Happy Sunday Bread Heads! This week we are making a recipe which was requested. One of the folks reading this series asked for a lemon braid bread. She had seen it in a magazine some time ago. Having never made it she couldn’t tell me much about the bread, except that it was intended to be served at breakfast or tea with butter and strawberry jam.
I looked around and really did not come up with anything that was risen braided bread, which wasn’t already sweetened (take a look at thisKing Arthur Flour recipe for basically a lemon cheese Danish. I am sooo making this some time in the fall!) by lemon curd or some such. So, I figured I could put together a new recipe that would be bread that you can butter and still have that fresh lemon flavor.
I decided that I would use brioche dough as the base for this bread. It is has lots of eggs and butter in it so it makes a lovely piece of bread to slather butter on. It has a fine, frim crumb. The curst is just prefect for a egg wash with milk, which gives the whole loaf a dark golden sheen.
For the lemon I went with two tablespoons of lemon juice for the first batch. This did not provide the bright flavor I wanted. When I made the next batch I decided to kick it up a bit and added four tablespoons of lemon zest which had been mixed with an equal amount of sugar. This really brought out the lemon, but in the smell (you will be dying to get to these loaves as they bake) and in the flavor in the finished bread. The combination of the lemon and the sugar give a lemon finish to the bread that is not sweet at all. When slathered with strawberry jam it provides just the right amount of tartness.
I think I will be making a lot of this bread as gifts. It is easy to make and is different from most of the breads that people make at home or even in large store bakeries. So, without further delay here is the recipe.
Braided Lemon Bread
5 cups all purpose flour
1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
¼ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup butter (two sticks)
1 cup hot water (120 – 130 degrees)
5 eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons lemon zest (the zest from two medium sized lemons)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk
Pans – 1 baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl or in a stand mixer combine 2 cups flour, the other dry ingredients (excepting the lemon zest and sugar) , the milk and the hot water. Beat for two minutes with the mixer or with a large wooden spoon if you are doing this by hand.
Add the butter and beat for one more minute.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating them in thoroughly before adding the next.
Add the rest of the flour ½ cup at a time and beat thoroughly before the next addition.
The dough will be soft and sticky and must be beaten until it is shiny, elastic and pulls from your hands (about 10 minutes in a stand mixer, 20 if you are doing this by hand). Be sure to take the time to do this right, it makes a huge difference in being able work with it.
In a small bowl combine the lemon zest and sugar. Stir until they are completely combined. The juice from the zest will make the sugar melt somewhat. At this combination and the lemon juice to the dough and stir until completely combined.
If by hand; grab the dough with one hand, steadying the bowl with the other, and pull a handful about 14" out of the bowl, then throw it with some force back into the bowl. Continue doing this for about 18 to 20 minutes. Don’t despair! It will work. It is sticky, it is a mess, but trust me it will start to stretch and pull away after a while.
You can get the same results from a stand mixer in about 10 minutes (and no walk through the valley of despair either!). Use the flat beater rather than the dough hook. You will, however, need to keep an eye on it. This dough is so dense it likes to climb the stem of the beater. If it gets in the works of your mixer, you have a mess only a repair shop can fix. If the dough starts to get close to the top of the beater. Stop, and push it down in the bowl.
This dough needs to rise at 85 degrees, so it if you keep your house at 68 in the winter like I do you will have to address that. The best method is to turn you oven to the Warm setting for about 20 minutes, then turn it off.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Remove the upper rack and set the bowl on the lower one, close the oven door. Let the dough rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until it has doubled in volume.
Stir the dough down in the bowl and recover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 4 hours. This dough has a lot of eggs in it, so it is needs to be cold in order to be shaped. I usually just leave it in there over night, which guarantees it is easy to work with the next day.
To shape these loaves take the brioche dough out of the refrigerator and turn it out onto a well floured work surface. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the bowl and the bowl to the refrigerator. If you only want to make one loaf at a time you can double wrap and freeze the other half of the dough for up to 3 months.
Roll the remaining half under your palms until you have a cylinder about 3" thick. Divide the cylinder into three equal portions. Working one at a time, roll each of the thirds into a 15" long rope. Don’t rush, just keep rolling it under your palms. When it becomes longer than your palms move your hands to the ends and let the middle kind of flop as you keep rolling. This will result in a even diameter rope of dough. Repeat with the other two dough balls.
To form the braid, lay the three ropes next to each other on the baking sheet. Starting from the middle of the side facing you, braid the strands. Then turn the pan around and again starting form the middle, braid the rest. Be sure to tightly pinch the ends together.
Repeat this process with the dough in the refrigerator.
Allow the braids to rise, uncovered, for 90 minutes or until they have doubled in volume.
20 minutes before you bake them set your oven rack to the middle of the oven and pre-heat it to 400 degrees. Just before baking, brush the top of the braids with the egg wash. Be sure to cover the entire surface of the dough.
Bake for 30 minutes then check to see how brown the tops are. If they are very brown already, cover each with a tent of tin foil. Bake for another 20 minutes or a total baking time of 50 minutes.
Check the doneness of the loaves by turning one over and thumping the bottom with a finger. The curst should feel hard and it should sound hollow. Cool on a wire cooling rack before serving.
This bread is really excellent with butter and strawberry jam.
I know this is a new recipe, but it already has a variation. After getting the lemon part right I still wanted to have a little more kick. I took one of the loaves and glazed it with a lemon juice and powdered sugar glaze. This make the bread sweet without the jam. The downside of this is that once you glaze the bread, you can no longer toast it. This is probably how I will give this bread as gifts, glazed to eat on its own or with a little butter, but not toasted.
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup confectioners sugar
In a small bowl mix the lemon juice and sugar until it is a smooth glaze. Using a pastry brush, liberally brush the cooled loaf with glaze. Allow to dry completely before serving.
Keeping glazed bread for more than a day is a bit of a problem. If you put the bread in a plastic bag the glaze is going to melt. It is best to get a nice paper bag from the grocery store (one of the small ones, not one of the huge sacks) and store it in that. The outside of the first slice with go stale but the bread should keep for at least a couple of days this way. Which is probably a whole day more than it will be in your house so it is all good.
There you have it folks! Lemon Braid Bread. Give a whirl it is really worth your time.
The flour is yours.
Here are the links to the previous installments if anyone was looking for them.
French Bread and French Toast
Hot Cross Buns
Best Ever Biscuits
English Style Oat Bread
Scones – Cinnamon and Chocolate Chip
Danish Walnut Braid
Fragels! (Deep Fried Cinnamon Raisin Bagels)
Scones Orange Cranberry and Lemon Cherry Cornmeal
Italian Batter Bread