Pull-Apart Loaf – Infinite Layers of Possibilities

In Frostings and Icings, Yeast Breads on October 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm
From Adriana Baking

I’ve been around music for as long as I can remember.

As a preschooler riding to school on her very first day of kindergarten, I remember dreading the rides to school, awaiting something made far worse by my imagination than it was in reality. I sat quietly in my seat, peering out of the passenger seat window and seizing every fraction of traffic, trying to squeeze time out of the seconds ticking by.   My mother would pop my favorite CD into the disk drive in an effort to ease the tension – when the familiar tunes wrapped around me, equivalent to a warm blanket on a stormy evening, and caressed my hair,  school didn’t seem like such a daunting event any longer. Music made everything  better then, and it still does now. Every night, after being tucked into bed and having received my good-night kisses, my mother still turns the stereo to a calming clarinet solo or a classic violin concerto. The notes dance throughout my room, finding their way out into the dark night, all the while sending me to a land of dreams, a land of unconsciousness devoid of stress.

From Adriana Baking

In the first grade, after encouragement from my mother, I took up the recorder. The instrument was the perfect starting point for learning music theory, rhythm, and notes. I struggled getting into the habit of tapping my foot to help feel the rhythm – my mother constantly reminded me and I stubbornly refused to try. But now, I can’t help but move my whole body the the beat of the music. Music is a universal language of its own, full of sentiment and emotion. I can’t imagine how I could play without feeling the beat in me, letting the music flow through my fingertips to the core of my heart. A couple of years later, the fall I began fifth grade, I started practicing the clarinet.

Admittedly, it wasn’t love at first blow. I missed my little recorder and the gentle puffs of air needed to blow a delicate, piping note through its lean cherry wood body. Though I knew how to read notes, in most ways learning to play the clarinet was like moving far away from home. There were new fingerings to learn, mouth muscles to build, and an embouchure to develop. I felt light headed after playing just a short scale. It has been five years since I first picked up my clarinet, and now nothing fits better into my palm than the elegant form of my onyx black instrument.  My recorder, in comparison, feels too dainty, too small, too fragile for my long fingers to hop across. And I’ve grown to love the rich, resonant timbre that gushes out of the bell of my clarinet like honey on a warm day – slow, full, and complete.

From Adriana Baking

This past month I’ve been practicing more than I have ever. The auditions for an international music festival are coming to a close, and while I’m unlikely to be accepted, the experience has been so, so worth it. I stayed after school on Thursday to record until my fingers were stiff and my lips sore, playing the required scales over and over. This morning, five other students were in the music room too, practicing and recording and practicing more. Though it is a Saturday, we were all gathered at school listening to each other practice and generously giving tips. I’ve never done anything like this before; everyone is so encouraging and supportive, I’ve only experienced this one place else –  in the food blogging community.

Since I’ve started to blog I have tried making such a huge variety of baked goods. I find it hard to believe that I couldn’t find the measuring cups in our kitchen without the help of my mother just last year. Being adventurous in the kitchen is the best part of baking, and so is being creative. I made this loaf three times since reading about it on various food blogs. The first two times as written, with fragrant lemon sugar sprinkled throughout the sheets of buttery yeast dough. The third time, I made it like a pull-apart cinnamon loaf – with a cinnamon sugar mixture between the layers. Though I haven’t found the time yet, I can’t wait to try a savory version. Since such a liberal amount of butter is brushed onto the dough, I think I could replace it with cheese. Pesto is the other flavor variation I want to try – I’ll update the post to let you know how it goes once I try it.

This recipe quickly became a family favorite. The buttery sheets of dough were devoured minutes after placed in front of an already full group of book club members, and I have made it on demand a few times just for my family. The contrast of  the smooth, tangy cream cheese icing  to the sweet dough and the sugary crunch of the crust is sublime.

Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake
From Flo Braker via 17 and Baking
Makes a 9″x5″ pan

Sweet Yeast Dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) 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 (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (3 lemons)
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Mix two cups (nine ounces) flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or in the microwave, combine the milk and the butter and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and let rest a minute until just warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]). Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.

Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about one minute. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of flour only if the dough is too sticky to work with. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place (about 70°F [21°C]) for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. An indentation made with your finger should keep its shape.

Meanwhile, make the lemon sugar filling. Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

Gently deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. Use a ruler to get the rectangles as accurate as possible for a prettier loaf that will fit better in the pan. Also sure both sides are floured, so that the dough will be easy to lift up later. Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter evenly and liberally over the dough.

Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon sugar as well. Continue to top with rectangles and sprinkle, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.

Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. it might be a little roomy, 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 (70 °F [21°C]) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. When you gently press the dough with your finger, the indentation should stay.

Bake the loaf until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Mine loaves usually take longer to bake; use a cake tester to make sure it’s done, and cover the top with foil if it is browning too quickly. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the milk and lemon juice. Stir until creamy and smooth.

Flip the loaf over onto a cooling rack, then flip onto another rack so that it’s right side up. Spread the top of the warm cake with the cream cheese icing, using a pastry brush to fill in all the cracks. [You might want to put a pan or piece of wax paper under to catch any drips.]

Eat warm or at room temperature. You can also cut the cake with a knife, but wait for it to cool if you plan to do so.

  1. That looks lovely and really good 🙂
    I’ve actually never heard of a pullapart loaf…I might try this one out 🙂
    And I love music too…more of a listener though, than a player(even though I do play precussion at my school, I’m not crazily into it, but it is fun).
    And I hope you get into the music festival 🙂

  2. Oh, sweetie. I love how you write, so much! Everything the flows from your fingertips is pure magic. It all sounds so lovely. And I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for months! I really need to get to making this; thanks for reminding me!

  3. I’m a clarinet player too! =D Or ex-clarinet player now…..hehe
    I played it in the school band for four years but stopped at the end of this year because I couldn’t turn up to band anymore =S I didn’t actually like it that much, but I liked turning up to band with friends which is why I continued playing it for so long =)

    I’ve wanted to make this for a while, but seeing your version with cinnamon makes me want to make it even more!! It’s not hard to see why you’ve made it so many times!!

  4. Oh, this looks so delicious! I’m gonna have to try this. 🙂
    Good luck with the music festival! I bet you’re gonna do great!

  5. I remember playing recorder back in primary school! Unfortunately I have no talent left in the instrument department any more. And this loaf looks just delicious, I would really like to just pull out a piece from my screen.

  6. That’s so exciting! I love that you listen to classical music when you go to bed too, it’s just so calming. I like the cinnamon idea with this loaf perfect for the season thats coming!

  7. I’ve tried this before and I think I added too much flour. It tasted good, though! Although I’m pretty sure, not as good as yours! Great pics too! (:

  8. Yum, Yum, Yum! I will have to make this and soon! It looks absolutely d’lish!

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