Pull-Apart Lemon Loaf

Words cannot describe how good this is. Just do it, right now, preferably with meyer lemons because they are in season.

Dough:

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

  1. Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest in a small bowl. It will smell incredible.

Assemble the loaf:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.
  2. 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.
  3. Use a pastry brush (fingertips work fine) to spread the melted butter evenly over the dough.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

  1. 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.

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