Beautiful Braided Lemon Loaf with Lemon Curd & Cream Cheese

The title says it all. Soft and fluffy enriched dough filled with flavourful and sharp lemon curd balanced with mellow and smooth cream cheese.

This recipe has it all. Perfect balance, perfect texture, awesome flavour.

Using a preferment makes this dough super soft. It is a quick preferment that takes less than an hour to rise. If you want to save some time, then you can certainly sacrifice the texture a bit and make this into a straight dough by simply adding the preferment ingredients to the main dough and mixing all at once.

The lemon curd is extremely simple to make, but it takes some time to cool down and set. I left mine in the fridge overnight, but it should not take more than 3 hours. Using the lemon zest as well as the juice gives it an extra flavour kick. If you want your lemon curd to be completely smooth, then strain it after cooking. But in my opinion, it does not benefit from straining as it is being baked inside a loaf of bread and the texture will not be as prominent.

You will only need half of the curd for the loaf. Use the rest for something else or simply make half the amount. I ate it on the side along with the bread for an even stronger lemon kick!

If you do not want to make the curd, then you can simply replace it with some store-bought jam. There can be many different thigs you could use in place of it if it is not something too wet or runny.

Use a full fat thick cream cheese as it will keep its shape better and not leak when baking. I used the classic Philadelphia.

Controlling the temperature of the dough in this one is especially important. Since the preferment will be at room temperature that means we have to use cold milk, cold egg, and cold sour cream for the main dough. But that would not be enough if kneading by hand, so the flour temperature must be lowered too. I placed my flour in the fridge whilst the preferment was rising.

Watch the video down below for detailed instructions on all the above.


For the preferment

50g (1.75oz) strong white bread flour

3g (0.1oz) instant dry yeast, 3.6g (0.12oz) active dry yeast or 9g (0.3oz) fresh yeast

50g (1.75oz) milk at around 25C (77F) if your kitchen is around 20-22C (68-72F) *

*To learn more about dough temperature control click here.


For the main dough –

250g (8.8oz) strong white bread flour, chilled to around 15C (60F) *

20g (0.7oz) soft butter

6g (0.2oz) salt

40g (1.4oz) sugar

5g (0.17oz) vanilla syrup

30g (1oz) sour cream, cold from the fridge*

1 egg, around 50g (1.75oz), cold from the fridge*

40g (1.4oz) milk, cold from the fridge*

*To learn more about dough temperature when using a preferment click here.


For the lemon curd –

100g (3.5oz) lemon juice

2 eggs, around 100g (3.5oz)

120g (4.2oz) sugar

50g (1.75oz) cold butter, cubed

Lemon zest off all the lemons used


For the cream cheese filling –

150g (5.3oz) full fat cream cheese

30g (1oz) sour cream

30g (1oz) sugar

10g (0.35oz) lemon juice

20g (0.7oz) flour


To decorate –

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon of milk

Sugar pearls or confectioner’s sugar. Other decorations can be used, but make sure they are not the kind that melt in the oven!


Syrup to finish –

20g (0.7oz) sugar

20g (0.7oz) water

*Bring up to the boil just before the loaf comes out the oven.


The sour cream in the dough as well as in the filling can be replaced with full fat natural yogurt.


  1. Make the cream cheese filling. In a bowl combine the sour cream, sugar, lemon juice, and flour. Mix well until there are no lumps left. Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Cover and leave in the fridge for later.
  2. Make the lemon curd. In a small pan combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and eggs. Whisk together. Cook the mix on medium heat whisking occasionally. Bring it up to a temperature between 75C – 80C (167F-176F). As soon as it hits that temperature take it off the heat. Whisk in the butter in two stages. Pour the curd in a bowl, cover with clingfilm so that it is touching to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate it until completely cold.
  3. Make the preferment. Combine the milk & yeast. Mix well to dissolve the yeast. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cover and ferment for 45 – 60 minutes or until puffed up and full of tiny bubbles.
  4. Make the main dough. In a large bowl combine the milk, egg, butter, sugar, salt, vanilla syrup, sour cream, and the preferment. Mix well to dissolve any large salt and sugar crystals. Add the flour and mix to a dough.
  5. Tip the dough out on your table and knead it for 6 minutes. *Desired dough temperature 25C (77F). If your dough is warmer, then it will ferment more rapidly. If it is cooler, then it will take longer. Adjust proofing time accordingly.
  6. Cover and ferment for 45 minutes.
  7. Fold.
  8. Ferment for 45 more minutes.
  9. Roll the dough out to a large rectangle. I am using a 21cm x 31cm (8in x 12in) baking tray. You want the length to be about the same as the tray, but the width should be around 5cm (2in) bigger. Visually divide the dough into 3 equal strips lengthwise. You can draw two lines on it to guide you. Using your scraper cut the sides of the dough into an equal number of strips on each side. Remove the corners. Place the corner pieces back into the middle of the dough.
  10. Start by filling it with the cream cheese. Use all of it and create a trench in the middle for the curd. Fill the trench up with the curd. If you make the whole recipe for the curd, then you will only have to use half of it in the loaf.
  11. Fold the top piece of dough over the filling and gently braid the loaf by folding the strips across it alternating from one side to the other. Once you reach the bottom and there are only 4 strips left, fold the bottom piece up and cover that with the side strips. Watch the video to get a better idea on the shaping.
  12. Cover the loaf and proof it for around 2 – 2.5 hours. It must rise well before baking. Make sure it puffs up real big before it hits the oven. If you think it needs longer, then leave it for longer. *During the final hour of fermentation preheat your oven to 160C (320F) fan on.
  13. Brush the loaf with the egg yolk & milk glaze. Leave it to dry for 5 minutes, then brush it again. Sprinkle with sugar pearls.
  14. Bake for around 40 – 45 minutes. Turn it around halfway through the bake.
  15. Brush the loaf with hot sugar syrup as soon as it comes out the oven.


Let it cool down for at least 30 minutes before tucking in. Enjoy!


Keep in mind that the conditions in each kitchen are different, so fermentation times may vary for you. It is up to the baker to control the bread and react accordingly.

Your oven may be different too, so your baking time may vary.

Watch the video here

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