Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake

This Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake is like nothing I’ve ever had before.  The final product looks gorgeous and the Pull-Apart Coffee Cake tastes more like a pull-apart, soft and chewy yeast bread with a sweet yet tart lemony flavor.  I love how you get to eat this coffee cake with your fingers, hence the name “Pull-Apart” coffee cake!  No cutting knife or fork involved!  
My mom made this pull-apart coffee cake last week for Easter.  I thought it was very good and the yeasty bread reminded me of the dough in the bread you would eat in a cinnamon roll.  In fact, we all decided that next time we make this coffee cake, we are going to substitute a cinnamon-sugar filling for the lemon paste filling and keep the tangy cream cheese icing, but omit the lemon juice.  That would be a nice twist on the typical cinnamon roll.  We’ll have to change the name to Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Apart Coffee Cake.  I can’t wait to try it!  

That is not say that the lemon paste filling was not good…it was delicious.  However, if you’d read my blog before, you know that the men in our family are NOT big fans of “fruity” desserts.   They would rather you slather something in chocolate or just make chocolate chip cookies and brownies all day.  In fact, on Easter we had David Lebovitz’s Nutty Chocolate Chunk cookiesCocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and WalnutsMartha Stewart’s Key Lime Bars, and Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake.  Quite a few desserts for only five people in my family!  The girls (my mom, sister, and I) ate the lemon and lime desserts, while my dad and husband ate the cookies and brownies.

Enjoy this new twist on coffee cake!  

NOTE:  This recipe looks long and complicated, but my mom said that it is actually fun and pretty easy to make.   Flo Braker, the author of the cookbook Baking for All Occasions (where this recipe comes from), is very detailed in her directions.  That way, you do not miss a step or get confused in preparing this wonderful dessert.

Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake

Sweet Yeast Dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces/350g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces/50 g)granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fl ounces/75ml) whole milk
2 ounces (1/2 stick/55g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fl ounces/60ml) water
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Lemon Paste Filling
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces/100g) granulated sugar
3 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (3 lemons)
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest
2 ounces (1/2 stick/55g) unsalted butter, melted

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing
3 ounces (85g) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces/35g) powdered sugar
1 tbsp whole milk
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1.  To make the Sweet Yeast Dough:  Stir together 2 cups (9 ounces/255g) of the flour, the sugar, the yeast, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside.  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 set aside until warm (120 to 130 degrees F), about 1 minute.  Add the vanilla extract.
2.  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 at time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated.  Stop the mixer, add 1/ 2 cup (2 1/4 ounces/65g) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
3.  Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour and center the dough on the flour.  Knead gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if necessary to lesson the stickiness.  Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place (about 70 degrees F) until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes.  Press the dough gently with a fingertip.  If the indention remains, the dough is ready for the next step.  While the dough is rising, make the filling.
4.  To make the Lemon Paste Filling:  In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and the lemon and orange zests.  Set the sandy-wet mixture nearby (the sugar draws out moisture from the zests to create the consistency).
5.  Before baking:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly butter a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.  Or, lightly coat the pan with nonstick spray.
6.  To shape the coffee cake:  Gently deflate the dough.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20 x 12-inch rectangle.  Using a a pasty brush, spread the melted butter generously over the dough.  Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 x 4 inches.  (A pizza cutter is helpful here.) Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture over one of the buttered rectangles.  Top with a second rectangle and sprinkle it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture.  Repeat with the remaining dough rectangles and zest-sugar mixture, ending with a stack of 5 rectangles.  Work carefully when adding the crumbly zest filling, or it will fall off when you have to lift the stacked pastry later.
7.  Slice the stack crosswise through the 5 layers to create 6 equal strips, each about 4 x 2 inches.  Fit these layered strips into the prepared loaf pan, cut edges up and side by side.  (While there is plenty of space on either side of the 6 strips widthwise in the pan, fitting the strips lengthwise is tight.  But that’s fine because the spaces between the dough and the sides of the pan fill in during baking.)  Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 degrees F) 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.
8.  Bake the coffee cake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
9.  While the coffee cake bakes, make the Tangy Cream Cheese Cheese Icing:  In medium bowl, using a rubber spatula, vigorously mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
10.  To remove the coffee cake from the pan, tilt and rotate the pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cakes sides.  Invert a wire rack on top of the coffee cake, invert the cake onto the rack, and carefully lift off the pan.  Invert another rack on top, invert the cake so it is right side up, and remove the original rack.  Slip a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the icing.  Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the warm cake with the icing to glaze it.  (Cover and refrigerate the leftover icing for another use.  It will keep for up to 2 days.)
11.  Serve the coffee cake warm or at room temperature.  To serve, you can pull apart the layers, or you can cut the cake into 1-inch thick slices on a slight diagonal with a long, serrated knife.  If you decide to cut the cake, don’t attempt to cut it until it is almost completely cool.

Yield:  one 9 x 5-inch coffee cake, about 15 servings
Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker

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