pull apart lemon coffee cake

Posted on May 15, 2011. Filed under: Brunch | Tags: , , , , , , , , |


In a word?  Lovely.  In two words?  Time consuming.  There is a lot of wait time with the coffee cake due to all of the proofing time for the dough, but if you have a late morning brunch and don’t mind getting up early (or if you make the dough ahead of time), I definitely recommend this recipe.  It is at its best when still warm, much easier to “pull apart”.  If you’ve ever had monkey bread or one of those Pillsbury Flaky Layer biscuits, the concept is similar.  You can pull off layers of the bread as you work your way through it.  I don’t recommend serving this to people who don’t like to eat with their hands and don’t want to touch the food everyone else is eating because everyone is just going to need to get in there.

With the basic bread dough, you could definitely change the flavors and instead of lemon sugar, do cinnamon sugar and instead of lemon cream cheese frosting, simple cream cheese frosting.  That would give you a coffee cake more reminiscent of cinnamon buns or monkey bread and I’m sure it would be equally as tasty.  I personally love the freshness of lemon and it was definitely a large part of the reason I wanted to make this recipe (thanks to Courtney for stumbling across it!).  From what I have found, this recipe originates from Flo Braker but I used the blog Clockwork Lemon as my guide.  I don’t make a lot of breads but this was surprisingly easy, even without a KitchenAid Stand Mixer.

Sweet Yeast Dough
2 3/4 cups  all-purpose flour (You might not use all of this)
1/4 cup  granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup  whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Lemon Sugar Filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of three lemons
Zest of one orange
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup  powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

To make the dough, start by heating the butter and milk in the microwave just until the butter is melted and set aside to let it cool a bit.  While that cools, mix 2 cups of flour, the yeast and sugar in a bowl (of a stand mixer if you have it) and mix together.  Based on what I’ve heard about yeast, too much heat kills it so you just want the milk and butter to be warm.  Add the water and vanilla to the milk and butter mixture.

Once it isn’t too hot, pour the milk mixture over the flour/yeast/sugar.  I used a few different techniques to mix everything.  1) whisk.  just don’t.  2)wooden spoon – everything sticks to it.  Don’t do it. 3) electric mixer with only 1 beater attached to mimic a stand mixer – on the lowest speed.  This was my best option for mixing everything but wasn’t ideal.  I was afraid it was going to be too fast but it worked well and didn’t destroy the dough at all.  Next, add the eggs one at a time until they are combined.  Add another 6 tablespoons of flour and the salt and mix again until combined.


Sprinkle the dough with 2 more tablespoons of flour and kneed for 3 minutes – with a dough hook on your mixer if you have it, or by fist if you don’t.  The dough will be sticky but should be smooth and soft by the end of the three minutes.  Place the dough in a large bowl (I left it in the bowl I’d been using), cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place  45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.

I didn’t follow this tip but I wanted to share in case you want to make ahead.  This is direct from my blog source:  “Make Ahead Tip: If you want to make the dough the night before you bake it just gently deflate the dough after its first rise, place back in the bowl and cover it with plastic. Stick it in the fridge overnight (it will continue to rise, but at a much slower rate. Plus you get added flavor in the bread from the benefit of a slow, cold rise) The next day take the dough out and bring it to room temperature before proceeding with the next steps. I like to cover my dough with a damp piece of paper towel and stick it in my oven at the lowest temperature until it is room temp.”

Mix the sugar and all of the zest in a bowl and set aside.  The sugar will draw out the citrus oils and you’ll end up with a citrus candy mixture that tastes like a sour patch kid minus the gummy kid.

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

Deflate the dough (punch it!) with your hand.  Flour your work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle.  Might want to break out the measuring tape or ruler for this.  Then brush the dough with the last 2oz of melted butter.  Make it a nice, thick layer – don’t be shy now.

Using a knife or pizza cutter (pizza cutter worked really well!), slice the dough into 5 even strips.  Each should be 4″ by 12″.  Evenly divide the sugar between each of the sheets (about 1 1/2 tbsp per strip), spread it and press the sugar gently into the dough.  Stack all 5 sheets of dough so you end up with a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.

Slice the new stack crosswise, through all 5 layers, into 6 rectangles (each will be 4″ by 2″).  Carefully transfer the stacks of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. The pan will have a lot of excess space, 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 minute (the pan will be relatively full at that point).  You can see below how much the dough proofed once it was sitting in the bread pan.

Bake the bread for 20 minutes and check to see if the bread is browning too quickly.  “Too quickly” is tough to tell – I had some pretty browned edges so I chose to cover the top loosely with foil (I removed the foil for the last 5 minutes).  I ended up with a nice golden brown.  I baked my loaf for 40 minutes and it was fully cooked.  It’s very hard to tell if it’s cooked or not so I’m not really sure what advice I have for that one.  When I pulled it out, it was nicely browned and smelled amazing.  I just hoped it was ready.

While the bread bakes, make the cream cheese frosting.  Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar until combine.  Add the milk and lemon juice and stir until creamy and smooth.  You can also do what I did and just throw it all in a bowl and stir it till it is smooth but I was smooshing out lumps for a while so I don’t recommend it.  Once you remove the bread from the oven, let it sit in the pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes.  Gently remove the loaf from the pan and spread the frosting over the top of the loaf while it is still warm.  This allows it to get in all the nooks and crannies like melting peanut butter on an english muffin.  If you aren’t a cream cheese fan, 1) what is wrong with you?  and 2) you could leave that out and make a glaze with powdered sugar and lemon juice and drizzle that over the top if you’d prefer.

To eat this delightful treat, just pull the bread apart, a layer at a time.  I haven’t figured out a good way to reheat the bread without having the frosting melt off so you if you come up with anything, let me know.  That also means I’m basically telling you to eat all of this immediately because it is best while warm.  Plus it’s just that good.

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One Response to “pull apart lemon coffee cake”

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This was amazing. So happy we got to try it!


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