Friday, July 23, 2010

Braided Lemon Bread

I saw the recipe on smitten kitchen and it just looked so pretty I had to make it. Braided lemon bread isn't difficult, only labor intensive. But trust me, it's worth it!

Typically, I tweaked the recipe a little:
Above is the sponge (6 tbs warm water, 1 tsp sugar, 1.5 tsp yeast, 1/4 c AP flour, let set 10 minutes), 3 cups of flour, and wet ingredients - which is where most of the tweaking came in.
For the wet ingredients, I put about 6 heaping tablespoons of full fat greek yogurt, 1/4 c of unsalted butter, 1 egg, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1.5 tsp salt, and 2 tsp vanilla.

Mixing the dough was simple enough, I just steadily added flour to the mixed wet ingredients, and kept the hook around 5/6 on the machine for a good 9-10 minutes. I was worried that mixing it so much longer than the recipe time would make it tough, but in the end it was absolutely fine! And yes that is a fire extinguisher behind my mixer.

The complete dough was unbelievably sticky, which is how the recommended 2.5 cups of flour became 3. I seriously couldn't get my fingers out of it, and then I came to the realization that other than the butter for the lemon curd, the only fat I had in the house was olive oil, which was not acceptable for greasing the bowl.
So instead I dusted the dough with even more flour, put it in an un-greased bowl, and let it rest and rise for a good hour and a half.

Once the dough was rising in its un-greased bowl, I had to face up to one of my worst enemies. Things-that-are-supposed-to-thicken-on-the-stove. It may not sound like a villain, but it is and I hate all those things. I have yet to succeed in properly thickening something in a saucepan - at least until today. Bechemel sauces have been thin, gravies have been lumpy, stews have been gritty. In short, I wasn't looking forward to making a lemon curd. But I manned up and did it - and it worked!! I had to whisk for a good 7 or 8 minutes, and eventually moved on up to medium low heat, but it actually thickened :)!
In the lemon curd: 1 tsp lemon zest, 1 egg, 4 tbs lemon juice, and 2.5 tbs sugar. Basically, you heat everything but the butter up to low heat, whisk and add butter and whisk and add butter and say a little prayer. I changed the lemon-sugar ratio a lot, because I was afraid it would be too sweet, and if I hadn't changed it it definitely would have been - if that makes any sense.

The cream cheese spread was super easy....if you have cream cheese in your house that is. I had gone through floured bowls, thickening curds, only to find out the only cream cheese in my house is...fat free. After an hour and a half, I wasn't going to let anything ruin this braided bread, so I ran out to the grocery store. It was completely worth it :)
The spread, my tweaking at least, is:
1/2 cup of cream cheese, 1.5 tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp sour cream, 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, and 2 tbsp flour.

Braiding was super fun, as I suspected it would be. I marked it into thirds with my hands, cut the sides with a pizza cutter, then just spread on the cream cheese and the lemon curd. To braid you just pull strips on alternating from side to side.

For the final step, I brushed on some egg wash and dusted on some sugar, all the time wishing I had pearl sugar like smitten kitchen :).

It's awesome. I had this feeling all along it was going to be one of those desserts that looks gorgeous but tastes, meh, okay - but it's delicious! The whole thing vaguely reminds of me a cheese croissant, and right now I want more :).
Even though it took three and a half hours and two trips to the grocery store, I would definitely do it again. That should say something :))


  1. looks amazing :D
    and so difficult to make how long does it take from u to get this final amazing outcome? :D

  2. thanks yousra!
    it took around three and a half hours all together - but working time is about two hours - there's a lot of waiting involved too :))

  3. I think that is the best bread I ever had.
    can you do it every other day.

  4. i love it looks delicious..yamy :)

  5. my stomach is growling. seriously gorgeous I feel like I could eat the whole loaf!!!