Updated November 14, 2014
teaspoon instant yeast
cup unbleached all-purpose flour
tablespoon sour cream or yogurt
tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
large eggs (1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 tsp water for egg wash)
teaspoon vanilla extract
cups unbleached all-purpose flour
cup cream cheese, softened
tablespoon sour cream or yogurt
tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
Make sponge — In a small bowl, combine the warm water, 1 tsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast and 1/4 cup flour (first 4 ingredients above). Stir well to combine, loosely cover with a towel, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.
Make dough — Combine the sponge, 6 tbsp sour cream or yogurt, butter, 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 2 1/2 cups flour and mix with the paddle attachment until you have a shaggy dough. 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 a towel and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes until doubled. (Dough can also be made by hand, incorporating all ingredients in a bowl and using your hands to mix and knead. Kneading by hand will take about 5 to 10 minutes before smooth and soft.)
Make the filling (while dough rises) — Mix together all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) -- cream cheese, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp sour cream or yogurt, 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour and lemon juice -- in a small bowl until smooth (no lumps). Refrigerate the filling and set aside lemon curd until ready to fill the braids.
Prepare bread — Gently deflate the dough and roll it out on a well-floured counter into a 10 x 15-inch rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper, folding in quarters and then unfolding once transferred (quickly, or it’ll stick together!). With the side of your hand (in a karate-chop fashion), 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 braid, cut crosswise strips one inch apart down the length of the outer columns of your 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 (now is when that bench scraper comes in handy). 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 over or 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 puffy.
Bake bread — Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves with your egg wash, and sprinkle with pearl or coarse sparkling sugar if desired. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown (or a mere 17 minutes for me, as my oven is a beast). Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
P.S. The dough can be set aside and refrigerated at nearly any point in the preparation process. Just take the dough out of the fridge when you’re ready to work with it again, and let sit until it reaches room temperature. Then, proceed.
More About This Recipe
- This is one of those breads that makes you look awesome.
The look of it, first of all, is breathtaking. "How did you BRAID that loaf?" your friends will ask. They will be shocked by your dough-braiding talents.
Secondly, the taste is unparalleled. "How did you make this AMAZING filling?" they'll ask. Ha. So simple-minded.
And thirdly, the ease with which you baked the bread is equally unmatched. "This bread looks like it took SO much work! How DID you do it?" Magic fingers, my friends, magic fingers.
Or this easy, peasy, Braided Lemon and Cream Cheese Bread recipe. (But they don't have to know that.)
This Braided Lemon & Cream Cheese Bread will not only have a swooning effect on your loved ones, but you too will easily be drawn into the simple instructions for making what appears to be a complicated bread. In just a few short hours, this loaf can end up as the centerpiece of your breakfast table.
With a creamy tart filling padded between two soft pillows of slightly sweet Brioche-like goodness, this bread is a lot like a coffee cake without the weight of extra sugar and glaze and that ambiguous crunch topping (Is it streusel? Is it sugar? We may never know).
My only advice to you is to not be intimidated by the how-to of making the mock braid. If you mess up, it's OK -- this bread is very forgiving in the way of hiding a few "oops!" Or, if you're really worried about an ugly patch, just eat it before serving the rest of the bread. You'll probably want to snatch an early helping anyway, because once it hits the table, this bread will go fast.
Stephanie (aka Girl versus Dough) has joined Tablespoon to share her adventures in the kitchen. Check out Stephanie's Tablespoon member profile and keep checking back for her own personal recipes on Tablespoon!