Ah yes, lemon season… It’s that one bright seasonal food that falls just when I need it the most–right in the middle of Winter. The lemons are sublime right now. Obviously I love to bake with these beauties. This tart and these bars always make me weak in the knees. And this delicious yogurt cake is one of the best desserts I’ve ever made. But don’t stop at baking. Remember to preserve a batch of lemons to use in savory dishes as well. With lemons around, the dull gray of late February just seems a little less oppresive.
This fantastic pull-apart bread is another mouth-watering way to bring that lemon-y zing into your baking. And how good is this bread? It knocked our socks off! My family was wowed by this one– we inhaled it in one day. It really is that good. I mean, it’s so good that you’ll want to invite friends over to share so they can ”ooooo…” and “ahhh…” at your masterpiece.
Don’t be intimidated by the recipe’s length– it’s not difficult. The photos here show you how to cut the dough, which seemed to be the most confusing part of the original directions. Just remember the goal– make a dough, let it rise, roll it into a large rectangle, top with lemon/sugar mixture, cut into 30 small, equal rectangles, stack in a bread pan, let rise, and bake. That’s it. The cutting measurements don’t have to be perfect, so slight variations in shape are just fine. The key is to make sure you bake it long enough. Otherwise, the center may not be done, which will ruin your bread. If you make the dough and store it in the refrigerator, you’ll find it really shortens the wait if you plan on making it for breakfast. Enjoy!
The Recipe: Lemon Pull-Apart Bread
(Makes one loaf)
For the Dough:
2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) whole milk
2 ounces (4 tablespoons), unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the Lemon Paste Filling:
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (4 lemons)
2 ounces unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), melted
For the Icing:
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounce) confectioners’ sugar
About 2 tablespoons lemon juice
I recommend making the dough and refrigerating the night before. The dough is remarkably easy to handle this way. To make the dough, mix together 2 cups (9 ounces) flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a small sauce pan, heat the butter and milk until it is entirely melted. Remove from heat and add the water and vanilla. Set aside until the temperature drops to 120°F – 130°F.
Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until moistened. Attach bowl to mixer and using the paddle attachment, begin to add the eggs one at a time while the mixer is on low. Mix until just incorporated after each egg. Stop the mixer and add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, and continue to mix on low until the dough is smooth, 30-45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons of flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
Sprinkle work surface with 1 tablespoon of flour, knead dough by hand for about 1 minute, or until no longer sticky. 1-2 tablespoons of flour can be added, if needed. Butter a large bowl and place dough in it and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Gently deflate the dough. At this point, either refrigerate the well-covered dough overnight or proceed onto the next step.
Meanwhile, while dough is rising, make the lemon filling. In a small bowl, add the sugar and lemon zest. Using a spoon or your hand, mix together until it forms a sandy mixture.
Center a rack in the center of an oven pre-heated to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 5 – inch loaf pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter again. Set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface roll the dough out to a 20 x 12 – inch rectangle. Use a pastry brush (or smear with your hands) to distribute the melted butter onto the dough. Sprinkle the lemon/sugar mixture evenly over the melted butter. Give the mixture a gentle pat so that it sticks well. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough crosswise into 5 equal strips (each about 12 x 4 – inches). Carefully stack all 5 strips of dough. Again using the pizza cutter, cut the stack into 6 equal sections (each about 4 x 2 -inches).
Carefully place all of the stacks, widthwise, into the prepared bread pan. Make sure the dough pieces are close/snug with each other. There will be extra room at the end of the pan and that’s good. The dough will rise and fill that space in. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30-50 minutes, or a bit longer if the dough was refrigerated.
Bake the bread until the top is a beautiful golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the bread reads about 200°F, about 35 minutes. If the bread seems to be browning too quickly and the inside is not yet done, place some aluminum foil over the bread while it continues to bake. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan, or else the bread will fall apart.
Gently run knife around the edges of the pan and carefully invert cooled bread into your hand, then place on a plate. Using a wooden spoon or whisk, mix the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon juice together — using more or less lemon juice depending upon your desired consistency. Drizzle over the bread. Stores well in an airtight container. Enjoy!
Thanks for stopping by!