We may not be ladies who lunch, but I have to tell you, we f-ing brunch with the best of 'em. After spotting this on the Kitchn, I assumed it would be the perfect way to celebrate one of the ladies birthdays, since it was billed as a 'coffee cake' and all. But don't be fooled - this is no streusel topped coffee cake. No, this is yeasty, citrus-scented, glazed brioche.
The 'pull apart' effect is pretty neat, but not exactly practical for diving into barehanded when it is covered with sticky sweet icing [though that didn't stop us vultures]. Next time, I will almost certainly just roll the dough up into a log instead of this complicated layering business. I'd bet almost any shape would work, in fact, I was successful in shaping a little bun to leave behind with my honeybun.
My bun got a bit too crisy, should have only baked it 20-25 minutes
The original recipe, in addition to being unnecessarily complicated, calls for whole milk, setting off the omg fat fat fat! alarm. But not just that; I am decidedly opposed to purchasing entire cartons of said milk [or cream] for just a few tablespoons. So our usual 1% went in without consequence.
Also, WARNING, you may want to make the dough the night before. The yeast is going to require rise time, and if this is destined for brunch, it's going to be an early morning. Instructions below allow for the dough to be made and risen the night before, refrigerated, proofed and baked the next morning all in time form noon arrival at brunch.
Simplified Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Brioche
Adapted from Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions
For the sweet yeast dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
*plus about 3/4 cup all-purpose flour to be added in during mixing
1/4 cup brown (or white) sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk, fat content of your tolerance
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the lemon paste filling
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (3 lemons)
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the tangy cream cheese icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Make the sweet yeast dough
1. Stir together ONLY the first 2 cups of flour, the sugar, the yeast, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water and vanilla, and set aside to cool a bit, about 1 minute.
3. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.
4. Attach the bowl and paddle attachment to the mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, add the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 2 minutes.
5. Sprinkle a work surface with flour and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute. Add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if necessary to lessen the stickiness.
6. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover securely to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step. Feel free to refrigerate overnight if desired.
Make the lemon paste filling
1. Mix together the sugar, lemon and orange zests. Set the sandy-wet mixture nearby (the sugar draws out moisture from the zests to create the consistency).
2. Melt the butter, only when ready to assemble and bake the bread. (Do not mix with zest/sugar)
Make the coffee cake (see photo montage above for visual guidance)
1. After rising, or the next morning, dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle.
2. Brush the melted butter generously over the dough.
3. Here is where you can choose how to shape the final product. Should you wish to keep it simple, just sprinkle the dough with the sugar/zest mixture and roll it up into a log, fitting it into a greased 9x5" loaf pan.
Alternatively, to make the pull-apart effect, cut the dough into 10 even rectangles and sprinkle each with the sugar/zest mixture. It will cut more easily than you think, especially if still a bit chilled from overnight refrigeration. Stack the rectangles and slice through the stack lengthwise to create 20 strips. Fit these into tightly into your greased 9x5" loaf pan, possibly cutting more layers if necessary. Don't worry about it being quite short, this bread will puff right out of the pan upon baking.
3. 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. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for baking.
4. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°.
5. Bake the coffee cake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. If you want to be sure the inside is cooked, poke the bread with an instant read thermometer. The inside will read 200° when done. Let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
Make the tangy cream cheese icing
1. In a medium bowl, using a rubber spatula, mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
2. After the bread has cooled, run a knife around the edge of it to loose and flip it out of the pan onto a wire rack or plate. Glaze the top of the warm bread with the icing. (Cover and refrigerate leftover icing for another use, such as garnishing Oreos. It will keep for up to 2 days.)
3. To serve, you can pull apart the layers, or you can cut the bread into slices on a slight diagonal with a long, serrated knife. If you decide to cut the bread, don’t attempt to cut until it is almost completely cool.