Lemon Filled Yeast Braid

This is a yeast "braid," adapted from King Arthur Flour's "Braided Lemon Bread."
Unlike the original, this version is pareve (non-dairy). It's a delicious not-too-sweet cake that reminds me of Danish for breakfast, without the fussy dough. 

This is a yeast cake, so it will look a bit fussier to make than a cake made with baking powder. If you follow the instructions this is actually a good recipe to use if you want to start learning to bake yeast cakes. The cake dough (rather than a batter) is constructed in steps, first a "sponge" ( a starter), then the dough. The dough requires two proofing periods (rising). The cake can be made over the course of a day or stretched out to fit parts of 2 days. Instead of a straight procedure, I'm describing the creation of this cake as "steps" with approximate time frames.  I use a KitchenAid stand mixer. This is a soft bread dough; however, if you are using a hand held mixer it may not be strong enough to handle this dough. In the event that you are going to mix and knead by hand you will knead, stretch and fold for several more minutes than the KitchenAid. Look at any YouTube videos on bread stretching and folding if you have any doubts. 

Sponge (Starter)
3/4 c barely warm water
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour (I use King Arthur Flour)

The entire sponge
3/4 c faux sour cream or plain non dairy yogurt
1/2 c (one stick) margarine or shortening (I used 1/2 Fleishmann's margarine, 1/2 Earth Balance) . 
    Soften the margarine by leaving it out while the sponge is resting. 
2 large eggs, beaten and 1 egg white mixed with a tsp of cold water for an egg wash
1/2 c sugar 
2 tsp kosher salt 
2 tsp extract flavoring - I used 1 tsp LorAnn oil lemon baking emulsion and 1 tsp LorAnn oil Buttery      Sweet Dough flavor. You can also use a combination of vanilla and lemon extract or just vanilla.
     LorAnn oil flavors are available on line at their website as well as Amazon or King Arthur Flour 
 5c all purpose flour 
pearl sugar or sparking white sugar for sprinkling on the braids 

  • First filling: 2 cups lemon curd (it's hard to find a ready made pareve product, Blake Hill, from Vermont, is a grea product, but it's dairy. I tried this with home made non-dairy curd as well as My-T-Fine brand pudding and pie filling. When used as a cake filling, the difference is not really discernable 
  • Second filling: 1/2 c faux sour cream mixed with 4Tbsp. sugar 
The fillings can be made right after you build the dough. Cover and chill until you are ready to assemble the cake. The pie filling should be mixed gently with a spoon when you are ready to use it 


Sponge: mix the sponge ingredients together in the bowl of  the stand mixer OR in a large mixing bowl. Cover with a damp cloth, away from drafts and allow to bubble and rest for anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes 

Creating the dough
  • Mix the 2 eggs, sugar, flavorings and salt in a small bowl. Mix the faux sour cream, shortening and egg mixture into the sponge. Slowly (speed 2) mix until well blended, about 1 minute. You can do this by hand with a wooden spoon
  • Add the flour in three additions. It will look rough in the beginning, keep at speed 2 and after everything is blended increase to speed three. The dough will begin to come away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough doesn't begin or organize and come away from the sides of the bowl add another 2-3 Tbsp flour. Mix until smooth - about 4-5 minutes. If you are doing this by hand, turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently until well blended. The dough will be sticky

  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap, place in a warm, draft-free spot (your oven or an oven heated- and shut off- to about 80 degrees or a proofing box will be perfect). Let this dough rise for about an hour OR place in the fridge and let rest for 4-12 hours. If you are chilling, bring the dough back to room temperature, for about an hour, before continuing 
  • Stretch and fold once or twice , divide the dough into thirds and let rest on your work surface for about 10 minutes 
  • Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper 

  • Roll out one piece of the dough to a rectangle that measures roughly 8x14 . Lightly score 2 vertical lines, about 1/3 in on both sides. Then cut vertical "wings" of about 1.5 inches along the two sides. The rolled out dough does not have to be a perfect rectangle, you'll be able to stretch and move the dough a bit  
  • Spoon 1/3 of the lemon filling along the center and then top with a strip of the faux sour cream
  • Vertically fold 1/2 - 1 inch from the top of the rectangle so that it is just covering the filling and then begin to uses the vertical wing strips diagonally over the center. Press the edges down. If you find that the ends of the strips don't "stick" use a pastry brush to paint a bit of egg wash to attach the strip edges. Continue to end, folding in the bottom edge. Using a large cookie spatula move the strip onto the parchment lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. 

  • Repeat the process with the remaining 2 pieces. Place in a draft free place and allow to rest/rise for 40-50 minutes. The rising breads will be puffy and increase in size by about 1/3
  • While the breads are rising, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 
  • Brush with egg wash (one egg white, stirred with 1 tsp cold water). Sprinkle with sugar slip into the upper shelf of your oven. Lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness after 25 minutes.  Cool completely before moving. 
  • The cooled baked bread can be double wrapped and frozen for up to a month or a bit more. 

  • The cake stays well at room temperature for a day or two (cover with wax paper or plastic wrap. If you are keeping it longer, it will keep in the fridge for another day or so. Because the filling makes the center of the cake moist you will need to use it within a few days or it will start to mold!  

Other "braided" cake you may like to try: Cheese Filled Babka


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