This Cinnamon-Sugar Star Bread is an absolute show-stopper for the holidays, but surprisingly easy to make! Enjoy warm by itself sprinkled with powdered sugar or with a simple cream cheese icing for dunking.
Easy Cinnamon Star Bread Recipe
Want to make a dessert that’s going to make jaws drop? This Cinnamon Sugar Star Bread is it! With an absolutely beautiful presentation, it’s perfect for all occasions from holidays to casual brunches. Though it’s commonly referred to as Christmas star bread, I think it deserves a place on the table throughout the year.
And the best part? Though it looks super fancy, it’s surprisingly easy to make!
Like any yeast bread recipe, you will want to dedicate a few hours to making this star bread. The dough needs to rise twice and the assembly of the star formation does take a few minutes. But don’t worry, you’ll need no tools other than kitchen shears or a good knife and no fancy baking skills either.
This Christmas star bread recipe is made with a handful of pantry staples, potato flakes, and yeast.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- All purpose flour – It’s important to accurately measure the flour when making star bread, so be sure to use the spoon and level technique.
- Potato flakes – You’ll want the flakes from plain instant mashed potatoes. These are sold in a box, typically near the breadcrumbs.
- Instant yeast – Instant yeast can be mixed right in with the other ingredients, no need to activate it first, making this an easier, one-bowl bread recipe.
- Warm milk – You’ll want the milk to be 100 to 110F. If it’s hotter, it can kill the yeast.
- Unsalted butter – Room temperature but not too soft.
- Vanilla – For flavor.
- Sugar – For sweetness. This is a dessert bread.
- Salt – Elevates the other flavors.
- Egg – For the egg wash, so the baked pastry is nice and golden.
- Cinnamon – Cinnamon is mixed with additional sugar to make the cinnamon sugar filling.
- For the icing (optional) – Softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla.
Can I Use Active Dry Yeast?
Yes! Before you begin, place the active dry yeast in a measuring cup with the warm milk, and a generous pinch of the sugar (about 1/4 teaspoon), allow it to foam for about 10 minutes before adding it to the mixing bowl with the other wet ingredients. Good active yeast will nearly double in size after about 10 minutes.
A Few Notes on the Milk
Here are a few tips for warming the milk used in this recipe. If the milk is too hot or too cold, the recipe won’t work properly.
- How to easily warm the milk. Place in a microwave safe glass measuring cup and microwave in 10 second increments until the milk is lukewarm (about 100-110F). Too cold and the yeast will not activate, too hot and the yeast will die. You can also gently warm the milk in a saucepan on the stove top but do not allow the milk to boil.
- Can I substitute the whole milk for another type of milk? You can use 2% but it won’t be as rich. You can also use half & half instead of whole milk, just remove 3 tablespoons full and replace with water.
How to Make Cinnamon Sugar Star Bread
Star bread may look complicated but as long as you have some patience, it’s far easier to make than you might think! No special tools or skills are required.
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements, and don’t miss the video below.)
Prepare the Dough
- Make the dough. Whisk the flour and potato flakes, then add the instant yeast, warm milk, butter, vanilla, sugar, and salt. Mix on low with the paddle attachment until a loose dough forms. Switch to the hook attachment and mix for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is soft and slightly tacky.
- Allow to rise. Transfer the dough ball to a greased bowl. Cover with plastic and place in a warm area, until it doubles in size – usually about 45 minutes.
- Make the cinnamon sugar. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Divide the dough. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll each one into a smooth, round ball.
Assemble the Bread
- Layer the dough. Roll one ball into a 10″ round circle. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar. Roll a second dough ball into a circle, place on the first layer, and press lightly to seal. Top with the egg wash and cinnamon sugar. Repeat with the third dough ball. Roll out the 4th dough ball and place on top of the others.
- Prepare the center. Lightly push a biscuit cutter into the center of the dough circle to make an impression but do not cut through it. Leave the glass in place as a guide while cutting.
- Cut the dough. Use a sharp knife to make 16 evenly spaced cuts up to the line of the impression made in the center.
- Twist the dough. Twist two adjacent strips of dough away from each other two to three times. Pinch the ends tightly together and tuck under a bit to create the points of a star.
- Allow to rise. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Bake. Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Brush the dough with the egg wash and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and the center is no longer doughy. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- Make the icing. Beat the softened cream cheese, milk, and vanilla for 2 minutes. Add in the powdered sugar and beat until smooth, with no lumps. Serve on the side of the star bread for dunking.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips for making star bread even easier.
- How to speed along the first rise. Cover the glass bowl with the dough and place on top of a heating pad (set to low) in a dry, draft free-area of your home.
- What if my dough doesn’t rise enough in 45 minutes? If your dough is rising slowly, just give it more time. Even yeast that’s past its prime will rise after a while! When baking bread, I usually allot 4 hours of time, just in case, but most simple breads will take around 3 hours.
- Use parchment paper under the dough. Preparing the bread on a sheet of parchment paper makes it much easier to transfer the dough to and from the baking sheet.
- Get the dough layers perfectly round. To achieve a perfect circle, stack all layers, place a 10” round plate (or circle of paper) over the bread and trim any excess with a sharp knife.
