Summer weekends are all about long lazy breakfasts. I spent so long never having a proper weekend that I don’t think the novelty of spending days off with Mr Colonial Cravings will ever wear off.
This, and a cup of strong black coffee, preferably eaten al fresco, is how I’m currently starting my weekends. Well, I suppose if I’m honest I’m starting my weekends by baking the brioche on a Friday afternoon, but I love making brioche so there’s no real hardship there.
The finished dough for this, once it’s enriched with all that lovely butter is so nice to work with that baking the bread is certainly more of a pleasure than a chore. I set my hands to some rhythmic kneading and then let my mind wander to wherever it pleases and before I know it I’ve got myself a soft, smooth, bouncy ball of dough that’s ready to rise.
makes 1 large loaf
350g white bread flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 sachet yeast (7g)
100ml (ish) warm milk
75g room temperature butter, cut into small cubes
150g pitted cherries
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
juice of 1/2 a lime
150g cream cheese
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Get the dough started by mixing together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Lightly beat the eggs and set aside 1 tbsp for glazing the loaf later. Mix the remaining eggs into the flour. The dough will look very dry and crumbly at this stage. Use just enough of the milk to bring the mixture together to form quite a stiff dough.
Put the dough on a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead the butter into it, a couple of pieces at a time. This is quite messy, time-consuming work but once all the butter has been incorporated you will have a lovely smooth soft dough. If it gets a little sticky as your hands warm it up then you can work a tiny bit more flour into it, but try to keep this to as little as possible.
Wash the mixing bowl and lightly grease it with a little butter, pop the ball of dough in it, cover it loosely with cling-film and leave it somewhere warm to rise until it has doubled in size.
Whilst the dough is rising you can make the cherry filling. Cut the cherries in half and mix them with the sugar, cinnamon, cornflour and lime juice in a small pan along with a couple of teaspoons of water. Gently heat this, stirring it occasionally until it becomes quite jammy. It should only take a few minutes then leave it to cool.
For the cream cheese you simply need to mix together the cheese, sugar and vanilla until it’s smooth. It helps if the cheese is at room temperature when you do this.
When the dough has risen you can take it out of the bowl and give it a very brief knead, just to make sure the air is evenly distributed throughout it. Roll it out into a large rectangle, this can take a bit of persuading but ideally you want it to be a little wider than your loaf tin.
Spread the cream cheese over the surface, leave about a 1″ gap around the edges and then cover this with the cherries. Roll up the dough and press down the edges to seal it. Put the long edge on the bottom and then tuck under the ends. Place this in a buttered loaf tin and re-cover it loosely with cling film. Leave it to rise again. Pre-heat your oven to 220°c.
Just before baking give the top of the loaf a generous egg wash with the beaten egg which you kept back earlier, sprinkle it with almonds and cut a few slashes in the top.
Pop it in the oven and after it’s had five minutes turn the temperature down to 160°c and leave it for another 40 minutes.
Leave the loaf to cool completely (out of the tin) before thickly slicing. This will be the hardest part because it will smell amazing.