Making bread is so much fun. I know that it takes patience, especially when you are desperately waiting to see if your dough will rise, but it’s so diverse and the ability to make it into anything is incredible.
I’d seen loads of different pull-apart breads before, and have seen them shaped into all sorts of things – including Christmas trees. I decided I wanted to have a go as well. Garlic dough balls from Pizza Express have always been my favourite thing to eat when I go there, so I figured I could just make my own, and give it a Christmas theme.
Because my oven is quite small, I couldn’t make my tree much bigger than you can see here. However, if I had a proper sized oven, I’d make a much bigger tree, possibly using two loads of pizza dough, if necessary. So feel free to play around with how much dough you need if you want to make this yourself.
When you add the cheese and garlic into the dough, don’t be frugal. Get as much in there as you can, because the mozzarella will melt with the baking, so you want to make sure there is still some cheese inside when you bite into the dough balls.
pizza dough (the recipe here will make two batches)
200 grams pre-grated mozzarella (or 500 grams fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces)
1 bulb garlic (about 20 cloves), minced
75 grams unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
50 grams grated Parmesan
250 grams crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
- When pizza dough has risen and is ready to be used, pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Weigh out your pizza dough, and divide the weight by 16 pieces for a small tree (as pictured), or 22 pieces for a large tree.
- Remove the calculated weight from your large ball of dough, and stretch it out in your hand. Place a pile of mozzarella and some minced garlic in the middle of the dough, then wrap the dough around it, forming a ball. Place the ball, seam-side down, on your baking tray, at the edge in the middle, to start the top of the tree. Repeat the process, building a triangular tree as you go. Make sure the dough balls are touching each other. The final ball of dough should represent the trunk. Cover and allow to rise for 20 – 30 minutes.
- Mix together the fresh herbs, Parmesan and melted butter, along with 1 tbsp of minced garlic. Brush the dough balls with some of the butter mixture. Place the completed tree in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the bread and brush with more of the melted butter and herb mixture. Then place back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. As soon as the bread is a beautiful golden brown, remove the bread from the oven and drizzle with the remaining butter and herb mixture.
- Allow to cool slightly, while you make the marinara sauce. In a saucepan, add the crushed tomatoes, remaining minced garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. until sauce has thickened. Pour the sauce into a shallow bowl or ramekin, and serve alongside your Christmas tree bread.