After I saw this braided lemon bread on Smitten Kitchen, I couldn't get it out of my head. And I'm glad I didn't because it is stupendous. Completely gorgeous, not even difficult to make, so very delicious and extremely adaptable to whatever jam or filling you want to have.
I loved this filling of lemon curd and cream cheese. And no I did not make that neon yellow lemon curd, I bought it, which is a first for me. There's nothing wrong with taking short cuts in recipes but I always feel like I need to make curds from scratch. Except this time where I just wanted to get right to making the braid as soon as possible!
I'm really looking forward to trying different jams and fillings. Oh maybe a chocolate peanut butter filling?! Or pear and brie. Or feta and sun dried tomato and olives. Maybe this dough would be too sweet as is (with 1/4 cup sugar) for savoury applications, but I imagine it would be okay to reduce the sugar to 2 tbsp or something?
Please excuse the poorly lit photos I took in my kitchen of the process (seen below throughout the recipe) - our kitchen is in the back of the apartment near no windows. But I always like seeing the process of making baked goods and am especially in love with yeast bread process photos so had to share! And as you can tell I was completely obsessed with this bread so took tons of photos.
Also, I just discovered this fun website YeastSpotting. Where you can submit yeasted bread recipes you've made and then at the end of each week they compile a list (with pictures)! Very fun and a great place to get inspired for my next bread.
If this sounds good, you might also like:
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Hot Crossed Buns
Croissant Pockets with Apricots and Brie
Milk Chocolate Cherry Twist
Braided Lemon Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from King Arthur Flour
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 (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 teaspoon water for brushing bread
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Lemon cream cheese filling
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup lemon curd
Make sponge: In a small bowl, stir together the sponge ingredients.Loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.
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. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until quite puffy and nearly doubled.
Make the filling (while dough rises): Combine all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free.
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 you 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. You can tuck the last couple that hand off decoratively under the end of the braid.
Carefully transfer the dough and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set it aside to rise for 45 to 50 minutes, until quite puffy.
Bake bread: Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush the loaves with egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse 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.