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Another tradition I established for our family was baking a special coffeecake for Christmas morning breakfast. In the early years there were a few different cakes tried but the one that became the favorite was an almond cheese filled cake. For my children, their spouses and their children, Christmas morning is not the same without this cake. I share this recipe and how to make it with you here in this post.
This coffeecake dough can be shaped in the form of a wreath or a horseshoe or even a candy cane. I make it in the form of a log because it fits in the freezer better.
Since Christmas morning is busy enough, you do not want to be baking on Christmas morning or even the day before. This cake freezes well, so you can make it ahead of time, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat the next morning in a 350 degree F. oven for 15 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes on a serving plate and then drizzle with frosting. You can also decorate the cake with glazed cherries or other festive trimmings.
Dough: Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in the electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add water and eggs and beat until well combined. Mix in the flour until the dough comes to a ball or comes away from the sides of the mixer bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until you've made a soft, smooth dough.
Remove the dough to a floured surface. Grease the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it's puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).
Filling: While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by beating the cream cheese and the almond paste together until smooth. Chill until ready to use.
Cover two baking pans with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide it in half. Roll each half into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle.
Spread half of the filling on the dough, leaving a half inch border all around the dough.
Fold 1/3 of the dough towards the center and fold the other side on top of the folded side. See photo.
Place bread on prepared pan. Cut 1-inch-wide strips from each side of the filling out to the edges of the dough. Seal edges.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Baking: Allow the braids to rise, covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size.
Bake the braids for 22 minutes rotating pans halfway through the baking time.
Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. Yield: 2 braids.
When braids are cool wrap in heavy duty foil and freeze. Braids should be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator and heated the next day in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove foil and place on a serving plate.
To make the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, almond extract and enough milk to make a frosting that can be poured over the braids. Allow glaze to set before cutting the braids.