Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Bread

A couple weeks ago, I made a visit to my grandmother's house in San Diego. She sent me home with a GIGANTIC lemon from her garden. This thing was huge! The only thing I can really think to compare it to is a baby's head.

I was very excited to make something delicious with this lemon, but truth be told, it sat in my kitchen for a couple weeks before I figured out what to do with it. Then, I discovered this heavenly recipe. While a bit time intensive, this bread is worth it! It is truly a sweet, rich treat so I suggest making it for something special: girl's night, a birthday breakfast, or for visiting guests. (It will surely impress them!)

Lemon Scented Pull-Apart Bread
From The Whimsical Cupcake
Yield one loaf of bread
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Rising Time: 90 minutes
Baking Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: about 2.5 hours


{for the dough}

About 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk (I used 1% milk)
2 oz. unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

{for the lemon paste filling}

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons grated lemon zest (about 3 reglar-sized lemons or 1 GIANT lemon*)
1 Tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 oz. unsalted butter, melted

{for the cream cheese icing}

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon whole milk (again, I just used 1% milk)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract (I didn't have this so I left it out)


1. Stir together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from heat, add water, and set aside until warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.
2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Using a mixer, beat on low speed, adding the eggs one at a time and mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
3. Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour and center the dough on the flour. Knead gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if necessary to lessen the stickiness. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step. While the dough is rising, make the filling.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and the lemon and orange zests. Set aside.
5. Once the dough has risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Or, lightly coat the pan with nonstick spray.
6. Gently deflate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle. Using a pastry brush spread the melted butter generously over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 by 4 inches. (A pizza cutter is helpful here.) Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture over one of the buttered rectangles. Top with a second rectangle and sprinkle it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture. Repeat with the remaining dough rectangles and zest-sugar mixture, ending with a stack of 5 rectangles. Work carefully when adding the crumbly zest filling, or it will fall off when you have to lift the stacked pastry later.
7. Slice the stack crosswise through the 5 layers to create 6 equal strips, each about 4 by 2 inches. Fit these layered strips into the prepared loaf pan, cut edges up and side by side. (While there is plenty of space on either side of the 6 strips widthwise in the pan, fitting the strips lengthwise is tight. But that’s fine because the spaces between the dough and the sides of the pan fill in during baking.) Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for baking.
8. Bake the bread until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
9. Make the tangy cream cheese icing. In a medium bowl, using a rubber spatula, vigorously mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
10. To remove bread from the pan, tilt and rotate the pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cake sides. I find it helpful to use a knife to loosen up the bread on all sides. Invert a wire rack on top of the bread, invert the cake onto the rack, and carefully lift off the pan. Invert another rack on top, invert the cake so it is right side up, and remove the original rack.
11. Slip a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the icing. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the warm cake with the icing to glaze it.
12. Serve the coffee cake warm or at room temperature. To serve, you can pull apart the layers, or you can cut the cake into 1-inch-thick slices on a slight diagonal with a long, serrated knife. If you decide to cut the cake, don’t attempt to cut it until it is almost completely cool.
Enjoy to your heart's content and try not to eat it all in one sitting!

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