Very infrequently do I eat what I bake. Extremely rare is when I eat a lot of something that I bake. One of those things are cinnamon buns. The other is this braided, stuffed lemon bread! I've been known to go through half a loaf the day I bake it. I've made it with the original recipe, and I've added raspberry jam, too. Once I even made a mini one with scraps and added some peach preserves. They're all good. I've chosen to stick with the original recipe today, because I think the lemony-ness (a totally real word, by the way) is fresh and tasty, and just what I would want on this summery day.
* These loaves are a little smaller than you would assume, given the amount of dough that this recipe yields. That's because I divided it into thirds and saved one third of the dough for an experiment (that you may or may not see up on the blog soon. *
Braided, stuffed lemon bread
Originally from King Arthur Flour, found by me on Smitten Kitchen
For the sponge:
3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp instant yeast (I use Rapid Rise)
1/2 cup flour
For the dough:
All the sponge (see above)
3/4 cup plain of vanilla yogurt (I found this recipe via Smitten Kitchen, and she recommended using sour cream, which is what I did)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp Buttery Sweet Dough flavor (or vanilla)
5 cups flour
Egg wash (for brushing)
Pearl sugar or sparkling white sugar (for sprinkling on top. For the longest time, I couldn't find pearl sugar, so I used large crystal sugar, which worked perfectly fine.)
For the Cream Cheese Filling:
2/3 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (I used a little extra for an extra lemon-y flavor)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup lemon curd*
* For the lemon curd - you can use store bought or make your own....if you make your own, I highly recommend following Smitten Kitchen's recipe, which you can find here, but I recommend doubling if you are making the full dough recipe.
In a small bowl, combine the sponge ingredients.
Stir well to combine, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 10-15 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sponge, yogurt (sour cream), butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and flavoring.
Add 4 and a 1/2 cups of flour and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough is a rough, shaggy mass.
Switch to dough hook and knead on speed 2 until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5-6 minutes, adding more flour if needed.
Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 60-90 minutes, until quite puffy and nearly doubled.
* If making your own lemon curd, now is a good time to make it *
While the dough is rising, prepare the cream cheese filling.
Combine all of the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free.
Gently deflate the dough and divide it in half.
Cover half with plastic wrap and set it aside as you roll out the first piece into a 10" x 15" rectangle.
Placed the rolled dough onto a piece of parchment paper.
Lightly press 2 lines down the dough lengthwise, to divide it into 3 equal sections.
Remove the corners of dough.
Spread half of the cream cheese filling down the middle section, and top with half of the lemon curd, leaving 1" free on all sides of the filling.
To form the mock braid, cut 1" crosswise strips down the length of the outside sections, making sure you have the same number of strips on both sides.
Flip the top piece over onto the filling.
Beginning with the left, lift the top dough strip and gently bring it across the filling diagonally.
Repeat on the other side with the top dough strip, so that the two strips crisscross each other.
Continue down the entire braid, alternating sides.
Repeat the process with the second loaf.
Set both loaves aside, lightly covered, to rise for 45-50 minutes, or until quite puffy.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Brush the loaves with egg wash (1 slightly beaten egg, 2 tsp water, and a pinch of salt).
Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.
And, just to give you an idea of what it looks like with the raspberry jam, I'm adding a picture from a while ago, just to show you: