Source for this image here.
Whilse we were staying with my brother in law and his family, my sweet sister in law were able (in between caring for their 5 adorable wee bairns - a 2 year old, and 2 sets of twins, aged 4 and 9 months) to enjoy spending some time together doing fun things indoors with Little Bear (who is a wonderful mama-in-waiting and got lots of practice with her cousins!) including some baking, which we all enjoyed. One fun idea that she showed us was how to make "Christmas tree buns", which were not only very easy to make, but delicious! The final result looks as if it was so much trouble to create, but truly, they are so easy you'll be able to make them with your preschoolers - just as we did!The basic recipe for Christmas tree buns is really up to you - it's all in the design! A simple bread recipe is fine - and you can make your buns either savoury, or sweet, as we did. For our buns we used a basic cinnamon roll recipe. The recipe I normally use for cinnamon rolls is quite rich, but for these rolls we opted for a simple bread recipe which we made by hand - something like this:-
500 g flour (I don't use strong bread flour to make cinnamon rolls)
2 teaspoons salt
1 7g sachet dried fast-action yeast
300 mls lukewarm water
I usually presoak my flour when I make bread but on this occasion we didn't have time, so we made it the ordinary way, by adding the yeast and salt to the flour, then the water and mixing by hand until you get a soft dough. Remove it from the bowl and knead well for 10 minutes, then return to the bowl and cover with a damp teatowel and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Take the risen dough from the bowl and punch down (you can be quite aggressive about this!) and then knead again for a couple more minutes.
At this stage, you can then make your cinnamon rolls. You'll need:-
100 g butter or margarine (we did actually use butter this time!)
100 g brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Start by preparing your dough. You will need to stretch it (as you do a pizza base) into rectangle about 12 inches along its widest sides and approximately 5 - 6 inches down the shorter 2. Mix the cinnamon with the butter and spread it over the dough, bringing it quite close to the edges (else the first and last buns you cut won't have much filling). Then sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter and cinnamon mixture. Now roll the dough up, swiss-roll (jelly-roll) style, bringing one of the long edges towards you until you fetch up with a big long sausage of dough with the sugary, cinnamon butter spiralling through the middle. Take a sharp knife now, and cut reasonably thick (about 1 inch) slices off the roll to create your buns. You don't want them to be quite as thick as usual because you will need quite a few to create your Christmas tree - aim for about 16 slices ideally.
When making ordinary cinnamon buns you would now place the buns on a greased baking sheet and leave them for a second, shorter rising before baking. But to make Christmas tree buns, there is one last step!
Take your baking sheet (the biggest one you have) and grease. You are now ready to create your Christmas tree! It's very simple ...
Just place the buns in a pyramid on the baking sheet, starting with one bun, then placing 2 on the next layer, and 3 on the third, until you have used all the buns up. Make sure you keep the buns close together so that they form a tree shape. We had 5 layers to our tree, and managed to keep one bun back for the base of the tree! You can decorate them with cherries and such like if you wish too. After you are happy with the look, you can put the bun tree somewhere warm to rise again for another 30 minutes or so. When it has had its second rising, it is ready to bake. Before they go in the oven you can give them a glaze for extra Christmassy shine and sparkle by beating an egg in some water and then brushing this over the buns.
Place them in a fairly hot (gas 6, 200 degrees) oven and bake for about 10 minutes, then lower the heat a couple of notches and bake for another 20 minutes or so. The Christmas tree buns are done when they are golden and springy to the touch.
Once you have removed the bun tree from the oven and allowed it to cool, you can also give it further embellishments with icing and other cake decorations - how much and how elaborate is entirely up to you! I will say though that in our opinion cinnamon buns are much the nicest when they are still warm!
For further ideas and some pictures, Taste Of Home has some lovely recipes for Christmas tree buns - why not try these, or if you prefer a savoury bun tree, what about this one?