Christmas Tree Bread makes a great centrepiece for any festive table – a delicious Christmassy tear & share bread packed with fruit & spices to be enjoyed by all the family!
I love Christmas time and Christmas baking and it’s definitely starting to feel festive in the Kitchen Shed. In fact the Kitchen Shed has been smelling Christmassy for a few weeks now since I started making some of the goodies for our gift hampers. According to my Christmas counter it’s 33 days to Christmas as I write this post … I better get those hampers finished !
My very first post was a Christmas cake recipe and I can’t believe we’re coming up to my blog’s first anniversary. I’m hoping to post a few more Christmas ideas this year so I thought it would be fun to kick off with a Christmas Tree Bread to make and share with family and friends.
Although I went for a red and white theme on my Christmas Tree Bread, 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. The enriched dough is easy to make (not too sweet, so it doesn’t need proving overnight) and the fragrant spices combine perfectly with the sweetness of marmalade, icing and cherries.
I was so pleased with the Christmas tree effect that I decided to make a savoury version too, see what you think.
Tempted? If you’d like to try this recipe for yourself, here it is an easily printable form. Just hit the PRINT button on the recipe card below.
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 glace cherries or your choice of decoration
- You will need: 1 large baking tray lined with baking parchment
Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°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.
- I just used the teaspoon to spread the icing a little, see photos.
- Place the cherries on your Christmas tree bread and leave to set.
THE WINDOW PANE 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.
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