Do you ever have inexplicable cravings for things other than sea salt and vinegar kettle chips or dark chocolate? I do. Spontaneous yearnings for citrus can kick in at the drop of a hat. Sometimes all it takes is seeing a lime in a Taco Bell commercial, or a yellow Jeep. I'm terribly addicted to tart desserts of all shapes and forms. I think I made 6 different lemon bar recipes before discovering my favourite, and I doubt that anything will ever surpass Dorie Greenspan's tartest lemon tart (I knew I was in love as soon as I read that you use the entire lemon!) But would I be able to find another cake as lushly tart as my beloved Lemon Smitten Cake? And more importantly, would I be able to get past the tyrannical presence of yeast to get there?
My philosophical questions were answered in a recipe by Flo Braker. This cake is nothing short of spectacular. It's light and feathery-almost like cotton candy. As the title indicates, you can literally pull it off piece by piece. And each delicate piece is laced with lime zest, sugar, and butter. Because it's so light, you don't realize how much you're eating (be sure to have witnesses if you decide to make this.) It is a long recipe, and at times it seems as though you will never reach the finish line, but keep marching on, it's worth the wait. Even though there is yeast involved, it's quite the friendly sort. I didn't run into any rising issues, but that may have had to do with the lime-shaped dangling carrot. Enjoy!
Lime-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake
(adapted from Flo Braker)
Sweet yeast dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter (4 Tablespoons)
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Lime paste filling
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (5-8 limes)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (1-2 lemons)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Tangy cream cheese icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Make the Sweet Yeast Dough
Mix two cups (nine ounces) flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or in the microwave, combine the milk and the butter and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and let rest a minute until just warm 120 to 130°F. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the milk and melted butter into the flour and mix with a rubber spatula until the flour is evenly moistened. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about one minute. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of flour only if the dough is too sticky to work with. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place (about 70°F) for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. An indentation made with your finger should keep its shape.
Meanwhile, make the lime sugar filling. Mix the sugar, lime zest, and lemon zest. It’ll draw out the citrus oils and make the sugar sandy and fragrant.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.
Gently deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. *Be sure to flour the dough slightly. This will make it much easier to work with.* Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter evenly and liberally over the dough.
Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon sugar as well. Continue to top with rectangles and sprinkle, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.
Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. it might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after baking. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. When you gently press the dough with your finger, the indentation should stay.
Bake the loaf until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. *Mine took about 8 minutes longer. I made a foil tent to keep the crust from getting too brown.* Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the milk and lime juice. Stir until creamy and smooth.
Carefully tilt and rotate the pan while tapping on a table to release the loaf. I simply ran a knife along the edges and it came out perfectly. Using a brush, cover the surface of the loaf with the cream cheese icing. Allow the icing to seep into the cracks and holes.
Enjoy this cake while it's still slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes one 9"x5" loaf.