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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lemon Pull-Apart Loaf

Rarely, do I even give a second look to a recipe as fussy as this one. I kept seeing the Sticky Lemon Roll version of this recipe ev ery where. They looked so beautiful, every time I saw someone write a post about them I swear I could smell them baking. In my house cinnamon rolls are a thing you don’t mess with, they rank right up there with pizza. I was afraid if I presented something that looked like a cinnamon roll, but wasn’t one…well there might be a revolt. I thought about making the recipe and then splitting it in half with one small pan being cinnamon and the other lemon. Then I realized that the Sticky Lemon Roll was actually an adaptation of this original recipe from Flo Braker. Once I found this out, I knew I would have to make it. Honestly, it wasn’t as hard as it looks. Yes, there are a lot of steps and a lot of sitting and rising. Let me say the rise was lovely, never have I had something rise as well as this loaf. It is not something I would make often, but for special occasions I see this making an appearance again. It really makes a spectacular presentation. The finished product was a delightfully light and lemony loaf. It has the fun factor of the pull-apart pieces, kind of like monkey bread. The smell of it baking was exactly as I imagined, definitely worth the effort.  

Lemon Pull-Apart Loaf
adapted slightly from Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make the sweet yeast dough
Stir together 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, the yeast, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and set aside until warm (120 to 130°F), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.
Pour the milk over the flour-yeast mixture and mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer 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.
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. While the dough is rising, make the filling.
Make the lemon paste filling
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and the lemon zest. Set the mixture nearby.
Make the coffee cake
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. I put a piece of parchment in the pan with handles sticking out to make it easier to remove.
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. Sprinkle with the zest-sugar mixture, I also gently pressed it into the dough a bit to get it to stick. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 by 4 inches. (A pizza cutter is helpful here.) Gently stack the strips on top of each other. Be careful not to lose the filling. I collected what fell out and sprinkled it on the top after I placed the dough in the pan.
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.
Bake the coffee cake 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.
Make the 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.
Gently remove the coffee cake from the pan using your parchment handles and place on wire rack. Rocking cake on its side remove parchment, it will separate easily at this point, so be gentle.
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. You will have extra to serve on the side.
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.


  1. Wow! This looks fantastic, I may have to just take the time and make it. Did you use your Lemon Ladies lemons?

  2. Amy- I did use the Lemon Ladies Meyer Lemons. I have been juicing and removing the zest as soon as I get them and freezing it. It works really great and then I have Meyer Lemon all year round.

  3. I think it looks better as a pull apart loaf than as rolls. There is something about it that just makes you want to grab a hunk and eat!!

  4. Gosh Nicole, this really is stunning, and you know I can't resit anything lemony!

  5. Mimi- Thanks, I think so too.

    Rebecca- It really is a showstopper, this is one for company!

  6. That looks really good! Maybe even sans lemon (not a big fan) with cinnamon instead? Oooh, the possibilities are endless with this recipe. Bookmarking for when I need a treat. :-)


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