As a young teen, I can recall Aunt Bev baking the most delicious biscuits every morning. She made it look so easy. A little of this and a pinch of that but try as I may, I never did manage to make edible biscuits from scratch — without a recipe as she did.
As a young married person, I would often help my mother-in-law bake. She would rise up early in the morning and spend an entire day baking homemade bread, the most wonderful apple dumplings and other treats. Her bread was my absolute favorite, but still again no matter how much effort I put into it, no matter how many recipes I attempted, I couldn't get the knack of it.
When my children were teens I went to work for Meijer in the bakery department. It was hard work but the smell of fresh baked bread brought back such fond memories of my youth that it made the hardwork worthwhile. Certainly, if I could bake hundreds of loaves of bread each day for the masses, I could whip up a couple loaves for my family.
I reasoned if you want to bake the best, you learn from the best, so to the library I went and picked up a book titled simply enough, "Breads". In it I found the most wonderful recipe for a Braided Cheddar Pear Bread that I just had to try. I simply couldn't imagine what cheddar cheese mixed with pears would taste like. I had to try it — at least once.
The recipe has long since gone the way of old things and after spending untold hours scouring through old recipe books, stopping at every old book store I could find, and putting several requests on the net. I finally decided to wing it. After all, what's the worst that could happen? I'd have to toss it out.
The bread was very eye appealing and absolutely delicious, though I did realize while I was trying to fall asleep last night that I had made a mistake. In the old recipe that I used to have it recommended braiding the bread from both ends and making a sort of twisted knot in the middle — something I shall correct in my next batch but it certainly didn't affect the flavor of these loaves.
You can attempt mixing this recipe by hand or use your favorite sweet dough recipe. I used my bread maker on the dough setting. At least this way I knew the bread would be edible.
Note: The amounts used for the filling are approximate as I usually make extra. The pictures should help you ensure you get the right proportions. I'll try to measure next time.
In a large bowl of electric mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in water. Let stand until foamy, (5 to 10 minutes). Add 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, butter, sour cream, vanilla, salt and 2 cups flour. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer 2 minutes or, beat 200 vigorous strokes by hand. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Clean and grease bowl. Knead dough 4 to 6 minutes or until smooth. Dough will feel soft and buttery, but not sticky.
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover with a slightly damp towel. Let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, (about 1-½ hours).
Grease 2 baking sheets. Punch down dough; knead 30 seconds. Divide dough in half. Cover 1 piece; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, Roll remaining dough to 15" x 10" rectangle. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
In a medium bowl, toss pears and flour. Stir in cheese, brown sugar, raisins and walnuts. Spoon half of pear mixture lengthwise down center of dough. Using a sharp knife, cut dough on each side of filling into 15 (1-inch) strips. Do not cut on the diagonal.
Starting a 1 end, alternately fold 7 strips from each side over filling, at an angle, creating a braided effect. Place shaped coffeecakes on prepared baking sheets.
Cover with a dry towel. Let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until double in bulk. (1 to 1-½ hours).
Preheat oven to 350° F
Brush entire coffeecakes with egg bath and bake.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. This recipe was tested at 3,800 feet in elevation, it may take less baking time at lower elevations.
Cool on racks 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Do not attempt to bake this bread on a flat cookie sheet. I made that mistake and the bottom of my oven is a mess. When baking the second loaf I even tried putting foil under the pan and it still oozed out all over the oven. Do use a cookie sheet with a lip all the way around it or prepare to clean a sticky oven bottom.
After removing from the oven, if desired, brush the top of the loaf with remaining butter, then sprinkle with vanilla flavored crystalized cocktail sugar.
Variation: If vanilla sugar isn't your thing, try drizzling with icing after you remove it from the oven. Serve for breakfast with coffee or hot chocolate.
Makes 2 coffeecakes.
Posted Jaunary 3, 2015