It is officially spring, which brings warmer weather and a plethora of showers. This includes not only April showers but also baby and wedding showers, for which I am always more than happy to help and cook. As I like to differ the dishes I contribute, I find myself constantly collecting recipes to try. As most cooks will tell you, it is important to first test a recipe before serving to guests.
The recipe for sweet bread that I wanted to include with this blog is one that I had pinned on my Pinterest board a few weeks ago, but I could not stop thinking about it. My bread baking recently took a backseat, so I was starting to get an itch to place my hands on some dough and knead. Then I was enticed by the filling of sweet cream cheese and lemon curd. I got ahead of myself, imagining that if this recipe came out well, the filling options would be endless! First things first – I needed to try the recipe as it was and then make adjustments. Finally, a chilly April shower gave me the perfect opportunity to fire up the oven and begin to bake.
This sweet bread method originally came from King Arthur Flour and then was modified by Smitten Kitchen. I followed the adjusted recipe closely, except for substituting half white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose in the recipe. This is something I often do, which I do not believe changes the taste but does require a bit more rising time. The recipe is easy to follow, but important to read through fully before attempting to account for the rising times.
Braided Lemon Bread
Originally adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yield: 1 loaf
- 3 ounces warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 ounce unbleached all-purpose flour
- Sponge (above)
- 3 ounces sour cream
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 teaspoon water for brushing bread
- 1 3/4 ounces sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 3/8 ounces white whole wheat flour
- 5 3/8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
- Pearl sugar for sprinkling (You can find Belgian pearl sugar at Southern Season. The sweet crunch makes a big difference!)
Lemon cream cheese filling
- 2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 5/8 ounce sugar
- 1 ounce sour cream
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 ounces homemade or prepared lemon curd
Make sponge: In a small bowl, combine the sponge ingredients, stir well to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.
Make dough in a stand mixer: Combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough is a rough, shaggy mass. Switch to the dough hook and knead until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 to 6 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for about 90 minutes, until quite puffy.
Make the filling: Combine all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free. Set aside the filling and lemon curd.
Prepare bread: Gently deflate the dough and roll it out on a very well floured counter to a 10″ x 15″ rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper. With the side of your hand, lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, dividing it into three equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section, leaving the top and bottom two inches free of filling. Spread the lemon curd over the cream cheese filling.
To form the mock braid, cut crosswise strips one inch apart down the length of the outer columns of dough (the parts without filling). Make sure you have an equal amount of 1-inch strips down the right and left sides. Be careful not to cut your parchment paper; if you have a bench scraper, this is a great time to use it. Remove the four corner segments. To “braid”, begin by folding top flap down and bottom flap up over the filling. Lift the top dough strip and gently bring it diagonally across the filling. Repeat on the right side, and continue down the entire braid, alternating strips until you are out.
Carefully transfer the dough and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and set it aside to rise for 45 to 50 minutes, until quite puffy.
Bake bread: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaf with egg wash, and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.