Thursday, May 13, 2010

Conquering Fears with Fragrance

Sometimes, things are not what they seem.
Sometimes a tall, leafy tree in your front yard can end up causing pain, damage and months of complications. Sometimes an ugly, cheap purple gown can signify years of hard work. Sometimes a bowl of bubbly yeast can result in a hard, inedible yeast cake.
And, as I learned last year, sometimes a recipe labeled bread, is more like a (delicious) cake.
But recently, I discovered that some things labeled cake, are in fact a lot more like bread.
This lemon-scented pull apart coffee cake is a soft, sweet, delicately iced and fragrant...bread. Yes it contains things like lemon...cream cheese...lots of sugar....but this still remains decidedly - bread.
"Bread?!" you must be thinking. "Bread has to have yeast!" And though I am now a wise, college-graduated adult living in the real world (read: parents' basement), I don't think my diploma grants me the powers to overcome my all-consuming fears of yeast, and the many times its failed me.
But since I apparently have no capabilities for rational behavior, I used yeast. And it worked! It rose! It baked! It was more than edible! I think I've used up my daily quota of exclamation points! Also - cream cheese glaze!
Now, why this is called "lemon-scented" is something that quite escapes me. Why is it not lemon pull apart coffee cake? Is the scent of the lemon stronger than the taste? Should we start calling all things flavored a certain way "scented." Am I now going to be drinking coffee-scented beverages every morning. Just kidding, I don't drink coffee. Sorry for being so difficult. I guess spending two hours in the rain today has messed with my head.
But one thing about this - ahem - cake, that makes it especially fragrant is the step of rubbing the sugar and lemon and orange zests together before adding it with the other ingredients - it really infuses the whole loaf with the lemon scent flavor.
Now, I'm not going to jump out of my seat and recommend that you make this asap. Because - it was difficult. Multiple steps, complicated processes and not such clear instructions - especially with the stacking of the layers. So, if you're a little more advanced and think you can take this on, by all means go for it. But if you're more of a kitchen novice, think twice before you try it out.

Tip of the Day: Always make sure to read through a recipe start to finish - ingredients and instructions - before beginning with your ingredients. You may miss a crucial step needed advance preparations, or realize you need an ingredient you're missing.

Recipe: (from Leite's Culinaria)
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsps) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
4 tbsps (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1/4 cup (2 ounces) water
1 1/2 tsps vanilla
2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsps lemon zest - about 3 lemons
1 tbsp orange zest
4 tbsps (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp lemon juice

Melt the butter and milk together. Add in the water and set aside until just warm. Mix in the vanilla.
Mix 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Pour the milk mixture over it and mix with a spatula until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Turn the mixer on, and add the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add in 1/2 cup of flour and mix, then another 2 to 3 tablespoons until the dough is smooth and soft.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until no longer sticky.
Cover the dough in a large bowl and let rise 45 to 60 minutes - it should double in size.

Mix the lemon and orange zests and sugar together with your fingers, and set aside to allow the mixture to combine well.

Roll out the dough into a 20 by 12 inch square.
Brush with the melted butter and cut crosswise into 5 strips.
Sprinkle the first piece with the sugar mixture, stack another on top and continue sprinkling and stacking until all the pieces are used.
Slice the stack in half and layer them side by side to create a longer stack of pieces.
[This isn't remotely what the original recipe said, but this is the only thing that made sense to me.]
Place into a oiled 9x5 loaf pan - don't worry, it shouldn't fill the pan at this point.
Cover and let rise 30 to 50 minutes. Don't worry, it may not fill the pan at this point either.
Bake on 350 F for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown.

While baking, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, milk and lemon juice until combined. You can heat the mixture if desired to make the ingredients incorporate together better.

Let the cake cool 10 to 15 minutes in the pan before inverting. Coat with icing while still warm.


  1. Thanks for the tip of the day - I've definitely made the mistake of not reading through all the way and have consequently had disastrous results!

  2. This looks like it tastes AMAZING! I love your approach to the whole baking thing. Love how you share the flubs as well. Somex I read through a recipe like 5x & it still isn't clear. LOL One cook suggested we write out the recipe in our own language so as not to make mistakes. Hoping things are well with you & your family after the mishap w/ the tree. :O)