Noelle (my younger sister) and I have always been close. Four years younger than me, Noelle was the best thing that could have happened to my brown-eyed, curly-haired self. I had told my mom I wanted a little sister, and when she found out she was pregnant, I was confident we were having a little girl. I turned out to be right.
Unlike most sibling relationships, Noelle and I were infatuated with each other. We would stretch out on a blanket on our living room floor, half-clothed and sipping on orange juice while our grubby hands reached into the same bowl of cheerios. I understood Noelle’s incoherent sentences far before our parents did, our friends did, and so we had, for a time, a secret language. We communicated with each other before we communicated with the larger world.
And we grew up, and we traveled across the country and the world together. We talked about our fears and our hopes. We found new ways to connect as we became adults with different dreams and ambitions.
My little sister is now a nurse. She graduated just a few weeks ago, and I wish I could have been in West Virginia to congratulate her in person. She’s immensely talented and has been working in the Pediatric ICU. She’ll go to graduate school in the next year or so, and I’m confident that she’ll surpass everyone’s expectations.
Noelle and I share many things: a love for our dogs, our untiring ambition, a hesitation to attend parties with a large amount of people we don’t know. We also share a love for a bakery located just a few miles from my parent’s home. There, we both sampled their blueberry cream cheese muffins and fell in love. Growing up, Noelle and I didn’t eat cream cheese, so the obsession is definitely a new one. But take one bite of a blueberry cream cheese muffin and you can’t go back. The sweetness of the muffin is only intensified by the creamy swirls of cheese.
This blueberry cream cheese bread is just as good (if not better!) than the muffins Noelle and I love. The loaves are moist and swirled with a thick cream cheese layer. They bake to a lovely golden brown and leave your house smelling like the best part of summer. Perfect for breakfast or even for dessert, these loaves improve after sitting for a day. I wish I could send one of them to Noelle in West Virginia, but she’ll just have to look forward to eating one when she comes out to visit us in a few weeks.
Blueberry Cream Cheese Bread
FOR THE BREAD:
1/2 cups butter (1 stick, softened)
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cups milk
2 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
FOR THE FILLING:
8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour one large loaf pan or four mini loaf pans. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, egg and orange extract. Set filling aside.
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add salt and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Fold in half of dry ingredients into butter-sugar mixture, then add milk, then the remainder of dry ingredients. Toss blueberries in tablespoon of flour and fold into batter. Your batter will be thick.
Spread half of batter into the bottom of prepared loaf pan(s). Using a spatula, spread cream cheese filling on top. Spread the remainder of batter over cream cheese and bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes (for mini loaf pans) or 50-55 minutes (for large loaf pan). Allow to cool in pan for at least 20 minutes before removing. Wrap leftover bread in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.