Monday, May 30, 2011

Pull Apart Sweet Lemon Bread

The alternate title for this post is, "How Pinterest is ruining my diet." Since I became addicted to the site just a short week and a half ago I've pinned about 80 recipes I'm dying to make. I've already gotten a few good dinners out of it including an easy spicy tomato egg dish perfect for a weeknight, black bean tortilla pie from Martha Stewart, and these indulgent grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon, apple, avocado, and pepperjack cheese:

The recipe I saw and just knew I *had* to make was a luscious-looking pull apart sweet lemon bread. Those flaky layers of dough interspersed with citrus-flavored sugar and that lemony cream cheese topping just had to be killer. My instincts were right as this is one of the best recipes I've ever made. Seriously. If you have a fear of baking with yeast this is the recipe to try to get you over that fear.

Yes, there are a lot of steps and yes, it is time consuming but it is so worth it. If only my traitorous stomach would have allowed it I could have happily eaten half of the loaf in one sitting. The dough is sweet, but not too sweet. The cream cheese topping is tart but not too tart. Everything about this recipe is spot on.

The only change I made was a minor and unnecessary one. I happened to have some Fiori di Sicilia on hand, a citrusy vanilla flavoring. Since I thought it would lend an extra fun kick of flavor to the dough I added a splash.

I would also caution you to keep an eye on the dough for those first 15 minutes and if it starts to brown too much be sure to cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking process. Mine was perhaps a tad too brown and crispy around the edges by the end, not that I let that stop me from devouring it.

Pull Apart Lemon Loaf
Recipe from Clockwork Lemon

Sweet Yeast Dough
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (You might not use all of this)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (optional)
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Lemon Sugar Filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of three lemons
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Make the dough: In the microwave heat the butter and the milk together until the butter melts. Set aside to cool slightly. While it is cooling mix two cups of the flour with the yeast and the sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Then add the water to the milk mixture and stir in the vanilla extract and optional Fiori di Sicilia.

2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixer and stir until combined. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the eggs one at a time, mixing each egg until it is combined. Add another 1/2 cup of the flour and the salt and mix until combined.

3. Sprinkle the dough with 2 tbsp of flour and knead it with the dough hook for 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky but should become soft and smooth from the kneading. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Make Ahead Tip: If you want to make the dough the night before you bake it just gently deflate the dough after its first rise, place back in the bowl and cover it with plastic. Stick it in the fridge overnight (it will continue to rise, but at a much slower rate). Plus you get added flavor in the bread from the benefit of a slow, cold rise. The next day take the dough out and bring it to room temperature before proceeding with the next steps.

4. Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest. It will draw out the citrus oils and make the sugar sandy and fragrant.

5. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan or spray it with baking spray

6. Forming the loaf: Deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. This part is a lot easier with a ruler on hand. Use a pastry brush to thickly coat the dough with the melted butter

7. Use a pizza cutter, pastry cutter, or a sharp knife to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″ (it might not be this exact size, but try to make the five strips be equal sizes). Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle and gently press the sugar in. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon sugar as well. Continue to top with rectangles and sprinkle, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.

8. Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. it might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after 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.

9.Bake the loaf for 15 minutes and then check to make sure that top isn't browning too quickly. If it is, just cover the top of the loaf with tinfoil and continue baking. My loaf took a little over 40 minutes to bake completely. When done, transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

10. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the milk and lemon juice. Stir until creamy and smooth. Spread over the warm bread (you might want to put some plastic wrap or parchment paper under the bread to catch the drips)

11. Eat!