I first found this bread as just a pretty picture on Tumblr. A reallllly pretty picture. There was no source for the photo (like most things on Tumblr), no recipe, nothing but a photo, and I felt like I absolutely needed to know how to make it because it looked like the most delicious bread in existence.
So I saved the image and then uploaded it to Google’s Reverse Image Lookup, and luckily found the website it had originally come from- a beautiful blog called Clockwork Lemon. The recipe was there! And when I finally got time I made the bread.
It involved making a dough, letting it rise, cutting it into a bunch of layers, rubbing orange-lemon-sugar zest mix on them, letting it rise again, and finally baking it.
It really was exactly what I dreamed it would be, lemony, sweet, really soft with a crunchy top, and the layers pulled apart easily. The recipe includes a frosting for this bread but I knew it wouldn’t need it and I was right. It is way good enough on its own.
It takes a little time to make this but it’s really not hard at all, and so delicious. The butter does drip out of the pan when the bread expands upward, and this made my smoke detector go off about a million times, so I put a pan in the oven underneath the bread pan.
Pull Apart Lemon Coffee Cake (Bread)
Sweet Yeast Dough
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (You might not use all of this)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Lemon Sugar Filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of three lemons
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Tangy Cream Cheese Icing (I did not use this)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Make the dough:
1. In the microwave heat the butter and the milk together until the butter melts. Set aside to cool slightly. While it is cooling Mix two cups of the flour with the yeast and the sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Then add the water to the milk mixture and stir in the vanilla extract
2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixer and stir until combined. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the eggs one at a time, mixing each egg until it is combined. Add another 1/2 of the flour and the salt and mix till combined.
3. Sprinkle the dough with 2 tbsp of flour and knead it with the dough hook for 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky but should become soft and smooth from the kneading. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
Make Ahead Tip: If you want to make the dough the night before you bake it just gently deflate the dough after its first rise, place back in the bowl and cover it with plastic. Stick it in the fridge overnight (it will continue to rise, but at a much slower rate. Plus you get added flavor in the bread from the benefit of a slow, cold rise) The next day take the dough out and bring it to room temperature before proceeding with the next steps. I like to cover my dough with a damp piece of paper towel and stick it in my oven at the lowest temperature until it is room temp.
4. Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest. It will draw out the citrus oils and make the sugar sandy and fragrant.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan or spray it will baking spray
6. Forming the loaf: Deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. This part is a lot easier with a ruler on hand! Use a pastry brush to thickly coat the dough with the melted butter
7. Use a pizza cutter, pastry cutter, or a sharp knife to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″ (it might not be this exact size, but try to make the five strips be equal sizes). Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle and gently press the sugar in. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon sugar as well. Continue to top with rectangles and sprinkle, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.
8. Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. it might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after 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.
9.Bake the loaf for 20 minutes and then check to make sure that top isn’t browning too quickly. If it is, just cover the top of the loaf with tinfoil and continue baking. My loaf took a little over 40 minutes to bake completely. When done, transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
10. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the milk and lemon juice. Stir until creamy and smooth. Spread over the warm bread (you might want to put some plastic wrap or parchment paper under the bread to catch the drips)