It’s probably fair to say that I’m a little obsessive with baking. There are so many baked goods that I make that don’t get up on this blog because they weren’t quite fluffy enough, or moist enough or pretty enough. I’m constantly tinkering with recipes here, a little more of this, a little more of that. Or sometimes I just have to spend a little more time on the presentation, I don’t like putting things up here that don’t look great.
Which is why it’s so surprising to make a recipe and go, goodness, I don’t need to change a thing. It is rare and unusual and wonderful, and it happened this week.
The amazing Smitten Kitchen had a recipe for lemon braided bread and hot damn was it good. The bread is very moist and very butter, and the cheesy layer is the perfect amount of sweetness without really being all that sweet and the lemon sets the whole thing over the edge. And it’s shockingly easy for something that turns out as beautiful as this bread.
A girlfriend of mine was coming over for lunch and, despite us both being pretty small girls, we ate two thirds of it in one sitting. Oh just one more slice, maybe a little bit thicker, oh come on thicker still, yes there we go
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup (1 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sour cream or yogurt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 teaspoon water for brushing bread
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp Water
Lemon Cream Cheese Filling
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons (5/8 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 ounces) Lemon Curd
Mix all the sponge ingredients together and let sit until bubbly, about 15 minutes
In a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, or with some strong arms add in the dough ingredients except the salt and the butter and need until it becomes a shaggy mass. (Yes that actually is the technical term) and then add the salt.
Work it until a nice dough has formed and it pulls away from the side of the bowl.
With the motor still running add in the butter piece by piece until it’s all combined and the dough is smooth and elastic.
Cover it with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or maybe a little longer until it’s doubled in size.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a long rectangle, roughly the size of the baking sheet your going to bake it on. Lightly press in two lines that divide it in thirds lengthwise.
Carefully transfer it to your lined baking sheet.
Mix together all the ingredients for your filling except the lemon curd.
Spread the sour cream layer onto the middle section of the dough, then spoon on the lemon curd.
Cut dough on either side of the lemon layer into strips, trying to get as many on both sides.
And you can either fold them over, or weave them through.
And let it proof, again, in a warm place covered with a tea towel, until it has doubled again in size.
Preheat your oven to 350F
Mix an egg yolk with a couple tablespoons of water and brush them onto of your bread.
Sprinkle with your coarse sugar and get it in the oven!
You want to, because when it comes out, it comes out like this:
And it smells like heaven and no matter what else you might serve, if you make this for brunch no one will eat anything else.