Sweet Cherry Challah Squares
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
5-6 cups bread flour
Fresh Cherry Topping:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups fresh or frozen pitted Balaton cherries, or a mixture of tart and sweet ones, halved and whole
In a large bowl or bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough book, whisk together water and yeast. Let stand a few minutes then stir in cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, almond extract, lemon juice, eggs, butter, and most of flour. Stir in most of flour until you have a soft mass. Stir, and then knead 8-10 minutes to form a soft dough, adding in more flour as required. Form into a ball and place in a well greased bowl, cover, and let rise 45-60 minutes. Prepare a large baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. When dough is ready, gently deflate and flatten to fit sheet. If it springs back, let it rest a moment then coax to fit sheet. Insert entire sheet in a large plastic bag. Let rise 30 minutes.
Remove from plastic bag and preheat oven to 350 F. Generously brush the melted butter on the dough. Then generously dust on sugar and cinnamon and then scatter cherries on top. Bake until done (bread seems done, golden, and cherries are softened and oozing cherry juice) about 45-55 minutes. Remove from oven and cool, dust with confectioners' sugar (different look but not necessary). Cut into slabs to serve.
This delightful cherry square uses a yeasted dough which makes it more of a coffee cake than a traditional square. You can also simply pinch off half the challah dough from the cold rise challah which would give you two very different recipes (one a bread, one desert) with half the effort. Use the best and largest sweet summer cherries you can find.