Thursday, January 19, 2012

Braided Lemon-Sour Cream Bread

Once again, it's time for a monthly Improv challenge, hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. If you haven't had a chance to visit Kristen, you should take the time to do so.....not only does she post some great recipes, she has some great stories to tell.

This month our ingredients are Lemon and Sour Cream. As it happens, I was looking longingly at a Braided Lemon Bread recipe on the King Arthur Flour website.  After making a few adjustments, I had my January Improv Challenge in the bag! The best part is that while there are a few steps, it's easier to make than it looks.

This recipe starts out by making a sponge--think of it as a big kick-start to your yeast. As King Arthur describes it, this dough is so rich that it needs a little help to get it to rise quicker.  The dough is certainly rich, filled with butter, sugar, eggs, and (here's where I made my sub), sour cream. The recipe also calls for 2 teaspoons of vanilla or Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor and I have to tell you, that Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor is the bomb! My friend DeeDee recommended it to me, so I had to give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. It made the dough taste like it came from a bakery.

Let me just share a couple of hints when working with this dough (with any dough, really). First, if you measure your flour in measuring cups, spoon it lightly into the cup and level it off. Start with the minimum amount called for in the can always add more. If you do add more, add it a tablespoon at a time until the dough is the consistency that you want. This time you are looking for a soft dough, so if it's a bit sticky, no worries.

Often, when you read a dough recipe, it calls for you to "punch it" down after it has risen. I'm guilty of using those words, myself. These directions call for you to "gently deflate" the dough, which really makes much more sense. Why rip into those delicate cells of yeast? Gentle is the way to go.

While the dough is rising, go ahead and get your filling together. First is a layer of cream cheese filling (a mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and flour), and then there is a layer of lemon curd. You can buy a jar of lemon curd, but I prefer to make my own (printable recipe here) because I don't like it too be too sour.

Add the zest of one lemon to 3/4 cup sugar. Cream this mixture with 1/4 cup softened butter. Add 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, one at a time, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in 1/3 cup lemon juice and a dash of salt.

Place the lemon mixture in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture just comes to a simmer and starts to thicken (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat, cover and chill until needed.

You'll have more lemon curd than you'll need for the recipe...just keep it refrigerated and use it on toast, or waffles, or pancakes, or crackers, a spoon.....

Now you're ready to make your braid.

What we're making here is called a "faux braid". Although, it looks fancy when it's done, it's really quite a simple procedure. Just roll out the dough into a 10"x16" rectangle. The recipe suggests doing this on parchment paper, but I just love my silicone mat for this. The dough was easy to roll without even adding any additional flour.

Now just lightly press two lines down each side of the dough (making three equal divisions). You'll then spread the cream cheese mixture down the middle and top that with lemon curd. Cut strips on each side of the filling (making sure you have the same amount on both sides). Starting from the left, bring one strip of the dough over the filling diagonally. Repeat on the other side, so that the strips overlap and continue down the entire braid until you have your formed loaf.

It looks a little like a mummy at this point, no? The nice part about using the silicone mat is that you can just transfer the whole thing over to a baking sheet and bake. Just brush a little egg wash over the top, and sprinkle with some pearl sugar.

The sour cream was a great addition to the dough--it was very soft, and it stayed that way for a couple of days.

You can see what I did with my extra curd. :)

I was so happy with the results of this recipe that I'm going to be making it with different fillings. Cherries? Blueberries? Apples? Yes, yes and yes! I also am thinking that, with a few changes, I can make this into a savory braid. What kind of filling would you like to see?

Again, this recipe is from the King Arthur Flour website The only change I made was to swap out the yogurt for the sour cream. You can find a printable recipe here: Braided Lemon Bread


  1. Lovely braids, Cathy! And the filling is to die for! Oooo ... my cheeks are puckering just thinking of the lemon curd :D

  2. delish!
    So ♥ breakfast (or lunch, or tea or dinner) braids!

  3. Gorgeous! I love that filling all wrapped up inside as well - that would be great inside a muffin or slathered on a scone... great Improv recipe!

  4. That bread looks amazing! Thanks for all of the hints - I'll have to try and find some of the buttery sweet dough flavoring.

  5. I wish I could have a slice of that beautiful braid. I may not be able to eat the bread anymore, but I am going to try to make some lemon curd, you have inspired me.

  6. From a fellow ICC participant, this is a gorgeous bread! The combo in the middle sounds ridiculously good. I also used lemon curd in my recipe this month and am absolutely obsessed! Great post :)

  7. Hi from the ICC! Yummmmm!!! Fantastic idea! I love the lemon theme this month :) Stop by for a Lemon Sour Cream Poppy Seed Muffin!

  8. I am drooling all over this bread, yum! I love anything lemon but bread is perfect!

  9. This is fantastic! I love everything about this bread! Yumm! I found you through the ICC - following your lovely blog :)

  10. That is a beautiful braided bread and I love that the top came out so very shiny.

    This is so much fun to participate in this challenge.

    My fellow bloggers really do crank out some amazing items.

  11. Cathy

    Your Braided Lemon-Sour Cream Bread looks truly amazing!

    You did an awesome job on the tutorial part of this post. Informational and step-by-step.

    I have been making more bread at home, but have not made a sweet yeast bread or a braid. I will be printing this recipe and am excited to try it.

    Thank You

  12. OH My Goodness! This looks wonderful!I can't wait to try this. Love the homemade Lemon Curd! Stopping by from the Improv Challenge!

  13. Oh, what a wonderful, elegant bread! I love the idea, very creative :) I am so glad I joined the challenge!

  14. This looks amazing. I'm having so much fun finding all of these great recipes through the challenge!

  15. This bread is JUST GORGEOUS! I can't stop looking at it! I can only imagine how delicious it is. Wow! Beautiful photos, too! : )

  16. Lemon and cream cheese sounds so good. It also looks so pretty. See you in two weeks!

  17. Wow, that looks delicious! I could eat the whole thing. :)

  18. Wow - this is absolutely stunning! What a creative, beautiful and delicious entry! BRAVO!

  19. Wow that is one beautiful bread braid! Just now checking out all of the improv challenge recipes... this is amazing! I've never worked with yeast... I'm a bit intimidated. But man your lemon braid is making me want to face my fear... ASAP! :)

  20. I am definitely going to try this recipe out. It looks so delicious!