Meyer Lemon Pull-Apart Bread

This bread is one of those recipes that immediately caught my eye, I love lemony treats. It’s also one of those recipes that has been lost in my abyss of bookmarks for months. As it is the season for citrus, my local grocery store has been stocked with all kinds of zesty goodness. We are big fans of oranges and grapefruits, simply segmented maybe with a drizzle of maple syrup or a sprinkle of Pico de Gallo (I love this stuff on apples and mangoes too), but I do most of my citrusy baking with Meyer Lemons. I love them, sweet-sour and such a perfect sunny yellow.

This bread is akin to sticky-bun, but instead of caramel or cinnamon, it’s sweet bright lemon. The filling between the layers is sticky, sweet, and tangy from the copious amounts of meyer lemon zest. The top gets golden and crusty, while the bottom is ooey-gooey like the bottom of a pan of sticky buns. The icing is perfect, tangy cream cheese and lemon, but it could definitely be left out.

It’s the perfect sharing bread, warm from the oven, around the coffee table, lattes in hand, and good conversation being had.

Meyer Lemon Scented Pull Apart Bread

Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria and Anger Burger. My only real adaptations were that I used Meyer Lemons instead of the regular old kind. Whatever lemons you do use, try to get organic or unsprayed ones, as you will be zesting and no one likes tainted zest.

This recipe is also notoriously a bit tricky, as there is stacking and layering and the dough is SUPER sticky. Definitely try to make the dough the night before…it makes the rolling/layering/stacking process loads easier.


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar (i used organic cane w/ fine results)

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 envelope)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup whole milk

2 oz. butter, unsalted

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs, room temp

Lemon Filling:

1 cup sugar

the zest of 5-6 meyer lemons

2 oz. unsalted butter, melted


3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

juice of 1 meyer lemon

1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set aside. In a small saucepan heat milk and butter  over low heat until the butter is just melted. Remove from heat, add water, and set aside for about a minute until the temperature registers 120F-130F, add vanilla.

Pour the milk mixture over the dry mixture and combine with a rubber spatula (or a bowl scraper). Mixing by hand, add eggs one at a time (you can use a mixer if you want, fitted w/ the dough hook). Mixing in the eggs takes some effort and it will seem like you are swirling dough around in an eggy mess, but keep going until it is incorporated. Add 1/2 cup flour and mix until smooth (30-45 seconds). Add remaining flour, 2 tablespoons at a time and knead until smooth and sticky (it will be stickier, resist the urge to powder it up with flour).

Place the dough in a large, greased bowl (I used my mixing bowl) cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Deflate the dough. At this point you can either pop the dough in the refrigerator overnight and resume in the morning, or if you are brave you can tackle the dough now.

In a small bowl rub sugar for the filling with the zest of the lemons with your fingers.

On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough into roughly a 12 X 20 inch rectangle (erring on the side of smaller is okay here as the finished dough will rises considerably, filling in any gaps). Using a pastry brush spread all of the melted butter over the dough. Cut the dough North to South in strips (12X4 in pieces). Spread 1/5 of the lemon zest mixture onto a rectangle of dough, stack another rectanngle on top and repeat. You can reshape and maniupulate the dough as needed to make a nice stack.

Preheat the oven to 350F and place rack in the center. Lightly grease a 9X5 loaf pan.

Slice the stack through the five layers into 6 equal sections, about 2X4 inches. Fit the layered strip into the loaf pan, cut side down…as if it were a loaf of pre-sliced bread. Cover the pan in plastic and allow to rise another 45-50 minutes until nearly doubled in size. If you poke the dough and the indentation stays it is ready to bake.

Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.

Make glaze. Stir cream cheese until smooth. Add lemon juice and powdered sugar, combine.

Turn out the bread while it is still warm and glaze. This bread is delicious still warm from the oven and is best eaten the day it is baked.


