February 18th, 2013
Who’s noticed that I’ve been on a bit of a health kick since January? Not that I really consider it a kick since my cooking naturally veers towards healthy and wholesome. Still, I usually throw in a homemade treat here or there. But other than the apple galette, which the boys and I made at the tail end of our holiday break, and the Valentine’s Day Twinkies, a requisite treat for February 14, you’ll see that I haven’t been making much sweet stuff.
I guess it’s because the holidays were a blood bath—in the best way, of course—and I’ve been feeling good sticking with super healthy eats. (I swear that it has something to do with the daily super smoothie that I mentioned while telling you about my Apple, Beet and Pomegranate Salad.) But you know how I feel about these things: moderation is key, especially with little ones. Life’s too short to not enjoy some wholesome, homemade sweets. So, a couple of weekends ago, with tons of gorgeous in-season citrus on my hands, I decided to whip up an out of this world Citrus Pull Apart Bread.
My favorite desserts are either cinnamony or lemony, and my favorite time to make desserts is the winter when, thanks to peak citrus season, the combination of the two is perfection. Case in point: my Meyer Lemon Cherry Coffee Cake and Lemon Blueberry Crumb Bundt Cake. Both are delicious and perfect for this time of year, but I decided it was time to develop a new, citrusy, coffee cakey treat. So I began to research.
I started by looking up recipes for lemon cinnamon rolls and came across this Lemon Pull-Apart Coffee Cake at Leite’s Culinaria. Note to self: make this. I kept researching and stumbled across this review of the recipe on Leite’s Culinaria from the good folks at The Kitchn. Note to self: make this now.
Which is what I did. (What can I say, I’m an easy sell.)
What happened to my research? I abandoned it, that’s what. I was lost in sweet lemon bread ecstacy. I was thinking, “Who needs another lemony roll when this exists?” That’s how good this shizzzzz is.
I’ll pick up my research again before citrus season is done and gone. I’m still craving a new sweet that combines lemon and cinnamon. In the meantime, though, there’s this Citrus Pull Apart Bread. One glance at the recipe and you can see that it requires a bit more effort than most of my own, but I swear it’s worth it. And, hey, it’s a recipe that I can guarantee that the kids will eat with no problem!
For the sweet dough:
2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the lemon filling:
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 to 3 lemons, preferably organic)
1 tablespoons finely grated orange zest, preferably organic
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
For the cream cheese icing:
3 ounces cream cheese, softened (OHM note: I used creme fraiche, which worked nicely if you like tangy icing)
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the sweet dough:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together 2 cups (9 ounces) of the flour with the sugar, yeast and salt; set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from heat, add the water, and set aside until warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.
2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and, with the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, making sure that the first is incorporated before adding the second. Once the second egg is well incorporated, stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) 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.
3. Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour and turn the dough onto the flour. Knead gently until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour if (and only if!) the dough is unworkably sticky. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (about 70°F [21°C]) until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. (OHM note: You can leave the dough longer than this if necessary.) Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step. If not, allow it to rise longer.
Make the lemon filling:
4. While the dough is rising, in a small bowl, mix together the sugar, lemon zest and orange zest; set aside. (The sugar draws out moisture from the zests to create a sandy-wet consistency, so don’t be alarmed when you see this.)
Assemble the coffee cake:
5. Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.
6. Gently deflate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle. Using a pastry brush, spread the melted butter generously over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 by 4 inches. (A pizza cutter is helpful here.) Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture over a first buttered rectangle. Top with a second rectangle and sprinkle it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture. Repeat with the remaining dough rectangles and zest-sugar mixture, so that you end up with a stack of 5 sugared rectangles.
7. Slice the stack crosswise through the 5 layers to create 6 equal strips, each about 4 by 2 inches. Fit these layered strips into the prepared loaf pan, side by side, cut edges up. (While there is plenty of space on either side of the 6 strips widthwise in the pan, fitting the strips lengthwise is tight. But that’s fine because the spaces between the dough and the sides of the pan fill in during baking.) Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F [21°C]) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes (OHM note: Again, you can let the dough sit longer, if necessary). Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for baking.
8. Bake the coffee cake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
Make the cream cheese icing:
9. In a medium bowl with a rubber spatula, vigorously mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
10. To remove the coffee cake from the pan, tilt and rotate the pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cake sides. Place a wire rack on top of the pan and flip the pan over, releasing the cake onto the rack. Carefully lift the pan off of the loaf. Place another wax paper-lined rack or a large-enough plate on the loaf and invert again so that it is right side up.
11. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the warm cake with the icing to glaze it. (Cover and refrigerate the leftover icing for another use. It will keep for up to 2 days.)
12. Serve the coffee cake warm or at room temperature. To serve, you can pull apart the layers, or you can cut the cake into 1-inch-thick slices on a slight diagonal with a long, serrated knife. If you decide to cut the cake, don’t attempt to cut it until it is almost completely cool.
*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger eaters, I recommend this starting at 12 months due to the high sugar content. Whatever age your eaters, be sure to serve age-appropriate portions. A little of this sweet treat goes a long way.