago, when I worked in the commercial food industry, I started using the idea of adding cornstarch to meringue to help stabilize it. Cornstarch is especially helpful in hot, humid weather when a meringue is most likely to absorb extra moisture.

The science behind this ‘secret ingredient‘ is that cornstarch is composed of long molecules that it is believed insert themselves between egg white proteins to prevent them from clotting too much while meringue is baking. Corn starch molecules also provide more hold for meringue. It will be easier to cut and is less likely to weep.

Brion & I are not crazy about meringue but do enjoy it for a treat once in a while.

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Pineapple Meringue Tarts
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Pineapple Filling
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Pineapple Filling
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Instructions
Shortbread Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl combine butter & sugar; beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder; add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together. Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool.
Pineapple Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine cornstarch & sugar. Gradually add water, stirring until mixture is smooth. Add lemon zest & undrained pineapple. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture starts to boil. Reduce heat, boil 2 minutes while continuing to stir. Remove from heat, quickly stir in butter & egg yolks blending well. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
Meringue
  1. In a small saucepan, combine water & cornstarch. Heat & stir until it boils & thickens. Cool thoroughly.
  2. Beat egg whites & salt until a stiff froth. Add sugar gradually, beating until stiff & sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla & cornstarch mixture. Beat until blended & stiff.
Assembly
  1. Divide pineapple filling between tart shells. Pipe meringue over tarts sealing to edges. If not sealed well, meringue will shrink when cool. Bake in 350 F. oven about 10 minutes until golden. Cool away from drafts.

Cinnamon Roll Rhubarb Bread

Rhubarb is the rebel of the vegetable world. It looks like celery, tastes like sour candy, its leaves are poisonous and unlike most spring and summer produce, its barely edible raw. With such a feisty personality, its no wonder some are intimidated to cook it.

More than any other fruit or vegetable, rhubarb to me is the sign of the changing season. It is the signal that summer is arriving in those ruby red or speckled green & pink stalks. I snap up what I can in the garden and when I see it at the supermarket. I take all I can and more, slicing and freezing the excess for rhubarb cravings that come in winter.

Year-round, I save rhubarb recipe ideas I hope to make once I get my hands on the first stalks of the season. No summer would be complete without cinnamon rhubarb bread …. still warm from the oven and the heavenly smell of cinnamon in the air!

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Cinnamon Roll Rhubarb Bread
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Servings
Ingredients
Rhubarb/Cinnamon Filling
Glaze - Optional
Servings
Ingredients
Rhubarb/Cinnamon Filling
Glaze - Optional
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Instructions
Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla & food color. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & food coloring; allow to cool to room temperature.
Dough
  1. In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
  3. Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; set aside
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & press down to deflate it. Fold in the two opposite sides to meet in the middle, then fold in the remaining two sides to meet, so that you've formed the dough into a square. Press down to flatten it slightly, then cover loosely and let stand for 10 minutes
  5. With a floured rolling pin, rolling the dough to form a rectangle that's 12 by 22 inches. Make the corners as square as possible. If you're having trouble with the dough shrinking back, pause briefly before trying again.
  6. Spread rhubarb/cinnamon filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Now fold the two long sides of the dough in one at a time, so that the meet each other in the middle. Pinch them together gently to seal the seam. Gently roll over the surface with a rolling pin to flatten the folded dough to about 7 by 25 inches.
  7. Starting at the narrow end, roll up the dough, making a thick spiral. When you get to the end, brush a little egg wash on the loaf at the spot where the end will hit. Pinch the end a bit to seal it.
  8. Carefully & gently place the roll, seam side-down in the buttered pan. The roll of dough should nearly fill it. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap & place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 25-30 minutes, until almost doubled & about 2 inches above the top of the pan. Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks so that you have one rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.
  9. Preheat to 350 F.
  10. Lightly brush remaining egg wash over loaf & bake for about 20 minutes. You may need to cover the top loosely with aluminum foil towards the end of baking to prevent over-browning. Bake until the loaf, when removed from the pan, sounds hollow when tapped with your fingertips. Cool on a rack.
Glaze
  1. Make glaze by whisking together 2 Tbsp rhubarb filling, 1 cup powdered sugar, and enough lemon juice to make the glaze pourable (1-2 tbsp should do it). When bread has slightly cooled, drizzle with glaze if desired.

Glazed Blueberry Shortcakes

Shortcake is such a classic dessert that is perfect for spring and summer. True shortcake has history, even pedigree, but there is some confusion as to its name. ‘Short’ is an English word that means crisp. Or, more specifically, something made crisp with the addition of either butter or shortening.

