Challah Cheesecake Buns is excerpted from Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files by Deb Perelman. Copyright © 2022 by Deb Perelman. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Challah Cheesecake Buns
My father grew up in the Bronx, and he told me that after school they’d sometimes go to the corner deli and get cream-cheese-and-jelly sandwiches. He spoke wistfully of these days, when nobody balked at putting a 1-inch-thick slab (or so he dramatically remembered it) of cream cheese on a sandwich, with no ruminations about cholesterol or arteries. Since then, I’ve always associated this combination with him, but felt the part he left out of the story is that cream cheese and jam together taste like cheesecake, or one of those cheese Danishes I never see enough anymore. Challah bread, stretchy and enriched with eggs and oil, is a close cousin to brioche, and I’ve had fun tweaking it to make break-fast buns with the easiest and most forgiving dough you could possibly imagine. The filling will seem messy as you roll and slice it, but, no matter how crooked they look going into the pan, they are stunning when they emerge from the oven the next morning, glossed to a high challah shine. A lemon glaze is optional but delicious here, especially because the buns aren’t heavily sweetened.
Makes 12 buns
- 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
- ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (115 grams) butter, melted, then cooled, plus more for the mixing bowl
- ⅔ cup (155 grams) milk, any variety
- 3¾ cups (490 grams) all- purpose flour
- 1 packet (2¼ teaspoons, or 7 grams) instant yeast
- 1¼ teaspoons (4 grams) kosher salt
Filing and assembly
- 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, softened
- ⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (240 grams) raspberry jam, or another that you prefer
- 1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water for wash
- Poppy seeds, for sprinkling
- 2 cups (240 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons (45 to 60 grams) lemon juice
Make the dough:
- Whisk together the eggs, yolk, granulated sugar, butter, and milk in the bottom of a stand-mixer bowl.
- Add the flour, yeast, and salt, and mix with the dough hook on low until it comes together; then let the machine knead it for about 5 minutes.
- Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured counter, and leave it there just long enough so you can coat a mixing bowl with oil; return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover it loosely, and let it rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
For the filling and assembly:
- Butter a 13-by-9-inch (or equivalent size) baking dish, or coat it with nonstick spray.
- Combine the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl (I just use a fork to mix this).
- On a very well-floured counter, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16 inches wide on the side facing you and as far away from you as it comfortably goes, usually 13 to 15 inches.
- Spread the cream cheese mixture all over the rolled-out dough. Dollop the jam over it, and spread it smooth. Roll the dough into a snug spiral; it will stretch to about 18 inches wide.
- Cut the log very gently—it’s going to be a soft mess, so use a sharp serrated knife or flavorless dental floss—into 1½-inch segments. Arrange all the pieces in the prepared baking dish. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash, and cover with plastic wrap.
- From here, you can opt for one of two schedules: Refrigerate the buns overnight, along with the leftover egg wash (both covered), or you can chill the buns for just 30 minutes and bake them right away. If you’re using the overnight method, remove the buns from the fridge in the morning and let them warm up for 30 minutes before baking; if you’re using the faster chill, no need to give them warm-up time.
- Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Brush the tops of the buns with a second coat of egg wash, and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake until the buns are bronzed all over and have an internal temperature of 190°F (90°C), about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
For the glaze, if using:
- Whisk the confectioners’ sugar together with 3 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth, drizzling in an additional tablespoon of lemon juice if needed to loosen the glaze.
- Drizzle this over the warm buns, or serve it alongside with a spoon.