This cinnamon star bread is an impressive-looking and delicious-tasting lightly sweet bread that's perfect alongside coffee or for a festive brunch. It's soft, flavorful and easier to make than it looks. So get ready to wow.
This post may contain affiliate links, where we earn from qualifying purchases. See more details in the policy page.
Many countries have a tradition of making special breads during the festive season, like German stollen and Italian panettone. They make a great option to serve guests over a cup of tea or coffee as something a little less sweet than a cookie, but still somehow special.
This star bread is maybe less traditional, but is just as good for serving alongside morning coffee. If not more, if you have a few guests, so with it's pretty twisted shape. It's the kind of thing that is perfect to be the centerpiece to a festive brunch, too.
The flavor of this bread is similar to cinnamon rolls, with a butter-enriched dough, but a little less sweet than your classic American version. I've based these more on Swedish-style cinnamon buns or cardamom buns that are a little less rich and sweet, but with a lovely light, fluffy dough and aromatic flavor.
Being a yeast-based dough, these do take a little time to make since you have to let it rise a couple times. But the rising time is hands-off (so you can do something else!) - the actual hands-on time is really not that bad. And getting that pretty shape is easier than you might think, too - you can see how it all comes together in the video.
So, let me walk you through the steps, and address a couple pointers and questions you may have to help you on your way.
Steps to make this star bread
- Mix and knead the dough, then leave to rise (about 10 min active, 1 hour inactive).
- Gently warm milk and butter so that the butter melts, then add yeast and sugar so they dissolve (but take care that the milk is only tepid or the yeast won't work).
- Mix this milky mixture into the flour and salt then bring it all together.
- Knead the dough then leave for first rise, to double - about 1 hour.
- Divide dough, roll into circles and layer with filling (about 15 min active, 10 min inactive)
- Divide the dough into four and form each into a ball. Let them rest about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the butter, sugar and cinnamon (plus cardamom, if using) for the filling.
- Roll out each ball into a circle around 9 ½ - 10in in diameter (24-25cm).
- Layer up the circles with filling in between.
- Cut through layers, twist and form star, then leave for 2nd rise (about 20 min active, 30-40 min inactive)
- Place a cutter or other small round item (around 2 ½in/6cm diameter) in the middle and make 16 evenly-spaced cuts towards it from the edge.
- Take pairs of the cut sections and twist them away from each other roughly 2 - 3 times to form twisted layers along the sections.
- Once all sections are twisted, remove cutter in middle and press together the pairs end-on so that they form a point.
- Leave the bread to puff up for around 30 -40 minutes before baking.
- Brush with eggwash and bake! (about 12-15 min)
What kind of flour and yeast should you use?
You can use either all purpose (plain) flour or bread flour for this. Bread flour has a higher gluten-forming protein level, which can be useful for making many breads, but given this one is both enriched and isn't so much about the rise, it's less important.
You can also use either instant or active dry yeast to make this. Just be aware that instant yeast doesn't need activated, while active dry generally does. So with active dry, I'd suggest you leave it in the warm milk mixture around 5 minutes to start to foam up. It may also take slightly longer for the rises, but otherwise works much the same.
Tips for putting it all together
While the form of this may look complicated, it's actually easier than you might think. But a couple tips to help it work better:
- Roll out all of the pieces of dough first before you start putting things together. This will both make assembly quicker but saves you accidentally rolling onto the part you are layering up.
- Try to roll the pieces of dough in an even circle (as best you can) - you can use a plate to guide you, for example. However at the same time, don't worry if they are not perfect.
- You can stretch the dough a little as you are layering the pieces up so they end up even. If for some reason, you have large overhangs of dough anywhere, you can trim them off.
- Leave a little space at the edge of the circle as you add the filling. This gives an area of dough that will stick better together when you pinch the edges to form the points.
Tips for forming the star shape
First of all, while you may think you want to twist as much as possible, you need a gap in the middle so that you don't cut all the way through and so that the points of the star don't break off before or during baking.
Use a cutter or other light round object in the middle but don't press it down. This gives you an area you don't cut into or twist up. Around 2 ½in/6cm is about the right size so that the tips of the parts you twist aren't too thin.
Next, to mark out the sections cut opposite each other on the compass points to form four equally spaced cuts. Then cut halfway between each, then halfway again. This will give you 16 equally spaced sections.
Then, to make the twists, work with two pieces next to each other at a time. Twist the two strands away from each other about two or three twists. You don't want to twist too tightly or the dough will either not rise or it will break as it rises further and bakes.
Finally, to make the points turn the pair of dough pieces side on (so the edge is up and down) and press the edges together. Be fairly firm and if needed, fold over one side to help them stick. You may need to re-seal them after the second rise as they can often separate. A little water can help them stick, too.
