When you add cream cheese to a sweet yeasty bread dough, along with some juicy red strawberries and jam, the result is a beautiful strawberry bread that is perfect for breakfast, brunch or simply snacking.
The sweet Florida strawberry season is nearing its end but that doesn’t mean work on the farms is over. Far from it! The best strawberries grow on young plants so some fields are already being cleared and the farmers are preparing the soil for the next crop. And before too long, it will be time to nurture the strawberry seedlings that will be planted out in the fall.
Meanwhile folks in Florida and on the US east coast are still cooking and baking with our favorite native berry. Currently more than 70 percent of strawberries from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA) are shipped out of state, all up the east coast, as far as north as Boston and even Montreal. The winter strawberries are picked at just at the right moment, when they are red, shiny and juicy, assuring the customer of the best fruit possible. The key to making sure the strawberries are at their optimal freshness and flavor is refrigeration and keeping the travel time from farm to plate a matter of days. Here’s hoping the distribution area can increase in coming years so more of our Sunday Supper members can enjoy Florida’s sweet winter strawberries, wherever they live.
Want to enjoy sweet Florida strawberries in the months to come? For tips on freezing them, check out these easy instructions from one of the FSGA’s members, Wish Farms.
- 1 packet (1/4 oz or 7g) dried yeast
- ¾ cup or 90ml whole milk
- 3 cups or 375g flour
- ½ cup or 100g sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup or 60g full fat (not whipped) cream cheese
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup or 120g cream cheese, chilled
- 3½ oz or 100g fresh strawberries (about six medium-sized)
- ¼ cup or 80g good quality strawberry jam
- Optional topping– about 1 oz or 25g pearl sugar
- Warm your milk slightly (I use a quick zap in the microwave.) and then add in one tablespoon of the sugar. Sprinkle on the yeast, stir and set aside for a few minutes. Your yeast should get foamy.
- Add your three cups of flour into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer with the rest of the sugar and the salt.
- Add in milk/yeast mixture along with the egg yolk and mix with the bread hook. It’s going to look dry and like it won’t come together. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape the dough off the hook and put it back in the bowl and then keep mixing but soon, you will have homogeneous soft dough.
- Now add in half of the cream cheese and mix until fully incorporated. (It’s like adding butter to brioche.)
- Now add the second half of the cream cheese and mix until it is incorporated. Form the dough into a ball with your spatula and leave to rise for about an hour in a warm place.
- Meanwhile, prepare your bread pan by greasing it with butter or non-stick spray or lining it with baking parchment.
- Right before your hour rising time is up, hull and chop the strawberries. Don’t do this too far ahead or they will get wet and mushy.
- On a well-floured surface, push your dough out into a rectangle of about 14” x 12” or 34cm x 30cm.
- You can use a rolling pin if you really want to but this is a soft dough and I just pressed it out easily with my hands.
- Spread it with the strawberry jam and sprinkle on the chopped strawberries. Cut your chilled cream cheese into small cubes and scatter them out on the jam as well.
- Start rolling up the dough on the long side.
- When you have a tight roll, seam side up, fold each half into the middle.
- Gently turn the dough over and lay it fold side down in your prepared loaf pan.
- Allow to rise in a warm place for another hour, but set your timer for 45 minutes. When it rings, preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C. Don’t forget to set the timer again for the last 15 minutes of rising time.
- When your full hour is up, beat your egg white and brush it on the loaf with a soft pastry brush.
- Sprinkle with pearl sugar, if desired.
- Bake 45 minutes or until done in your preheated oven. A properly baked loaf is 180°F or 82°C or in the middle.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing. If you can wait that long.