Another issue with shortcake is whether it should be cake-like or biscuit-like. Some culinary researchers claim that’s a regional preference. Even though the name has English origins, most sources agree that shortcake was a North American invention. Being so versatile, this simple, elegant dessert can be made with any number of fruits and served warm or cold.

I am using some of the LorAnn company’s Blueberry Emulsion today, to add a real pop of flavor to the glazed blueberries. These should be so good!

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Glazed Blueberry Shortcakes
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Shortcakes
Lemon Drizzle
Servings
Ingredients
Shortcakes
Lemon Drizzle
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Instructions
Shortcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spray mini Bundt pans with baking spray. Then, add some all-purpose flour to each cavity, shake it around, and discard the excess.
  3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Then add the vanilla, softened butter, milk, and egg. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for about two minutes. Gently fold in the fresh blueberries.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cavities in mini Bundt pans. Each cavity should be about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan before attempting to remove them. Gently loosen each cake with your fingers then invert the pan to release the cakes onto a wire cooling rack.
Glazed Blueberry Topping
  1. Place 1 cup of the blueberries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water, sugar & cornstarch. Bring to a boil & simmer until juicy & thick. Place the remaining berries & blueberry emulsion in a bowl; add glaze mixture & toss to coat.
Lemon Drizzle
  1. In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 2-3 tablespoons milk. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time to achieve the desired consistency.
To Serve
  1. Place shortcakes on individual serving plates. Drizzle with lemon glaze & top each cake with some glazed blueberries. Garnish with lemon zest.
Recipe Notes
  • LorAnn's Blueberry Emulsion tastes like fresh ripe berries.
  • Add instead of using blueberries or in addition to the fruit to add a punch of blueberry flavor and color. Use in any recipe as you would an extract - and experience better results. 1 teaspoon baking extract = 1 teaspoon emulsion

Strawberry Custard Tarts w/ Lemon Curd

The irresistible combination of strawberry and lemon is a taste most of us love to savor. This sweet and tart pairing isn’t reserved for strawberry lemonade served in a cup either. The flavor combination works wonders in cupcakes, sophisticated crepe cake, custard tarts, etc. etc. With the fact that we can readily buy strawberries year round, doesn’t make them any less special.

I’m not sure if you recall that fabulous glazed fresh strawberry pie from years ago …. so addicting! It consisted of a crisp crust filled only with fresh strawberries held together by a thickened fruit juice glaze. It was the quintessential summer dessert back in the day. A lady by the name of Claire Moore created this pie in 1954 in the USA. She shared the recipe with her husband, former ‘Eat’n Park‘ CEO Bob Moore, and the rest is history! This regional diner chain began during the days of the 1950’s car hops when everyone thought it was real cool to park and eat right in their hot rods. Today they’re a family restaurant and coffee shop chain still serving their signature fresh glazed strawberry pie.

To make a long story short, it was the memory of that dessert that made me think of doing these strawberry custard tarts for today’s blog.

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Strawberry Custard Tarts w/ Lemon Curd
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Crust
Filling
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Crust
Filling
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Instructions
Lemon Curd
  1. In a medium sauce pan over low heat, whisk together butter, sugar, lemon juice, zest and salt until combined. Add eggs one at a time, whisking until fully mixed each time. Cook over low heat about 8-9 minutes, whisking frequently, until somewhat thickened. Remove from heat and cool completely. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt until fully combined. Add the cubed butter, and using either a pastry blender or two forks, cut the butter into the mixture until the pieces are around the size of a pea. Pour in the vanilla extract, and cold water. Stir until the dough clumps together.
  3. Move the dough to a floured surface and fold the dough into itself until the flour is incorporated (if it is too sticky, add some more flour to the surface or your hands) and forms a ball. Divide the dough into quarters and pat each one down into four discs, about ½ inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to an hour.
  4. Remove the dough from fridge. Roll it out into 5-inch circles on a lightly floured surface and use to line four 4-inch tart pans. Crimp the edges as desired.
  5. Prick the bottoms with a fork. Line the chilled dough crusts with parchment paper and fill each with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans. Remove from heat and let them cool completely.
Filling & Assembly
  1. Whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract together and then stir in the honey yogurt. Place the strawberries on top of the cooled crusts. Pour the filling over the strawberries.
Baking
  1. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until crust is golden and custard filling is set. Cool for 5 minutes, drizzle with lemon curd, and serve.
Recipe Notes
  • There are numerous good quality lemon curds on the market if you would rather not make it from scratch since it is only used for drizzling.

