I found this recipe awhile back on one of the very few cooking blogs I frequent, 17andbaking.com. It was like one of those truly inspiring recipes, and I pondered it for a long time before making it. I wasn't curious; I KNEW it would be great. It was just...I was waiting for the right time. The right day. I would know it when it came. In the meantime I would make sure I had lemons and cream cheese around, just in case.
I decided to make this the day Hurricane Irene came through. My nephew had been evacuated from his college in southern VA, so he was staying with us. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, and the power could go out at any moment. But we doubted it because it didn't hit us too hard. Hard enough, though, to not go out, and to feel a bit "hunkered down." So I baked.
It was fragrant and gorgeous and fun as I had expected. Easier, actually. The long instructions threw me; once you do it, you realize it's easy. My only regret is cooking it a bit too long so the outer crust was too dark. This being my first time, I just wanted to make sure it cooked through the middle. But no one minded and we all gobbled it up, one pull-apart at a time.
Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Bread (print recipe)
Sweet Yeast Dough:
12 1/4 ounces (about 2 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup whole milk
4 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor, optional (from King Arthur Flour)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Lemon Sugar Filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 T finely grated lemon zest (from 3 lemons)
1 T finely grated orange zest
4 T unsalted butter, melted
Tangy Cream Cheese Icing:
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 T whole milk
1 T fresh lemon juice
Make the Sweet Yeast Dough
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 2 cups (9 ounces) flour, the sugar, yeast and salt. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine the milk and butter and heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add the water, and let resta minute until just warm (120 to 130 degrees F). Stir in the vanilla and Sweet Dough Flavor, if using.
Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, 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.
Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about one minute. Add an additional 1 to 2 Tablespoons of flour only if the dough is too sticky to work with. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size. An indentation made with your finger should keep its shape.
Make the Lemon Sugar Filling
Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest until the sugar is sandy and fragrant.
Assemble the Bread
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350. Grease a 9"x5" loaf pan.
Gently deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20" by 12" rectangle. You should measure it and make it as accurate as possible. Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter evenly and liberally over the dough. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each 12" by 4". Sprinkle 1 1/2 T of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1 1/2 T of lemon sugar. 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.
Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles, about 4" by 2" each. Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. This is easier if you prop the loaf pan up on its end. There will be some extra room, but the bread will expand during the second rise and 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. When you gently press the dough with your finger, the indentation should stay.
Bake the loaf until top is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Check it at 30 with a cake tester to make sure the middle is done. I overcooked mine slightly trying to get it right. Cover the top with foil if it is browning too quickly. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
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.
Carefully run a thin sharp knife around the edges of the bread, and tap the pan on the table to release the loaf. Flip it over onto a cooling rack, then flip again so it is right side up. Spread the top of the warm bread with the cream cheese icing, using a pastry brush to fill in any cracks. Eat warm or at room temperature, pulling off pieces with your fingers. It's best the first day but if it lasts into a second, microwave the pieces to soften them up. Recipe from Baking for All Occasions by Flo Baker via 17andbaking.com