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This tasty braid is impressive-looking, but easy to make.
King Arthur Sour Cream Bread Mix, or your favorite 3 1/2-to-4-cup-of-flour sweet dough recipe, prepared through its first rise.
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons soft butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Instant ClearJel or 3 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup raspberry jam mixed with 2 tablespoons ClearJel or flour
1/4 cup sparkling white sugar (optional)
Filling: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix in the ClearJel or flour, and the egg, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl thoroughly.
Gently deflate the risen dough, and divide it in half. Roll each half into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle, and place them onto lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Spread half of the jam in a 2 1/2-inch-wide swath, lengthwise, down the center of each dough rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border at the top and bottom. Top jam with half of the filling. Make 1 3/4-inch cuts every 3/4 inch down both long sides of the dough. Fold the ends over the filling, then pull the cut strips up and over, alternating sides. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
Cover the braids and let them rise for 30 to 45 minutes, until they’re puffy looking. If desired, brush with an egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water (this will make a darker, shinier crust), or spritz with water, then sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Bake the braids in a preheated 350°F oven for 32 to 36 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow them to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Yield: 2 braids, about 16 servings.