German Marble Cake

The idea of lightly mingling two different batters in one cake seems to have originated in early 19th century Germany. The earliest version of marble cake consisted of a kugelhopf (sweet yeast bread), one half of which was colored with molasses and spices to achieve a dark colored batter. Bakers next began to do the same thing with sponge cake batter.

The marble cake came to North America with German immigrants. It wasn’t until the late 19th century, when chocolate gained a greater hold on the North American public, that ‘marble cake‘ as we know it today really took shape. The first known recipe to appear in an American cookbook went with the spice and molasses variety, though the base was a butter cake rather than a sponge or yeasted cake. Jewish German bakers eventually introduced the idea of using chocolate to create the darker batter in marble cakes.

Of course, there is no right or wrong way to create the marbling effect. The only thing to know is that you should not overmix the batter. The colors are supposed to mingle but stay separate creating the distinct marbling design.

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German Marble Cake
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Course dessert
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Either butter or line with parchment paper, (2) 5-inch mini springform pans; set aside.
  2. In a bowl, melt butter, in microwave. In a small bowl, sift flour, baking powder & salt; add to butter & combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk & vanilla then add to butter mixture. Whisk until combined.
  4. Beat egg whites until foamy then gradually add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter.
  5. In a small cup with a spout, place about 1/2 cup of the batter & add cocoa powder. Fold in to combine.
  6. Divide white batter between 2 prepared pans. Pour chocolate batter onto each cake forming circles with it. Using a wooden skewer, make lines from the center out making a spider web design.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes on bottom rack of the oven or until cake tests done with a wooden pick. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes on cooling rack. Flip over & cool in pans for at least 30 minutes. We enjoyed a small bit of raspberry puree with the cake.

Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid

Hot Cross Buns, the sweet roll with a mythical history, are an Easter classic. This simple piece of spiced bread decorated with a cross, while not an extravagant treat, is a global food tradition. Given their long running history, it is no wonder there are so many fables surrounding their origin. From warding off evil spirits to cementing friendships, the stories of hot cross buns can be documented back to 6th century Greece.

While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. Brion & I are extremely fond of these little gems, so every year I enjoy to come up with a new version but still not straying away from the original iconic bun (or bread) taste.

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Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid
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Instructions
Marinate Fruit
  1. In a bowl with a lid, marinate prepared dried fruit in your choice of alcohol or orange juice overnight or at least 30 minutes.
Sweet Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 Tbsp sugar; allow to sit until frothy.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom & ginger.
  3. In a larger bowl, melt butter slightly; add remaining sugar, beaten egg, vanilla, a portion of the marinated fruit & frothy yeast mixture. Combine then add flour mixture & continue mixing to combine all ingredients.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 15 minutes. If necessary, add a bit more flour. Shape into a ball; place in a greased bowl, turn over once or twice to coat the dough with oil. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla & any excess rum drained off fruit until smooth.
Assembly & Baking
  1. On a lightly floured work surface or parchment paper, roll the dough into a 12 x 14-inch rectangle, ensure an even thickness of 1/4 inch.
  2. Along one long side of the dough make parallel, 4-inch long cuts that are 1-inch apart (like piano keys), with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Repeat on opposite side, making sure to line up these cuts with those you have already made on the other side.
  3. Spoon all but 1/4 cup cream cheese filling down the center of the rectangle. (Reserve the 1/4 cup of the cream cheese for making crosses on baked braid). Leaving 1-inch on the top & bottom unfilled. Smooth cream cheese mixture then top with remaining marinated fruit.
  4. Begin folding the cut side strips of dough in pairs over the filling at an angle, alternating left, then right, as if you were braiding, until you reach the other end. Tuck the ends underneath the braid.
  5. Transfer to a baking sheet; cover with a loose plastic wrap & a towel. Allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Just before placing braid in the oven, make the egg wash & lightly brush over the top of the braid.
  6. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Check after 15 minutes; if the braid is starting to brown to fast, float a piece of foil, shiny side down, over it. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
Decorating
  1. Place 1/4 cup cream cheese mixture in a small piping bag that has been fitted with a small round tip. Make crosses on braid.
Recipe Notes
  • If you would prefer, mix all the marinated fruit right into the dough instead of putting some in the filling.
  • If you would rather not decorate with some crosses on top, use all cream cheese in the filling, your choice.