2 1/4 tsp instant yeast or see *Notes below for active dry yeast
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/3 cup milk
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
2 large eggs
For the lemon sugar filling:
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
3 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest from about 2 lemons
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter melted
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
For the lemon glaze:
1 cup confectioners’/icing sugar
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the bread dough: Stir together 2 cups of the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the yeast and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Alternately, warm in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and add the 1/4 cup water. Set aside until cooled to just warm (120 to 130°F for instant yeast or about 110F for active dry yeast), about 1 minute. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula or the paddle attachment, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing just until incorporated after each addition. Stop the mixer and add the remaining 1/2 cup flour.
If using a stand mixture, remove the paddle attachment and place the kneading hook on the mixture. Resume mixing on low speed, adding additional flour as needed to make a smooth, moist and just slightly sticky dough. If making by hand, knead with as little additional flour as needed until dough is smooth.
Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.
Make the lemon filling: While the dough is rising, in a small bowl, mix together the sugar and lemon zest. Set aside. The sugar draws out moisture from the zests to create a wet sand consistency, so don’t be alarmed when you see this.
Assemble the pull apart bread: Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the centre of the oven. Spray a 4 x 10-inch tea loaf pan with cooking spray. **Alternately, use a 9x5-inch loaf pan and see Notes at bottom for cutting strips. Set on to a baking sheet and set aside.
Place risen dough on a lightly floured surface and gently deflate the dough. Roll the dough into a 12-inch by 21-inch rectangle. Using a sharp knife and with the long side closest to you, cut the dough into 6 strips even strips about 3 1/2 inches wide from top to bottom, making 6 strips 3 1/2-inches wide and 12 inches long. Using a pastry brush, spread the 4 Tbsp melted butter generously over each of the strips of dough. Scatter all the lemon/sugar mixture evenly over-top of the strips as well.
Gently layer all the strips on top of each other into one pile. Using a sharp knife, cut the pile into 6 even pieces, each about 2 inches, making 6 piles about 3 1/2 - 2 inches in size. Arrange the piles in a rowl in your prepared tea loaf pan. Scatter any lemon sugar the was left behind on your work surface over-top of the loaf.
Press fresh blueberries in between slices here and there across the loaf.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 60 minutes.
Bake the loaf on top of a baking sheet, until golden brown and they sound hollow when tapped, about 35 minutes or until it reaches about 190-195F when tested with an instant read thermometer. If the top seems to be at risk of over-browning, cover the top loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil and continue cooking. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and remove loaf to a cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet. Allow to cool completely.
Make the lemon glaze: In a medium bowl combine the icing sugar with the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is smooth and pours easily off a spoon. Drizzle over cooled loaf.