  1. says

    WOW!! I just made this with a Cinnobon Bread Machine dough recipe and used orange zest and OJ instead. We’re stuck at home with an ice storm so this is the PERFECT fresh boost we needed. Thanks.

  2. Heather says

    Ok, I know it’s annoying when people comment on recipes and then want to make all kinds of substitutions, but here I am, wondering if there are any suggestions to make this without the eggs?

    I realize it would potentially still be bread-y without them, but that kind of stickiness and density they’d give it seem like necessities here…any help would be so appreciated, I want this Saturday morning!!

    • says

      hi heather,
      the dough is an enriched dough, meaning it contains fats, unlike simpler breads made of basically water/yeast/flour. the eggs are one of the ingredients that would enrich the dough. I did a quick google search and there were lots of suggestions of what to use to replace the eggs, from egg replacers to applesauce and bananas…I’m thinking you might be able to replace the eggs with some butter or whole-milk/cream. I don’t really have a firm answer, sorry and I hope this helps.

    • Lindsay says

      Hi Heather,

      My Daughter is allergic to eggs so I always have to replace them. I have found that using 1T of ground flaxseed to 3T of water (per egg) still makes a wonderful dough and a little healthier. I am starting the bread tonight and can’t wait to try it in the morning! I hope that this helps.

  3. Susan says

    Oh Cindy…we are friends already. This looks great, what a great twist to making Cinnamon Rolls. I can’t wait to make and share it with family and friends.
    I just started my new cooking is so much fun.

  4. Jessica says

    I just made a cinnamon sugar version, and will be trying the lemon/sugar filling this weekend. Sounds so good! I have a questions about the dough. I found that some of the yeast did not dissolve in the dough and I had some pebbles of yeast still around when I was rolling it out this morning. I followed the recipe carefully but did not have a thermometer so it may have been that the milk was not warm enough when I added it to the dry ingredients. It rose fine, and doubled it’s size quite quickly so the yeast did it’s job. The only other thing I could think as that my dough wasn’t wet enough to let the yeast pebbles dissolve quickly… DO you think it would mess up the dough if I dissolved the sugar and yeast in the 1/4 cup of water before I added it to the dry ingredients? Despite the yeast pebbles, it baked up fine and is already half gone ;)
    Thanks for the recipe!

    • says

      Hi Jessica!,
      I have run into the same problem before with other recipes. I have had luck dissolving the yeast into the liquid ingredients before hand. I hope that helps :)

  5. Donna says

    Oh my goodness, I don’t have time before Easter, but right after, this is at the top of the list! Thank you so much for sharing. This is the first time I’ve visited your site. Love this recipe and can’t wait to see what else you have to share.

    Blessings, Donna

  6. says

    I made this last week, took some over to my food neighbors and was told it was money. I’m considering using it to barter. It’s sooooo good! Thank you very much! My neighbors love me thanks to you!

    • says

      That is awesome! I’m glad your neighbors liked it and love you now :) I’m so happy you tried the recipe, seriously…makes my day!

  7. says

    Hiya – lemons are finally back into season here in NZ and I’ve bookmarked this to make…excitement and nervous since working with dough is where I feel the least confidence in the kitchen! But seeing that I LOVE sticky pull-apart bread/buns, I figured homemade has got to be better than the stuff I can get at my local supermarket. Quick question – with using the zest from 5/6 lemons, do you have any recommendations (maybe one of your recipes?) on what I can use all these lemons for after? Cheers Cindy! :-))

  8. Mugdha says

    Dear Cindy,
    I absolutely adore your blog, d recipes and the photography is just out of the world… this is one of the best food blogs i have seen lately… your recipes are so simple and interesting… though m not a baker myself but m sure gonna be one soon.. ;)
    its a huge inspiration to make different kinda cookies n cakes..(my lil one 2 yrs old has a huge sweet tooth) with your blog m sure i will keep his nibbling in check.. :)

    Mumbai, India


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