I saved this recipe so long ago, I cannot tell you how or why I came across it. And I really cannot tell you why I have waited oh-so-long to enjoy it. Because it was simply divine. Everything I wanted it to be. Perfectly tart and tangy, just the right amount of sweet, but neither exceedingly sweet (like some coffee cakes) nor too sour (as some lemon can overpower doughy goodness). So I suggest you hurry up and find an occasion to make it. you won’t regret it.
It begins simply as a sweetbread recipe, combining warm milk, butter, and water with the dry ingredients. As you add the eggs and prepare for kneading and rising, it is quite sticky.
The recipe calls for one tablespoon on the board to knead the dough. I was wary about this, watching the mixer and prying the dough apart from my spatula onto the board. To my surprise, the single tablespoon was sufficient in this step. But this was not the end for me and the flour and the sticky dough. More on that later.
While the dough rises, the zests work their magic on the sugar, creating a crumbly, tangy, sweet, almost juicy mixture that gets you excited for what’s to come. Unfortunately, there’s a bit more waiting ahead. And battle with the rolling of the dough.
I have a somewhat tormented relationship with rolling dough, brought on by a finicky family recipe that yields wafer thin sugar cookies like no-other, but has (I will admit) on more than one occasion brought me to tears. And so, when I pulled this beautifully risen dough out for a roll, I barely hesitated before using flour as needed to roll. (Translation: flour-as-needed in this instance probably resulted in an extra 4-6 tablespoons. I don’t have much to compare it to, but I don’t think it suffered.)
You see, not only is this dough sticky even in it’s risen state, but it’s quite springy, and I found it a bit of a challenge to get into the perfect 20″ x 12″ rectangle that was required for the perfect layers. A day late I found this tidbit on thekitchn about dough prep the night before. In their review of this recipe, they think it helped while working with the dough. Next time, I’ll give this a shot. There definitely will be a next time.
Once rolled, the layering went quite smoothly, even if my rectangles weren’t all perfect and exactly the same size. My perfectionist ways were concerned about this, but later rewarded by the variation of layers. I’d also advise that you read carefully, as I cut 4 strips 5″ wide, instead of the 5 strips 4″ wide that fit so nicely into a loaf pan. A little improvisation of layers … and all worked in the end.
At the end of the second rise, the waiting gets really tough. And then, see? How haphazard uneven layers turned into perfection?
The sugar + zest form the whole of the citrus flavoring in the bread itself, and create a beautiful carmel on the edges that make you forget that dry crust could ever exist.
But be careful! Don’t take your cake out of the pan too soon! Mine was still warm, and almost wanted to sag to the sides. Luckily, it held together long enough for us to pull the layers apart in our own time. As in, about 30 seconds after the icing is on.
The icing was nearly perfect over the warmth of the cake it dripped ever so slightly. I just might add a touch more milk next time so it drips just *a bit* more.
In the end, it’s really quite wonderful, as I said at the start. I have a fondness for citrusy baked goods… my mom’s lemon poundcake is a favorite. But this even pleased someone who doesn’t often care for lemon baked goodness. I know, that sounds crazy to me too.
Complete recipe at Leite’s Culinaria. But good luck getting 14 servings out of this tasty treat.