Follow these instructions to create a buttery crisp and flaky pastry braid at home.
- 1/4 cup (60ml) warm water (between 100-110°F, 38-43°C)
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast (1 standard packet)*
- 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature (between 68–72°F, 20-22°C)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 14 Tablespoons (205g) unsalted butter, cold
- 2 and 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more for generously flouring hands, surface, and dough
Cream Cheese Filling
- 8oz (224g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup (125g) fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
- optional: 1/3 cup (40g) sliced almonds
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (60g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) heavy cream or milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preliminary note: To help guarantee success, I recommend reading through the recipe before beginning. I also detail this recipe in the separate pastry dough post. Do not use an electric mixer for this dough. It’s best if the dough is folded together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula since it is so sticky. There is very minimal mixing required.
- Make the Pastry Dough: Whisk the warm water, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon (6g) of sugar together in a large bowl. Cover and allow to rest until foamy on top, about 5 minutes. If the surface doesn’t have bubbles on top or look foamy after 15 minutes (it should if the yeast isn’t expired), start over with a fresh packet of yeast. Whisk in remaining sugar, the milk, egg, and salt. Once these wet ingredients are mixed together, lightly cover and set the bowl aside as you work on the next step.
- Cut the cold butter into 1/4 inch slices and add to a food processor or blender. Top with 2 and 1/2 cups flour. Pulse the mixture 12-15 times, until butter is crumbled into pea-size bits. See photo below for a visual. Using a food processor or blender is best for this dough. Keeping that in mind, if you don’t have one, you can use a pastry cutter to work in the butter.
- Pour the flour mixture into the wet yeast mixture. Very gently fold everything together using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Fold *just until* the dry ingredients are moistened. The butter must remain in pieces and crumbles, which creates a flaky pastry. Turn the sticky dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, parchment paper, aluminum foil, or into any container you can tightly cover.
- 1st Refrigeration: Wrap the dough/cover up tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 48 hours.
- Roll & Fold: Take the dough out of the refrigerator to begin the “rolling and folding” process. If the dough sat for more than 4 hours, it may have slightly puffed up and that’s ok. (It will deflate as you shape it, which is also ok.) Very generously flour a work surface. The dough is very sticky, so make sure you have more flour nearby as you roll and fold. Using the palm of your hands, gently flatten the dough into a small square. Using a rolling pin, roll out into a 15×8 inch rectangle. When needed, flour the work surface and dough as you are rolling. Fold the dough into thirds as if it were a business letter. (See photos and video tutorial.) Turn it clockwise and roll it out into a 15 inch long rectangle again. Then, fold into thirds again. Turn it clockwise. You’ll repeat rolling and folding 1 more time for a total of 3 times.
- 2nd Refrigeration: Wrap up/seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. You can also freeze the dough at this point. See freezing instructions.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Rimmed baking sheets are best because butter may leak from the dough as it bakes. If you don’t have rimmed baking sheets, when it’s time to preheat the oven, place another baking sheet on the oven rack below to catch any butter that may drip.
- Make the cheese filling: In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and egg yolk together on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla, then beat until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut it in half. Wrap 1 half up and keep refrigerated as you work with the first half. (You can freeze half of the dough at this point, use the freezing instructions below.)
- On a floured work surface, roll dough out into a 12×8 inch rectangle. You can roll out the dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper or lightly floured silicone baking mat instead because you will transfer the shaped dough to a lined baking sheet next.
- Using a sharp knife, cut off two corners of the dough (on one 8-inch side) and then two small triangles 3 inches apart from each other on the other end (the other 8-inch side). See visual below.
- Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese filling down the length of the center of the strip, which should be about 3 inches wide. Dot with half of the blueberries (1/3 cup). Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, or pizza cutter, cut 10 slanting strips (3/4 – 1 inch wide each) along both sides. Fold strips over filling, alternating each side to resemble a twist or a braid. Fold the bottom end up to seal the filling inside. Repeat with the second half of the dough and the rest of the filling. The braids may seem very narrow, but they puff up and out as they bake.
- Egg Wash: Whisk the egg wash ingredients together. Brush all over the dough. If you want a little crunch from almonds, sprinkle them evenly on top of the braids after brushing the dough with egg wash.
- I strongly recommend refrigerating the shaped braids before baking for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour before baking. The braids tend to leak more butter and/or lose more shape if they haven’t chilled.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
- Bake each braid for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Some butter may leak from the dough, that’s completely normal and expected. Feel free to remove the baking sheets from the oven halfway through baking and brush the dough with any of the leaking butter, then place back in the oven to finish baking. (That’s what I do!)
- Remove baked braids from the oven and cool for at least 5 minutes before icing, cutting, and serving.
- Vanilla Icing: Whisk the icing ingredients together. If you want a thicker icing, whisk in more confectioners’ sugar. If you want a thinner icing, whisk in more milk or cream. Drizzle over warm pastries and serve.
- Cover leftover iced or un-iced pastries and store at room temperature for 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or you can freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw before serving. Before enjoying, feel free to reheat leftover iced or un-iced pastries in the microwave for a few seconds until warmed.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare the dough as instructed in steps 2-4. At this point the dough can be refrigerated up to 48 hours. You can also prepare the dough through step 6. At this point the dough can be refrigerated up to 24 hours. During or after this second chilling time, you could also freeze the dough for up to 1 month. (I don’t recommend freezing the dough before the rolling and folding step.) Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then continue with step 8. You can also freeze the shaped and filled braids after shaping them in step 13. Thaw in the refrigerator, then continue with step 14.
- Temperature & Substitutions: The temperature of your ingredients is imperative to this pastry’s success. Make sure you take the time to warm the water and bring the milk to room temperature. Keep the butter in the refrigerator until you need it in step 3. I do not recommend any substitutions in this carefully formulated dough, though a lower fat or nondairy milk works in a pinch. For the egg wash, low fat or nondairy milks work, as do heavy cream or half-and-half.
- Yeast: You can use either active dry yeast or instant (quick rise) yeast. The instructions and amount are exactly the same no matter which you use. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
- Halve the Recipe? I don’t recommend halving this dough recipe. Make the dough as written, then freeze half after step 10.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Food Processor (I own and love this one), Pastry Cutter, Pastry Brush, Rolling Pin, Rimmed Baking Sheet
- Dough recipe adapted from Cooking Illustrated, Joy of Cooking, and Beatrice Ojakangas
Keywords: blueberry cream cheese pastry braid, breakfast, pastries