5. Running through soft grass barefoot. 6. Witnessing an all-out wasp vs. bees war on my balcony. The gigantic humble bees are bouncing around the new nest the wasps are building, causing an uproar. All of this goes on overhead while I try to focus on photographing my food! 7. Reading books with wet hair after an evening shower. 8. Watching marathons of Undercover Boss online and bawling the entire time. I can't help it! I'm a softie. Thanks Heidi and Shannon for recommending the show to me!
9. Reminiscing about April Fool's Day. My 6th grade students received a fake test that they diligently tried to complete with sad looks on their little faces until I finally revealed my trickery (sample question: "What happened on page 148 of the novel?"). The 7th graders were redirected from room to room via signs before finally arriving and being "chewed out" for being late -- I'm a good actor when I need to be! They got me pretty good, too: a fake cup of hot chocolate "spilled" all over my desk. 10. Photographing food outside in WARM, SUNNY weather. Such a difference from shivering on my balcony, fiddling with my tripod with numb fingers! 11. Leaving my hair down and letting it swing around my shoulders. Or tying my hair up in pigtails and feeling only a little silly. 12. Eating delicious Indian food before coming home and devouring cheesecake squares.
13. Getting the BEST parking spot outside my apartment building, because everyone else is at work! Mwahaha! 14. Sitting at my desk with the windows thrown open beside me, birds singing, squirrels nesting in the trees, and the occasional lawnmower revving in the distance. 15. Waking up, eating breakfast . . . and then taking a nap.
16. Planning Mike's BIRTHDAY DINNER and DESSERT for this upcoming weekend! And actually having the time and energy to make it fancy! 17. The spring part. 18. The break part. 19. Everything . . . 20. . . . including this Raspberry Almond Braid.
This Raspberry Almond Braid is a tender, flaky, almond-flavored pastry enveloping rich raspberry preserves and topped with a sweet glaze. I was hunting for something simple and comforting to take to the ladies in my Bible study and decided a raspberry cream cheese coffee cake would be perfect . . . only I couldn't settle on any of the recipes I found. Some were too heavy and cakey; some involved yeasted dough, which felt too finicky for me today. So when I found this braid -- made with a quick cream cheese dough -- I was sold. The cream cheese dough was lovely to work with in that it didn't stick to my rolling pin or the sheets of wax paper I rolled it out between. It actually felt a lot like the crescent roll dough you can buy in stores, so I'm sure you could whip this braid up with one of those cans -- but this tasted a ton better! It was almondy and had an almost creamy flavor. The entire dessert was subtly sweet, rich, satisfying, and created in less than an hour.
And you know what I love the most about this braid? In addition to being easy, fast, and delicious, it's so pretty! Don't you love simple recipes that look fancy? Make this Raspberry Almond Braid for a quick breakfast one morning this spring, or for a light dessert. I'll definitely be rounding up my favorite flavors of preserves to make this again!
Raspberry Almond Braid
Recipe by: Adapted from Luna Cafe Yields: 10-12 1-in. slivers of braid, or about 4 servings
Dough and Filling Ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup unsalted butter 3 ounces best quality cream cheese 1/2 cup milk, minus 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 1/2 cup raspberry preserves (or your favorite preserves)
Icing Ingrdients: 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon milk 1/8 teaspoon vanilla 1/8 teaspoon almond extract 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds (optional)
Directions: NOTE: To prepare this braid in advance, complete all steps and assemble the braid but do not bake. Cover the braid on its parchment lined baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set out in the morning as you preheat the oven and then bake as usual.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour (about 6 pulses). Add the milk and almond extract and blend into a loose dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead VERY LIGHTLY for 4-5 strokes. (NOTE: This is the step at which you can ruin the braid. If you overwork the dough, the pastry will be tough. Just gather the dough together and don’t worry about making it smooth. It will still look a little rough. That’s perfect.)
Between two sheets of waxed paper, roll the dough to an 8- by 12-inch rectangle. Turn dough out onto a lightly greased baking sheet and remove the waxed paper. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds. Spread preserves down the middle third of the dough, keeping it about ½ inch from the mark on both sides.
Make 2¾-inch slight diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides. Do not cut into the center jam-filled area. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side in a rotating fashion, over the filling. It will now resemble a braid. Bake in a 425° oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the top is lightly browned.
In a small glass measuring cup with a pouring spout, combine the sugar, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Drizzle over the top of the braid. If desired, sprinkle on the toasted sliced almonds while the icing is still wet. Serve warm.
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