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Learn to make sourdough pull apart Christmas tree bread for a festive holiday side or appetizer! It’s easier than it looks to shape the tree, and you’ll love the garlic bread filling.
This garlic sourdough Christmas tree is such a fun appetizer!
The Christmas tree bread can be made all in one day if you feed your starter the night before and start the dough in the morning.
Alternately, you can mix and bulk ferment the dough a day ahead and then refrigerate it to finish the next day.
The dough is enriched with olive oil and a touch of honey for flavor and softness before it is shaped with a classic garlic bread filling.
You could serve the pull apart Christmas tree bread as is or with marinara sauce for dipping!
*The strength of your starter, the temperature in your home, and other factors will affect how long each step will take.
- Mix and knead: 15 minutes
- Bulk fermentation: 4-6 hours
- Retard in refrigerator (optional): 12 hours+
- Shape and proof: 1-3 hours depending on temperature
- Egg wash, top, and bake: 35-40 minutes
Tips for Making Sourdough Pull Apart Christmas Tree Bread
- Use a rimmed baking sheet since a little butter leakage during baking is normal.
- Be sure to proof the Christmas tree bread sufficiently so the bread-stick-like branches don’t bake up dense or tough. The dough should be puffy and soft to the touch when it’s done proofing.
- Digital kitchen scale
- Stand mixer (or you can knead by hand)
- 4-quart Cambro container and lid for bulk fermentation (or a large bowl)
- Parchment paper
- Rolling pin
- Rimmed half-sheet pan
- Kitchen shears
- Pastry brush
How to Make Sourdough Pull Apart Christmas Tree Bread (Step-by-Step)
Step 1 – Mix and Ferment Dough
The dough comes together easily in a stand mixer, and the ingredients are by weight for consistency.
Depending on your mixer, you may be able to place the bowl directly on your kitchen scale.
Add the starter, extra virgin olive oil, honey, kosher salt, and water. Then add the unbleached all-purpose flour. Mix until well incorporated.
Then you’ll continue to knead on low speed for about 8 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl or container for bulk fermentation. Cover the container, and place the dough in a warm place.
Wait until it has doubled in volume if you’re going to shape and bake the dough all in the same day.
If you want to put the dough in the fridge until the next day, let it rise 2/3 of the way and then refrigerate. The dough will continue to rise in the fridge until it cools down.
Step 2 – Prepare Garlic Bread Filling
When you’re ready to shape your garlic sourdough Christmas tree, prepare your garlic bread filling.
You’re first going to melt about 1.5 tablespoons of the butter in a small skillet set to medium heat.
Then stir in your crushed garlic and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, stirring constantly to prevent burning. This ensures the garlic will have a sweeter and less “sharp” flavor in the bread.
Once the garlic butter is finished, stir it into the remaining softened butter, dried parsley, and salt until well combined. Set it aside while you roll out the dough.
Step 2 – Shape Sourdough Pull Apart Christmas Tree
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out evenly into a 10×15-inch rectangle.
Use a dull knife to slice it on the diagonal into two triangles. Rotate the triangles so the tall points are upwards like a Christmas tree.
To even out each triangle (turn them into isosceles triangles), cut off the wonky corner from the bottom of one triangle, then flip it over to the opposite bottom corner and press it in place.
This way we can form the triangles without wasting any dough.
Without stretching out the triangle, place the first one on a rimmed half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Use your fingers to coax the triangle into the proper shape.
Then spread the prepared garlic bread filling over the top surface of the triangle.
Gently place the second triangle on top of the first to cover the filling. Make sure the two triangles are lined up well.
Now use the dull knife to draw a light guideline vertically down the center of the Christmas tree, starting about 2 inches below the top point of the tree.
Now use kitchen shears to cut the horizontal branches of the Christmas tree. Start on the outside and cut inward toward the center, stopping just shy of the center guideline.
I prefer to space my branches about 1¼-inches apart so they aren’t too thin once the tree bakes.
Now the fun part: give each branch on one side of the tree a twist to showcase the garlic filling.
Then twist the branches on the other side of the tree in the opposite direction.
Step 4 – Proof, Egg Wash and Bake
Make sure the branches are all sitting the way you like them, then cover the tray with plastic wrap.
Allow the sourdough pull apart Christmas tree to proof for 1-2 hours or more (depending on whether your dough was cold from the fridge).
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle.
When the bread is fully proofed, the branches will be nice and puffy and very soft to the touch. The dough will pass the “poke” test.
This means when you press it with a damp finger the indent will bounce back very slowly since the dough has relaxed sufficiently.
Make an egg wash by beating together an egg with a tablespoon of milk. Brush this mixture in a thin layer all over the tree. This will add shine and help the tree to brown.
Garnish the Christmas tree with a little coarse salt and more dried parsley for a little color.
Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until your garlic sourdough Christmas tree is lightly golden-brown.
You can expect a little butter to leak from the layers, but most of it will be reabsorbed by the time the tree is done baking.
Leave the Christmas tree on the pan to cool and set the pan on top of a cooling rack for a few minutes.
Step 5 – Serve the Sourdough Pull Apart Christmas Tree
I like to serve the Christmas tree bread while it’s still warm.
I use a couple of spatulas to transfer the Christmas tree bread to a fresh sheet of parchment and place it on a serving board.
You could simply place the tree on a large tray.
Serve it with marinara sauce for dipping, if you so desire!
Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days or wrap and freeze for longer storage. Enjoy!
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