citrus pull-apart bread (+ weekend baking thoughts)

citrus pull apart bread

I haven’t really read a lot of parenting books.  Part of this is because I really don’t want to get into the wars of different opinions about feeding and sleeping and attachment, etc. etc.; part of this is because I studied child development in college; and part of this is because gosh there are so many other books that sound so much more exciting to me.  But Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe has had my eye for a while now, since it came out really, which I put on my to-read list with the exact thought of “I’ll read this when I’m expecting a baby.”  And, well, I guess that time is now.

oranges and lemons

Despite some of the controversy around the book, I thought it was entirely fascinating, both as a parenting and as a cultural study.  There were things I agreed with in the book, things I thought were common sense, and things I didn’t so much like.  There were a couple of chapters that I made Gerrit read (mostly the chapters on sleeping and eating).

citrus bread dough

citrus bread dough, risen

One of my favorite chapters, one of the chapters I sticky-noted (can that be a verb?) for Gerrit, was the chapter about patience.  It was one of those chapters that sounded like so much common sense (but common sense that it is good to be reminded of).  But the part I keep thinking about is the baking part, the part about how French families often bake with their children on Saturdays, often a simple cake for later in the day, and how this regular baking is all about patience.  The patience of measuring and stirring, and then the patience of the cake being done and having to wait until afternoon snack to have some of it.  And well…of course.  It makes complete sense.

citrus pull apart bread steps_600x450

citrus pull apart bread
citrus pull apart bread

Of course it sounds so romantic to spend Saturdays baking.  And armed with this idea I tackled this bread.  It is, of course, a lesson in patience as an adult, too, to spend your Saturday kneading and rolling and stacking bread and making a filling and two different kinds of glazes.  And this, out of all the recipes I’ve made, is one of those (along with swiss mushroom steak crepes) where I can tell you with complete confidence that your hard work and your patient waiting and your cleaning off the kitchen counter about five times will way more than be rewarded.

citrus pull apart bread, pre-glaze

citrus pull apart bread

citrus pull-apart bread

Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours

Yield: 2 loaves

I won’t lie to you and tell you this bread is easy. It was a bit of a multi-step process. But it is more than worth it. The bread comes out of the oven smelling like the best combination of yeast and faint citrus, and when you pull apart the pieces they are buttery and soft and flaked with perfumed sugar. And of course, the sweet glaze on top makes it the perfect treat. And one other note: the citrus measurements are all split up to various teaspoons and tablespoons of zest and juice here and there. I found that a total of 3 large lemons and 2 oranges worked out to give me the right amounts of everything.


  • For the bread:
  • 1/4 cup warm water (hot water from the tap is fine)
  • 1 (1/4 oz.) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour (plus more for your counter)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Cooking spray (or oil) (to coat the bowl)
  • For the filling:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • For the first glaze (pre-baking):
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 large egg white
  • For the second glaze (post baking):
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  1. Start by making the bread. In a 1 cup measuring cup, combine the warm water, yeast and sugar. Stir together and let stand for 5 minutes, until it is foaming up a good bit.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and salt and beat until like and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Then beat in the eggs, milk, and lemon juice, followed by the yeast mixture.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the bread flour and nutmeg. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed just until the ingredients are well blended.
  4. Sprinkle your clean counter top generously with bread flour and dump the dough out onto it. Knead the dough, sprinkling it with more flour as necessary, until it is smooth and elastic and only slightly tacky feeling (about 4-5 minutes).
  5. Clean out the bowl you mixed the bread in, and coat it evenly in cooking spray or oil. Place the dough in the bowl, and turn it over so that all surfaces of the bread are coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place (I like to put my bread in a slightly pre-warmed oven that is then turned off) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
  6. When the dough has almost risen, make the filling. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar, orange zest, and lemon zest.
  7. Punch the dough down, and dump it out onto your still floured counter top. Divide the dough in half.
  8. Working with each half separately, roll the dough out into a 20 x 12 inch rectangle. Spread the dough with half of the butter and then sprinkle with half of the sugar/zest mixture.
  9. Cut the dough into five strips that are about 12 x 4 inches. Then stack these strips on top of each other. If your zest mixture gets a bit out of place as you move the strips, just use your fingers to even it back out. Place the last strip face down on top of the other strips so that the top surface does not having filling on it. Cut this stack of strips into 6 rectangles that are about 4 x 2 inches.
  10. Lightly grease two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Place the rectangles you cut in the pan, cut sides up. They won’t necessarily fit snugly together and that’s fine. Just spread them out evenly to take up the whole pan.
  11. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, butter, honey, and egg white. Spoon half of the mixture evenly over each loaf.
  12. Cover the loaf pans and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
  13. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the loaves for 30 to 35 minutes, until they are golden brown on top. (If they start to look a little too golden brown before they seem done, you can tent them with aluminum foil.)
  14. While the bread is baking, make the glaze. In a medium sized bowl combine the powdered sugar and butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until blended. Then add the orange zest, orange juice, and lemon juice and beat until smooth. If the glaze seems a little too thick for your liking, you can add another teaspoon or 2 of citrus juice.
  15. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Put some paper towels under your wire rack, and then carefully remove the loaves from the pans and return them to the wire rack. Drizzle each loaf evenly with the citrus glaze (the paper towels will catch the excess). Serve warm or at room temperature.


adapted from February 2014 Southern Living Magazine

2 Responses

  1. Becki June 6, 2014 at 7:42 am |

    Did she say if the baking with the family is about patience for you or for the kids? I find that it is always a good way to test my own patience:-). For me it is also a control thing. When I bake with the kids I realize I need to be able to say – its ok if things don’t turn out exactly as I would do it (or if there is more flour on the floor than in the recipe)….which is a good exercise for me.

    I want this bread! I love citrus and I have seen quite a few variations of this pull apart bread, but this one looks like it is definitely worth the effort. Yum!

  2. Tami February 19, 2017 at 7:09 pm |

    I saw this in Southern Living, but I had a hard time understanding some of the steps. Your directions and pics made this so much easier! My family loved this hot out of the oven. I’m thinking of making this in a smaller loaf pan so that I can maybe get 3-4 loaves instead of 2. What do you suggest I do to modify the cooking time for an 8 x 4 in pan?


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