Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Braid

Blueberries and Lemons!  Two of my very favorite flavors.  Putting them together, you can't go wrong.  But when you combine them both with cream cheese . . . Pure Heaven!

I think one of my very favorite places on earth is probably a place called Hatcher's Pass.  It's a little mountain pass not very far from Wasilla, Alaska.  We lived in the beautiful little town of Wasilla for 11years.  If you visit on one of the sea/land packages in the summer, you will pass through Wasilla on your way to Denali National Park, but you'll miss Hatchers.  Ask a local how to get there.  You'll be glad you did!  In the winter, we would drive up to Hatchers and take the kids sledding.  We'd drive a van full of kids up there, take them to the top of the trail, drop them off, then meet them at the bottom, then start all over again.  This kind of sledding is great--no hiking up and down, just speed!  The kids loved it, even when they crashed!

In the summer, however, there are a zillion beautiful trails to hike.  But in late August, it's all about the blueberries.  There are many places in Alaska to pick wild blueberries.  And if you find your perfect spot, it's kinda like a fisherman's perfect fishing hole.  You know the story . . . Where'd you catch those fish?  "In the river".  Where'd you find so many berries . . . "on the mountain".  I have so many memories with family and good friends picking up in Hatcher Pass.  The berries there are really indescribable if all you've ever had are pitiful grocery store blueberries.  They are the perfect mix of sweet and tart as well as the most perfect "bite", not at all mushy or mealy like those big beautiful deceptive grocery store berries.  (Can you tell I'm a berry snob?)

So we visit every summer now.  Always in August.  Because in August, you get to fish for silver salmon and you get to pick Blueberries.  I always bring back a few gallons.  I would bring more, but my family grows tired of blue fingers after a few days of picking.

The recipe:
about 26 ounces of dough, the equivalent of one loaf of bread
8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 c. sugar
zest of one lemon
1 egg
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
3/4 cup jarred or homemade lemon curd

Cream together the cream cheese and sugar.  Add the egg and lemon zest and blend well.  Gently stir in the blueberries.

To make the braid, just roll out the dough, about 26 ounces into a long skinny strip, probably around 18-20 inches.  Spoon the cream cheese mixture down the middle.  Drizzle the lemon curd down the middle, then swirl with a knife.  Cut slits down the sides of the dough, as pictured.

Begin your braid at the top, criss-crossing from left to right.

Once you've finished the braid, gently move to a round baking sheet.  If I had been super industrious tonight, I would have made a little bow to make it look gathered at the bottom.  Maybe on my next attempt, I'll do this.

Let your braid rise for about 20 minutes in a warm oven.  Then bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

And Voilah!  I was a little aggressive with the cream cheese filling.  As you can see, it's bursting from the seams.  But you want to try it, don't you?  Once it cools a little, I will add a lemon glaze.  For the perfect glaze, just mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with the juice of one lemon.

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