I must start with this heavenly bread first. Because it is the bread of all breads, would be the crowning glory to any Easter Brunch table and is soft and tender and filled with a pillowy tart lemon curd and a tangy cream cheese spread. One bite is complete perfection and makes your eyes roll back and your heart skip a beat. Scouts honor.
You may look at this seemingly detailed recipe with fear though, and you may ask yourself, “How could any normal person make a fussy braided filled bread and not have it ooze out the sides and come apart at the seams?” Well if you aren’t asking, that is certainly what I asked myself, the self proclaimed queen of “read instructions later, dive in first” or “color outside the lines!” not because I am so out there and unique, but I simply don’t have patience for any kind of lines whatsoever. Trust me, I was definitely wary of such a fussy looking bread.
But my sweet and utterly talented daughter had bookmarked it, and we both let out an “ooh” and perhaps an “aahh” when looking at the beautiful bread on the King Arthur site, and it was demanding to be made, despite my fears.
And luckily for me, as I dove in head first and began to plod through the recipe, my organized and detail oriented daughter would read the instructions. As I incorrectly started to roll it out on the pastry board, she gently pulled out a piece of parchment and read aloud the directive to “roll out on parchment”. This turned out to be a HUGELY IMPORTANT bit of advice and one that likely saved the bread when we had to transfer it to a baking sheet.
As she methodically rolled the dough to the proper dimensions and spread the fillings out, I would hurry things along and spread them a little quicker and further out. She would re-read. Then when we cut the strips to make the braid, I eye-balled them on my side (measure first cut later comes to mind now but hind sight is 20/20 they say), as she would cut her side with carefulness and purpose. I ended up with one too many strips on my side of the dough…does this shock you?
As we cut out the corners and cut again to make it “more like the picture”, it began to come together. Sure, when we finished the braid, we had to weirdly tuck in my extra strip as she had a wry smirk on her face. We thought it looked pretty good for our first attempt at this recipe, but not like the picture and we hoped for a small miracle during the rising process.
And a miracle was had indeed. It seems as if this fussy bread is actually quite forgiving. It came out beautifully, and I would have been proud to bring it to any party. But of course, Easter is a week away, and we simply had to devour it on our own, just us four. And somehow, that has not been a problem.
Have faith, make the bread and try to read instructions first and cut later so to speak. You will be forever grateful you did. Learn by my daughter’s example and if you are little like me and the cart has gotten out before the horse without you even knowing it, take a deep breath and keep moving ahead and you may just be as surprised as I was that the bread comes out perfectly.
—P.S. I forgot to mention the aroma that comes from your kitchen when this bread is baking. It is intoxicating and the kind of aroma that suitors might break down your door for and if you were a quaint little bakery in a quaint little town, there would be a line a mile long, just to get to taste what was giving off that fabulous smell. I thought this was too important to leave out.
Need some other Easter recipe ideas? Try my Easter Cut-Out Cookies, or my Spiced Parsnip Cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting (to. die. for.) or if you need a GORGEOUS dessert for Easter dinner, try my Lemon Chiffon Layer Cake.
Braided Bread Filled with Lemon Curd and Cream Cheese
A few personal anecdotes about this recipe. I would make my own lemon curd unless you have a wonderful store bought one that you are familiar with. Don’t ruin your hard work and beautiful bread with a less than scrumptious curd. We made our second loaf with Nutella, this is a delicious version.
Also, this bread takes about a half a day from start to finish (it rises twice) so plan ahead. And finally, this is NOT the kind of thing I would make if I were entertaining at my house. It is very messy. It is however the perfect thing to bring to a potluck. No one has to see your kitchen then.
From the King Arthur Website made VERBATIM from the recipe (minus human error)
Makes Two loaves of bread.
For the best step-by-step photos go here.
3/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
all of the sponge
3/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
5 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
egg wash for brushing braid
turbinado sugar or sparkling white sugar for sprinkling on braid
Cream cheese filling
2/3 c. cream cheese (low-fat would work fine), softened
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. sour cream (low-fat would be fine)
2 t. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 c. prepared or Home made lemon curd (recipe below) divided evenly for two bread doughs OR fill with Nutella (3/4 c., divided evenly) or Jam (3/4 c.) and Cream Cheese spread.
To make the sponge: In a small bowl, combine the sponge ingredients. Stir well to combine, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.
To make the bread dough: In the bowl of your stand mixer, or in bowl by hand, combine the sponge, yogurt, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and flavoring. Add 4 1/2 cups of flour and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough is a bit shaggy and rough.
