Cherry Cheese Braid

4 c. tart cherries, pitted

1 c. sugar

1/4 c. cornstarch

1 t. almond extract

1/4 c. water

1/2 c. sour cream

3 T. butter

2 eggs

1 t. almond extract

3 c. bread flour

1 1/2 t. salt

3 T. sugar

1 pkg. (2 1/4 t.) yeast

6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 egg

1 T. sugar

dash of salt

1 1/4 c. powdered sugar

2-3 T. water

Combine the cherries, 1 c. sugar,  cornstarch and 1 t. almond extract in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, cook and stir until sugar is melted and sauce is clear and thickened into a gel.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Combine  yeast,  1 c. flour, 1 1/2 t. salt, and 3 T. sugar in the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Place the water, sour cream, and butter in a 2 c. glass measuring cup and heat in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, until butter melts and it reaches a temperature of 120*-130*.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix for 2-3 minutes on med speed.  Add the eggs and 1 t. almond extract and beat for another minute or so.  Begin adding the remaining flour 1/2 c. at a time until incorporated.  Knead for 5-7 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.  Remove dough from bowl and shape into a ball.  Spray the bowl with cooking spray, return the dough ball, turning to coat with the spray.  Cover and let rise for 30-40 minutes, until doubled in size.

Combine the cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt in a small bowl until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

When dough is ready, punch down and divide in half.  Place each half onto parchment or a silicone mat and roll into two 12x17" rectangles.  Spread half the cheese mixture over the middle third of each rectangle, leaving an inch or two at each short end.  Cover the cheese with half of the cherry mixture for each loaf.  Cut 1" wide strips, every 2 inches, down each long side of the rectangles.  Fold strips on an angle, braiding across the filling, alternately side to side.  Place the parchment or silicone onto 2 baking sheets. Cover both loafs and let rest for half an hour.

Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.  When room temperature remove to a platter. 

Make a glaze by combining the powdered sugar with the water, a tablespoon at time  until it reaches a desired consistency, enabling you to drizzle it from a spoon onto the coffee cakes.