Words cannot describe how good this is. Just do it, right now, preferably with meyer lemons because they are in season.
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup whole milk
2 oz unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
- Mix two cups of the flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. Since I was going to be using my stand mixer, I did this step in the mixing bowl.
- In a small saucepan or in the microwave, combine the milk and the butter and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and let rest a minute until just warm, then stir in the vanilla extract.
- Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. With an electric mixer on low speed (if using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment), add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated.
- Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
- Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about one minute. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of flour only if the dough is too sticky to work with.
- Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. An indentation made with your finger should keep its shape.
While the dough is rising, make the lemon-sugar filling.
Lemon Sugar Filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp lemon zest (3 lemons)
1 tbsp orange zest
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
- Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest in a small bowl. It will smell incredible.
Assemble the loaf:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.
- Gently deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. You should have some extra flour to use as needed, as this dough is very sticky.
- Use a pastry brush (fingertips work fine) to spread the melted butter evenly over the dough.
- Use a pizza cutter/knife to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle. 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.
- 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. When you gently press the dough with your finger, the indentation should stay.
- Bake the loaf until the top is golden brown, 30-35 minutes.Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
While the loaf rises/bakes/cools, make the cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Icing
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp whole milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
- 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.
Run a knife around the pan, then flip the loaf over onto a cooling rack, and finally again so that it’s right side up. Spread the top of the warm cake with the cream cheese icing.
Eat immediately; there were no leftovers to save.