Jenga Bread

Warning:  Every good food blogger has already made this bread, with their own spin on it, nonetheless.  We are not moving into uncharted water here.

And yet, I believe the Internet needs more written proof that this is something special.  This beautiful hybrid coffee cake, loaf, sticky bun combination.  It’s a conversation piece, to be sure.  Its original title, Lemon Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake (from here), seemed a bit of a mouthful, so I asked my fellow diners to name it something else.

And thus, Jenga Bread was born.

It kinda fits.  It has all these little pieces you pull away, one at a time, until the loaf is so pecked-at it just gives up and falls over.

The layers of dough have a gentle lemon flavor that won me over upon first bite.  The bread is soft, it’s subtle, and it’s delicate.  And it’s totally and completely addicting.  You’ll find yourself going back for “just one more” layer, until there’s barely anything left in the pan.  Once you’ve finished it, you may find your life filled with lemony-scented goodness.  Dipped in glaze.

To make a loaf, you will need:

For the dough:

  • 2 3/4 C flour
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp (or one envelope) instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 C whole milk
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

For the lemon-sugar filling:

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 3 T grated lemon zest
  • 1 T grated orangze zest (I left this out and added a bit more lemon zest)
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter, melted

For the tangy cream cheese glaze:

  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 C powdered sugar
  • 1 T whole milk
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice

To make the dough:  Mix 2 C flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a mixer bowl with a spatula.  In small saucepan, combine milk and butter, stirring until butter is just melted.  Remove from heat, add water and let rest till warm, not hot.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour milk mixture over flour mixture and mix with spatula until combined.

Switch over to the paddle attachment and add eggs, one at a time, mixing just till incorporated.  Add 1/2 C flour and mix till dough is smooth, 30-45 seconds.  Add 2 T more flour and mix another 45 seconds. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and work dough till smooth, about 1 minute.  If dough is still so shaggy it sticks to your fingers, add 1-2 more T flour.

Place dough in large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for an hour.  When you return, it should have doubled in size.

While you wait, make the lemon-sugar filling:  Mix sugar and two zests with your fingers.  This is such a rustic process.  I love it.  You want to infuse the sugar with the oils and flavor in the zest.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and punch it down a bit.  Roll into a 20 x 12 inch rectangle (or thereabouts, I can never be bothered to be so exact).  Brush melted butter all over dough.

Cut dough crosswise into 5 strips (each about 12 x 4 inches).  Sprinkle 1 1/2 T sugar over each piece, and stack pieces, one on top of the other, with the butter/sugar side facing up.  Slice stack crosswise into 6 equal pieces, so you have 4 x 2 inch rectangles.  Place in loaf pan, cut side up, one right beside the other.  Don’t worry if it’s not a snug fit, the dough will expand as it’s baked.  Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let dough double in size, about 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees about 15 minutes before you expect your dough to be done.  Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  Remove plastic wrap from dough, place in oven, and bake till golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes.

While it’s cooling, make glaze:  Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar in bowl till creamy.  Add milk and lemon juice, and beat till smooth.

Carefully run a knife around the inside of the loaf pan, tilt pan, and remove loaf.  Drizzle glaze all over.

I had leftover glaze, which I had no trouble putting in a little bowl, and using for extra layer dunks.

This cake is best eaten the day it’s made.  If you wanted to make it in advance, save the glaze for the day you’re serving.

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