Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Braided Lemon Bread

The school year is finally upon us and I couldn't be more excited about it--new students, new projects, new classes, new intensives, and...new baked goods to create for my coworkers!  I was just as excited to see my colleagues on the first day back as I was to make something new for them to try.  (I wonder how many of them were more excited to see my baked goods than they were me.  : )  Kidding.)   

The creation came in the form of a braided bread with a cream cheese and lemon curd filling.  Holy cow.  Not only was it gorgeous, but it was delicious as well.  The bread was both crusty and dense, and the filling was the perfect combination of sweet, tart, and creamy.  In my opinion, those are generally considered to be the pinnacles of texture and flavor.  This bread combined them all.  The bread itself was so good that we are going to use it as the base for braided spaghetti, braided veggies, or braided fruit.  However, I am fairly confident that the lemon curd and cream cheese filling will be the all-time best.  It truly is extraordinary.

Happy Back to School.  Happy Baking.  Happy Eating!

(P.S.  I know that the photos in this blog are far from stellar and certainly not anywhere close to the photos in the rest of the food blog world.  They are a work in progress.  These photos, in particular, are awful because I took them in the dark and had to use the flash.  The next project is to create a light box of sorts.  Suggestions on how to do so are absolutely welcomed and encouraged.)









Braided Lemon Bread:
Very closely adapted from this smitten kitchen (my culinary blogging idol!) recipe.

The Bread...(the first four ingredients are for the dough-rising component)
  • 6 tablespoons of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 heaping (but not huge) tablespoons of light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  1. In a small bowl, combine the first four ingredients (water, sugar, yeast, and flour).  Stir well and set aside to proof for about 10 minutes.  It will look be cloudy and poofy when ready.
  2. After the yeast mixture is done proofing, pour it into the bowl for your stand mixer along with the sour cream, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla.  Mix to combine using the paddle attachment.
  3. Slowly add the flour and to the bowl and mix to combine until the dough is rough and flaky.
  4. Switch to your dough hook attachment.
  5. Knead until the dough is soft and smooth--about 5 or 6 minutes.
  6. Place the needed dough into a bowl that has been lightly sprayed with Pam.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap or a very light towel and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes and the dough is puffy and nearly doubled.
Lemon Curd...
  • 3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  1. Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, and egg in a saucepan.  
  2. Stir in the butter and cook over medium heat.  
  3. Whisk frequently so that it doesn't burn.
  4. Whisk until the curd is thick enough to stick to the whisk and it is quite bubbly.  (About 5 minutes.)
  5. Transfer the curd to a tupperware and chill until cool.
Cream Cheese Filling...
  • almost 1/2 cup of reduced fat cream cheese (but not fat free)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix until it is smooth, creamy, and clump-free.
Assembly...
  1. Gently deflate the dough and roll it out onto a very-well floured counter.  Roll into a rectangle that is no longer than the cookie sheet you are going to use. 
  2. Transfer your rectangle to a sil-pat or a piece of parchment paper.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!
  3. With your hand, lightly press a dent down the dough lengthwise, dividing the dough into three columns, with the middle column being a little bigger than the sides.
  4. Spread the cream cheese filling down the middle column. 
  5. Cover the cream cheese with a healthy coating of the lemon curd.  You will still have some leftover. 
  6. Leave the top and bottom two inches of the dough free from filling.
  7. Cut one-inch strips down each of the side columns to use as the "strands" of the braid.  Make sure that there are an even number on each side. 
  8. Remove the four corner segments of the dough so it looks like a tic-tac-toe board with the center row filled in.
  9. To braid the bread, alternate sides of the strips and fold them over the filling.
  10. Transfer the sil-pat or parchment paper with the bread to your cookie sheet.  
  11. Let sit for 30 minutes or so.
  12. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  13. Brush the loaf with a egg wash consisting of one beaten egg and a tablespoon of water.
  14. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  15. Bask in your achievement and ENJOY!

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