Monday, August 5, 2013

ABC - Braided Lemon Bread

When I saw how pretty the Braided Lemon Bread was, I knew I had to put it on the list of ABC recipes to bake. Lemon is often associated with summer hence why this recipe became the August challenge for the ABC bakers. I love lemon however lemon curd is not my thing. It's the rich egginess that doesn't work for me. The recipe on the King Arthur Flour site offered plenty of suggestions on alternative fillings so I wasn't too worried.

If you've never made a braided bread before, I encourage you to visit the KAF blog where they have step-by-step pictures on how to do this mock braid.

If you'd like to join the ABC bakers in their monthly baking adventures, please go to the ABC blog for more information.

This recipe starts with a (quick) sponge to proof the yeast. Look how nice and bubbly it is.

The sponge!

Of course, this recipe had many rave reviews. Many reviewers commented about how soft and hard to handle the dough was. The trick I've learned over the years is to refrigerate the dough, preferably overnight. You see, cold dough is VERY easy to handle.

On day 2, I took the dough out of the fridge and divided it in half (normally I would weigh it to make sure both parts are the same weight but I was feeling lazy). Put the second half of dough back in the fridge so it stays cold while you're working with the first half.

As an experiment, I used flour to roll out the first dough while using oil to roll out the second dough. I found the dough to be much more manageable with oil.

Since the lemon curd was out of the picture, I decided to fill one bread with a multi-fruit jam and the other with a homemade cinnamon-y date filling that I had in the freezer, while maintaining the cream cheese base for each filling.

Right after braiding

After a proofing period of only 45 min it was nice and puffy.

The baking temperature and the baking time was also highly contentious with this recipe. The majority of the reviewers recommended: 350F and 20 minutes. I used the convection setting in my oven and heated it up to 400F (to get a nice oven spring). As soon as I put the first loaf in the oven (bottom third of the oven), I reduced the temperature to 340F. After 10 minutes, I moved that loaf up a couple racks and put the second loaf in the oven. The first loaf took 18 minutes to bake, while the second loaf took 20 minutes.

If you take a close look at my finished loaves, you'll see that both loaves look slightly different. Why? For one of the breads, I cut 10 (skinny) strips on each side, while the other bread had 7 (wider) strips on each side. I think the skinny strips worked better because they give you a more braid-y look. The other thing is that because they were so skinny, they twisted slightly when I picked them up to lift them across. At first I thought that that wasn't going to look nice, but after seeing the final product, I really like it.

After the loaves cooled, I could wait to cut into them to see what the inside looked like :o)

Multi-fruit jam filling

Date filling

Final thoughts:

  • The dough smelled heavenly and so did the loaves after they came out of the oven. Actually, my whole house smelled heavenly for a few hours :o)
  • My husband and I enjoyed a slice of each bread. We both smelled the bread, and then my husband noted how soft and fluffy it was. Although he liked both fillings, he liked the date filling best. His rating is an 8.5 out of 10. 
  • I loved it too. The aroma was amazing. I loved the fruity jam filling against the sweet-and-tart cream cheese layer. The bread part has nice tiny holes in it which made it extra soft and fluffy. Definitely a keeper!!! I might use this bread recipe for things like cinnamon rolls and babka to see if that works.
  • Making the dough is super easy if you have a bread machine. I used the Dough cycle in mine. After its first rise, I moved it to an oiled container (covered) and refrigerated it overnight.
  • I made several changes to the recipe (such as reducing the amount of butter) which is why I posted the ingredients list at the bottom of this post.
  • Don't forget to check out what the other ABC bakers thought of this recipe by clicking HERE.

Braided [Fruit] Bread
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)

170g warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
57g bread flour

all of the sponge
170g vanilla-honey yogurt
56g unsalted butter, softened
28g vegetable oil
28g water
2 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
99g sugar
1-3/4 teaspoons salt
602g bread flour
egg wash for brushing braid (1 egg, 2 tsp half-and-half, pinch of salt)
pearl sugar for sprinkling on braid

Cream cheese filling
142g cream cheese, softened
50g sugar
57g sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
28g all purpose flour
pinch of salt

Put the sponge and dough ingredients in the bowl of a bread machine and run the dough cycle. Please follow the remaining instructions on the KAF site.


  1. Your breads are beautiful! I like both!

  2. Great looking bread. Thanks for the hint about refrigerating the dough. Will try that out the next time.

  3. Your breads look lovely, Hanaâ. I really like the idea of the date filling....I'll have to try that.

  4. LOve your filling variations, I think I like the fruity ones best. I was tempted to make it with strawberry, but the lemon marmelade jar needed to be used. So maybe next time :)

  5. Made the bread yesterday, all went fine, it looked gorgeous, But....I didn't like it. Though I love lemon, and really liked the taste of the filling, I found the ratio filling/bread unsatisfying: too much bread and too little filling. Definitely not a keeper.

    1. I was sort of leaning that way myself. I had a little more filling than the recipe called for because I was using up the last of some cream cheese, which was more than required, and then I also had the added coconut. But since the bread was tasty, I didn't mind that there was so much compared to the filling.

  6. Great filling choices. Funny, I actually like the thicker strips better. But both look wonderful!

  7. Love the way you did your braid , it’s so prefect and the inside is fluffy with are , the color is nice and light golden and different with Multi-fruit jam filling and I like that, I love cream cheese and fruits with the sauce..mmmm
    P.S. I'm at my sister in Picton ,Ontario ,Canada about a 4 hour drive ...

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. hello Hanaa again I forgot to ask you what is the water in ounces and the instant yeast in dry yeast???

    1. Rosa, that's 2Tbsp of water and probably about 1Tbsp + 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast. I hope that helps.

  9. Hi Hanaa
    Your braids looks wonderful and both the filling sounds yum! I really love this bread, it has wonderful soft, fluffy and moist texture and so delicious! Thanks for a wonderful recipe selection!

  10. Your loaves look wonderful! I love the sound of both of your fillings They look equally delicious! Yum!

  11. this is one recipe to keep forever and do again and again Hanaa
    Awesome! :)

  12. That looks beautiful and super tasty! I am going to bookmark this recipe!


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