Switch to the dough hook and knead on speed 2 until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 to 6 minutes, adding more flour if needed to achieve the correct consistency OR do what we did and knead by hand on a floured pastry board.
Form it into a ball and place in vegetable or Canola OILED large bowl (one that is twice the size of the dough). Let rise in a warm dry place, loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Let rise for 60-90 minutes or until puffy and almost double in size. Mine did not get terribly puffy but it did get much larger in size.
Make your fillings now. I made my own lemon curd (see recipe and instructions below) at this time and also made the cheese filling.
To make the cheese filling: Combine all the filling ingredients, cream cheese through flour, in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free. I beat mine in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment. You could also use a hand beater. You want a nice smooth and creamy filling. Reserve the filling and lemon curd until ready to fill the braids.
Back to the risen dough: Place a large piece of parchment (one about the size of your baking sheet….just a tad smaller than the sheet) paper on a clean pastry board. Gently deflate the dough and divide it in half. Cover half with plastic wrap. Flour your rolling pin and dust a little flour on the dough. Roll it out to about a 10 inch by 15 inch rectangle.
Lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, to divide it into 3 equal sections. Spread half the cream cheese filling down the center section, and top with half the lemon curd, leaving 2 inches free on the sides and a little over an inch from the top and bottom. See photo. I ACTUALLY SPREAD MY FILLING OUT TOO FAR TO THE LEFT AND RIGHT. Leave two inches on each side of the filling. I had to scrape some off to form the proper braid.
Warning! The braid you see in the next photos used Nutella as a filling. This recipe makes two breads and we wanted one to be chocolaty. Nutella worked great but use about 3/4 a c. of Nutella in place of the cheese and lemon curd.
To form the mock braid, cut four corners from the rectangle to form an “l” shaped corner in each corner. Now, on the sides, cut 1″ crosswise strips down the length of the outside sections, making sure you have the same number of strips down each side. At the top, fold the small rectangle down.
Then, beginning on the left, lift the top dough strip and gently bring it across the filling diagonally. Repeat on the other side with the top dough strip, so that the two strips crisscross each other. Continue down the entire braid, alternating strips to form the loaf.
Repeat the rolling, filling, and braiding steps for the second piece of dough, using the remaining cream cheese filling and lemon curd. Set both loaves aside, lightly covered, to rise for 45 to 50 minutes, or until quite puffy.
Preheat your oven to 375 per King Arthur instructions(My oven runs hot so I only baked it at 350 and it still was overly golden…next time I might try 325). You be the judge of your own oven. Beat one egg with 2 teaspoons of water in s small bowl to create an egg wash. Brush both of your breads with the egg wash. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of Turbinado sugar over the top. The instructions say to bake for about 45 minutes but mine only took about 35 minutes. I baked mine separately since things tend to bake faster and darker when they are below a hot baking sheet pan. The bread should be golden and firm when touched. Let stand ten minutes and then slice as needed. We kept our “leftovers” unsliced and in an airtight container in the fridge. Let sit out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving the left over slices. They were still wonderful the next day.
Lemon Curd, adapted from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.
This recipe makes enough for TWO breads or one Lemon Meringue Pie. Feel free to cut it in half if you want to make one of your breads using Nutella or a jam and cream cheese version.
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 T. all purpose flour
5 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. water
2 T. unsalted butter
2 t. finely grated lemon peel
1/3 c. lemon juice
1/2 t. natural lemon extract
For the Curd: In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Whisk together to disperse ingredients. GRADUALLY, add water, whisking constantly. If you dump too much water in at once, the cornstarch and flour will clump up. As you slowly drizzle water in, whisk vigorously, make sure to get the crevices of your pan. If the whisk doesn’t reach there, get rubber scraper or wooden spoon to coax the bits from the crevices out to be amply whisked with the water.
Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly (about 3-5 minutes). Reduce heat; cook and stir for two minutes more. Remove from heat.
Separate egg yolks from whites and beat the yolks slightly. Again, gradually, stir in about 1/2 c. of the hot filling into the eggs, stirring constantly. Then add another 1/2 c. to the eggs, stirring constantly. Add the egg /curd mixture into the pan with the curd and stir until it is all incorporated. You are tempering the eggs here. If you added too much hot liquid into the eggs, your eggs would instantly scramble and you would have bits of scrambled egg in your curd. Not exactly what you are going for. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring. Cook and stir two minutes more.
Remove from heat. Mix in the margarine and lemon peel. Gradually, stir in lemon juice and then lemon extract. If your curd appears too thick, add hot water, one tablespoon at a time, stirring in between until it is the proper curd consistency. Cool to room temperature before spreading onto the dough for your Braided Bread.