Brushing the dough with eggwash before baking helps to give it a wonderful golden color. You can then either leave it like this or dust with powdered sugar for a lovely snowy appearance. Though I admit I possibly over-dusted here and hid the lovely twists a bit. Though you soon see them again as you dive in!
This cinnamon star bread is similar to cinnamon rolls or cardamom buns, but in a wonderfully pretty tear apart, festive shape. It's festive, flavorful and sure to impress.
Try these other ideas for a festive brunch:
- Eggs Royale (smoked salmon eggs Benedict)
- Quiche Lorraine (with ham, bacon and gruyere cheese)
- Gingerbread waffles
- Plus get more breakfast and brunch recipes in the archives.
Cinnamon star bread
- 280 g all purpose flour 2 cups, plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 160 ml milk ⅔ cup (suggest whole milk)
- 42 g unsalted butter 3 tbsp
- 1 ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 56 g unsalted butter 4 tablespoon
- 40 g brown sugar 4 tablespoon (¼ cup)
- ½ tablespoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- 1 egg (for egg wash - will not need all)
- Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl and set aside. Roughly cut the butter into pieces and add to the milk in a small saucepan. Place over a medium-low heat and warm gently (don't let it boil) until the butter melts then remove from the heat. Let it cool slightly until lukewarm.
- Add the yeast and sugar to the warm buttery milk and stir to mix in and dissolve (it's OK if not completely dissolved). Pour the mixture into the flour and mix. As it's starting to come together, it's usually best to mix with your hands. Alternatively, you can mix and then knead with a stand mixer (knead with dough hook around 3 min).
- If mixing by hand, bring the dough together and then knead on a lightly floured surface. Knead for around 5 minutes, turning 90 degrees, stretching and folding over, until the dough is smooth and not sticky. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover and leave to rise for about 1 hour at warm room temperature.
- Once the dough has risen, remove from the bowl, knock back the dough then divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball and Leave for around 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mash the butter for the filling to soften it then separately mix the sugar and cinnamon. Mash the butter into the cinnamon sugar to combine them into a smooth paste. Divide the mixture into three.
- Take each piece of dough one at a time and roll into a circle roughly 9 ½ in (24cm) diameter. You can use a plate to help guide on shape. Once you have rolled one, set aside then repeat until you have four relatively equal sized and shaped circles of dough.
- Take one round of dough and place on a lined baking sheet (either silicone baking mat or parchment). Carefully spread ⅓ of the cinnamon butter over the middle of the piece of dough leaving around ¾ - 1 in (2 - 2.5cm) space without the mixture around the edge.
- Once you have spread the butter mixture evenly, place another circle of dough on top. Gently stretch the edges to line up with the piece of dough below, as needed. Then top with another ⅓ of the cinnamon butter, as above. Repeat with the next piece of dough and rest of the butter mixture, then top with the final piece of dough (so four layers of dough with three layers of filling in between).
- Place a small round cookie cutter or other light object around 2 ½in (6 ½cm) diameter in the middle of the top layer. Don't press it down. Use a knife to mark out four cuts equally spaced apart from the edge in as far as the edge of the cutter (so at N, E, S, W points). Then, cut equally halfway between each cut, then halfway again. You should have 16 equally spaced cuts from the outside in towards the middle with a gap where the cutter is. Make sure the sections are separated.
- Take two stacks of dough next to each other, lift them up slightly and twist them away from each other around 2 - 3 full turns. Don't twist them too tight, just enough to get relatively even stripes of filling showing along the pieces of dough. Repeat twisting the next two pieces as a pair and again around all of the circle.
- Once all of the dough is twisted, remove the cutter from the middle. Take one of the pairs of dough (so where the twists are away from each other making upside down Vs looking from outside to middle) and turn the pieces of dough 90 degrees to have the outside edges of the dough end on to each other. Press the pieces of dough together to form a point - you can fold one edge over the other if it helps. Make sure the piece of dough on the outside go all the way into the join so they are held in the join, otherwise they may open out in baking. Repeat with the rest of the dough to give you 8 points.
- Cover and leave the star to rise for around 30 - 40 minutes more until the dough has puffed up a bit and looks slightly swollen. Towards the end, preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
- Gently whisk the egg then brush the outside of the bread with the egg to give an even, light coating (This helps give an even brown color when baked). Then, bake the bread for around 12 - 15 minutes until it's an even golden brown and firm to touch.
- Leave the bread to cool on the baking sheet for around 10 minutes to help some of the cinnamon butter that may have escaped during cooking work its way back in. Best served warm - you can simply tear off sections. If you like, gently dust with sifted powdered sugar (icing sugar).