- How to secure the points. When forming the points, you can pinch/seal the ends together as written in the instructions, or you can flatten the ends of each twist and not join them together with the twist next to them at all. This will allow the ends to flare out into spiky layers, creating more of a fireworks look.
- Don’t burn the bread. The sugar in the dough and the filling will help brown the dough. Watch it closely, if it’s getting brown too quickly, tent it loosely with foil until it’s baked through.
Video: Christmas Star Bread
Serving and Storage
- Serving suggestions. Star bread is best when served warm. You can serve it on its own, dust with powdered sugar, or make the cream cheese icing. Instead of spreading it on the bread, it’s best served on the side for dipping.
- Make the dough in advance. Make the dough through step 2. After it has risen, poke gently with your fingers to release the gas bubbles. Wrap loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 48 hours, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 1 month. Allow dough to come to room temperature and rise in a warm place before continuing with the recipe.
- Storing leftovers. Cinnamon sugar star bread is best enjoyed the same day it’s made but you can store leftovers at room temperature for up to 2 days, tightly covered. I do recommend reheating leftovers before serving. Wrap the bread in foil and reheat at 350F for about 10 minutes. The cream cheese icing can be stored in the fridge for a week in an airtight container.
- Can star bread be frozen? Yes, this cinnamon sugar star bread can be frozen. Freeze freshly baked and cooled bread for up to 1 month. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and again in foil to prevent freezer burn. Thaw at room temperature, then warm in the oven when ready to serve.
More Christmas Recipes:
- Eggnog Muffins
- Cranberry Orange Muffins
- Cranberry Christmas Cake
- Sugared Cranberries
- Hot Cocoa Cookies
- Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Cinnamon-Sugar Star Bread
For the Dough
- 2 cups all purpose flour , spooned and leveled
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup plain instant mashed potato flakes
- 2 & 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
- 3/4 cup warm whole milk (about 100-110F)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter , cubed, room temp
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg , beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Cream Cheese Icing (optional, but recommended)
- 2 ounces cream cheese , softened
- 1 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, briefly whisk together the flour and potato flakes. Add the instant yeast, warm milk, butter, vanilla, sugar, and salt. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment just until a loose dough forms (or mix with a wooden spoon by hand if making in a mixing bowl). Switch to the hook attachment and mix on medium-low for 2-3 minutes (or knead on floured work surface for 3-5 minutes), the dough should be very soft and just slightly tacky. If it’s sticky, add a tablespoon of flour and mix with dough hook until combined.
- Lightly grease a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray or canola oil. Place the dough ball in the bowl, flip over so all sides get oiled. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm area of your kitchen to rise until nearly doubled in size, about 45 minutes. The dough will be tender, fragrant, and feel puffy when it’s ready.
- Mix the cinnamon sugar ingredients in a small bowl, set aside. Lightly spray a 12” piece of parchment paper with non-stick spray, set aside.
- On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 4 equal portions, roll each portion into a smooth round ball.
- Roll one dough ball at a time into a 10” round circle. Place it on the greased parchment paper. Brush entire surface lightly edge to edge with egg wash. Sprinkle 1/3 (about 2 heaping tablespoons) of the cinnamon sugar evenly on the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch edge bare.
- Roll out the next dough ball, place it on top of the first layer and press lightly to seal, and repeat the egg wash, and cinnamon sugar step. Repeat these steps with the third dough ball.
- Roll out the fourth dough ball and place it on top of the others. Place a 3” drinking glass or biscuit cutter in the center of the dough circle, and push lightly to make an impression, this is the center of your star and you will not cut through this. You can also leave the glass in place as a guide while you make the cuts.
- Use a very sharp large knife or sharp kitchen shears to make 16 evenly spaced cuts up to the line of the impression made by the glass. (The easiest way to do this is by dividing the circle in half first, then halve the half circles to create wedges, and halve wedges until you’ve made 16 evenly spaced cuts.)
- Grasp two adjacent strips of dough and twist away from each other two or three times (do not try to twist more than three times.) Pinch the ends together tightly and tuck under a bit to create the points of the star. You should have 8 points.
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about 20-30 minutes. It will be noticeably puffy, but will not grow in size like the first rise. (Do not do the second rise in a proofing box or low temperature oven, this will cause the sugar to melt out of your bread too much, and it will stick to the parchment paper.)
- Preheat oven with rack positioned in the middle of the oven to 400F. Brush dough lightly with egg wash. Transfer parchment paper and dough to a large baking sheet, bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown, and center is cooked through and no longer doughy. Cool for 10 minutes, serve warm.
- To make the icing: In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, milk, and vanilla for about 2 minutes with a hand mixer on medium low. It will be lumpy. Add in the powdered sugar and beat on low until a smooth icing comes together and no more lumps are present, about 2 minutes. Increase to medium speed if you are having trouble getting the lumps to smooth out. It should be a drizzly consistency. If it’s too thick, add a splash of milk. If it’s too thin, add powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- Dust the star bread with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve with the cream cheese icing on the side for dunking!