I first fell in love with food blogs because of four things/people: Molly of Orangette, this post on Tea & Cookies, Helen of Tartelette's photos and Deb of Smitten Kitchen.
Everybody loves Deb's blog. It's friendly, helpful and always full of great new ideas. I have to admit that sometimes (particularly if it's a savoury post) I seek out the photo of Jacob before I think about the food. He's just so cute.
I bookmarked this recipe the moment I saw it. It's taken me months to make it but I'm very glad I finally got my act together. There was some spare lemon curd and cream cheese in the fridge so I didn't really have a choice. I also had some fresh yeast (free from bakeries or local supermarkets with bakeries) which I wanted to use. I love using fresh yeast - the way it crumbles and the smell which lingers on your fingertips for ages.
I used David Lebovitz's lemon curd recipe for the middle. It's really delicious - thicker and tarter than the ones I've made before.
The corners of dough that you cut off to make the braid are wonderful rolled out again, spread with a mixture of butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, sliced into strips, rolled up and baked for 10 minutes. A very delicious cinnamon roll side product! I had six mini rolls.
This really is a stunning bread. I'd never made anything like it before but I definitely will again. It seems more complex than it is - a bit of patience and you'll be fine. The results are worth the effort!
I think the photo below looks like a smiley face with sunglasses on:
Braided Lemon Bread
(barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen, here)
For the sponge:
6 tbsp warm water
1 tsp caster sugar
9g fresh yeast (or 1.5 tsp instant yeast)
25g plain flour
Crumble the yeast into a small bowl then add the other ingredients. Mix well then leave for 12-15 minutes, loosely covered in cling film.
For the dough:
the sponge, above
75g sour cream
50g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg, beaten
45g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
265g strong bread flour (or plain flour)
Mix the sponge, sour cream, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the beater/paddle attachment. Tip in the flour and beat until it comes together into a rough ball. Change to the dough hook and knead for 5-6 minutes until smooth and soft. Lightly grease a big bowl and place the dough in the bottom. Cover with cling film and put in a warm place to rise. Leave till doubled and puffy.
For the filling:
65g cream cheese
2 tbsp caster sugar
25g sour cream
1 tsp lemon juice
13g plain flour
Beat all the ingredients together until smooth. Leave, covered, until the dough has risen.
50g lemon curd
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp demerara sugar
Before you start, have a look at Deb's step-by-step photos. Knock down the risen dough. On a well floured surface roll out into a rectangle of about 10" by 15". Transfer the rectangle to a big rectangle of baking parchment. Mark the dough into three lengthways with the side of your hand or a ruler, but don't cut through. Mark off 2" at each end. Cut the rectangles at each corner of the dough off by pressing down with a sharp knife. Spread the inner rectangle with the cream cheese mixture, then spread over the lemon curd. Fold over the two end rectangles. Cut the side rectangles (without filling) into 1" strips, making sure you have an even number on each side. Fold them in diagonally across the middle, alternating sides. Continue down the braid. Tuck the ends over underneath. Transfer the braid to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise for 50 mins - 1 hr or puffy and nearly doubled. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the demerara. Bake at 375F/ 190C for 22-25 minutes or until deep golden brown. Take out of the oven and cool for 15-20 minutes before slicing and eating.
If you want to make ahead then you can put it in the fridge or freezer at most points. Like Deb suggested, I made it up to the point of finishing braiding then put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning I put it in a warm place and left it for two hours while it heats up and then rises. Bake as normal. I then froze 2/3 of the loaf - don't know how it'll be yet!