Sweet Christmas Tree Bread makes a great centrepiece for any festive table. An easy to make tear & share bread with step by step instructions.
Sweet Christmas Tree Bread
Spiced fruit buns decorated with snowy icing and glacé cherries. This Tear & Share Christmas Tree Bread makes a great centrepiece for any festive table. Easy to make and easy to decorate – so a great recipe for the kids to get involved with.
It’s a sweet yeasted dough enriched with just enough buttermilk and butter to make a soft and moist dough. Unlike a brioche dough, which has a higher butter ratio and needs a long rise, my dough is ready after one and a half hours.
For me, the run up to Christmas is just as enjoyable as Christmas itself. I really do love all my Christmas making and baking. The Kitchen Shed has been smelling Christmassy for a few weeks now since I started making some of the goodies for our families’ gift hampers.
That said, not everything can be made weeks in advance. It’s become a Christmas tradition here at the Kitchen Shed to make our Christmas Tree Bread on Christmas Eve. If I’m lucky and there’s any of these iced fruit buns left, I’ll often tuck into one for breakfast on Christmas morning.
How to make Tear & Share Christmas Tree Bread
Make your dough:
The dough can be made in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or you can knead it by hand. Kids love kneading dough and I have many fond memories of my boys and my nephews taking it in turns to improve their kneading skills.
Don’t worry about over kneading, it really is hard to over knead a dough. Stop kneading when your dough is smooth and elastic and try the window pane test.
The windowpane test is a consistently reliable way to check your dough is ready. Pinch off a small piece of dough and gently stretch it apart, pulling and rotating the dough into a thin membrane, or window pane, which is translucent when you hold it up to the light.
Place your dough in a greased bowl and cover.
Leave for about one and half hours in a warm place or until doubled in size.
Now it’s time to turn out your dough and divide into 22 pieces.
Shape 21 pieces into balls and the remaining piece into an oblong for the trunk of your tree.
Place the dough balls in the shape of a Christmas Tree on your baking tray. Don’t leave too much room between them (about 2.5 cm / 1″) which allows the buns to rise and touch each other.
Lastly, cover and leave to rise for about 45 minutes before baking in the oven.
Make your icing and decorate:
Time for some fun with the kids !
The icing is really easy to make – just mix a couple of tablespoons of boiling water into sieved icing sugar and mix.
Place your Christmas Tree Bread on its cooling rack, prop up the rack and ice your tree.
Decorate with glacé cherries.
Although I went for a red and white theme, you can play around with the decorations.
Green cherries and pistachios would look great, sliced apricots and orange peel … I’ll leave it up to you.
How to store Pull Apart Christmas Tree Bread
Fresh is best but on the other hand Christmas Tree Bread will keep for 2 to 3 days stored in an airtight container.
Can you freeze Christmas Tree Bread ?
Yes you can but it’s best to freeze the Tear & Share Christmas Tree Bread unadorned.
It’s a great way to get ahead with your baking. Christmas time can be so hectic so having a ready baked Christmas Tree Bread in your freezer is really handy. Decorating it takes no time at all.
Simply defrost at room temperature and pop in the oven for 10 minutes at 400°F / 200°C Fan / 180°C / Gas Mark 6. This warms it through just enough to make the icing easier as well as freshening the bread.
Tear & Share Christmas Tree Bread
- 1 large baking tray lined with baking parchment
Sweet Bread Dough:
- 600 g strong white bread flour
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 75 g softened butter or sunflower margarine
- 350 ml buttermilk or half milk and half natural yoghurt
- 110 g dried mixed fruit
- 2 tablespoons chopped marmalade
- 1 teaspoon Christmas Spice or mixed spice
- 200 g icing sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons boiling water
- Approx 20 glacé cherries or your choice of decoration
Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C Fan / 180°C / Gas Mark 6
Make the bread dough:
- Warm the buttermilk (or milk and yoghurt mixture) for 1 minute in a microwave on full power. The liquid temperature needs to be tepid to warm so as to encourage the yeast to start working – too much heat will kill the yeast. Gently warm liquid in a saucepan if you don’t have a microwave.
If mixing and kneading your dough by hand:
- Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl, stirring them together until they form a ball.
- Knead by hand for 10 to 12 minutes.
If mixing and kneading your dough using a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook:
- Add the dough ingredients into your mixer bowl.
- Mix on slow speed number 1 for approximately 1 to 2 minutes then on speed number 2 for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Your dough should be lovely and smooth and elastic.
- Place your dough in a large greased mixing bowl and cover.
- Leave to rest in a warm place for at least one and a half hours or until doubled in size.
- Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and divide into 22 portions of approximately 55g to 60g each.
- Shape 21 portions into balls and the last piece into an oblong for the tree trunk.
- Place the dough balls onto the baking tray in the shape of the Christmas tree – see photos – with 6 dough balls on the first row and the tree trunk underneath at the centre.
- Continue with 5 dough balls on the second and so on until you have a single dough ball at the top.
- Leave no more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) between each dough ball and when risen they will touch each other, which maintains the Christmas tree shape.
- Cover and leave to rise for about 45 minutes or until well risen.
- Bake in the oven the 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.
Make your icing:
- Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of boiling water and mix. You want the icing to be quite thick and not too runny so you can get the snow effect.
- You may need to add a touch more water but add a drop at a time.
- Let your bread cool for about 10 minutes (it still wants to be warm) before you add the icing.
- Prop up your cooling rack on one end so that the icing can drip a little.
- Place about a teaspoonful of icing on the top of each bread ball and spread it to cover the tops.
- Place the cherries on your Christmas tree bread and leave to set.