The most beautiful bread you’ll ever make, this Star Bread might look intimidating but the technique is actually quite straightforward. I’ll walk you through every step with a detailed recipe, lots of pictures, and a how-to video!
The Prettiest Bread
While star bread is beautiful and perfect when served any time of the year, I almost feel like it was created especially for Christmas morning. It has a beautiful and intricate design, sometimes sprinkled with coarse sugar (my preference) and sometimes dusted with a snowy sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Move aside basic breakfasts: pancakes, waffles, and crepes (and you know how much I love all of those!)… star bread is destined to be the showstopper of any table that it graces with its presence. While it appears complex and difficult, really the dough itself isn’t particularly fussy and the technique is much simpler than you would think by looking at it.
The base of this star bread is a sweet dough, and it’s the same one I used to make my sweet bread and my sticky buns (so maybe you’ve already tried it!). It’s perfectly buttery, soft, and tender without being too rich. It’s my favorite sweet dough in the world. Let’s talk briefly about some of the ingredients…
What You Need to Make Star Bread
- Flour. Either all-purpose or bread flour will work for this recipe. Do not use self-rising flour.
- Yeast. I use active dry but include notes in the recipe if you need to substitute instant/rapid rise.
- Milk & water. I use both for a bread that’s both rich and tender and light and fluffy.
- Eggs. We’re using one large egg and then one yolk. The extra yolk makes the bread extra soft and tender. You can save the egg white and brush the top of the bread with just the white (rather than the egg wash reh recipe calls for), the bread just won’t bake as golden.
- Butter. This bread is enriched with eggs and with a fair bit of butter, but we’ll also be using the butter for the filling.
- Sugar. Granulated sugar in the bread dough, brown sugar in the filling, and coarse sugar (I use Sugar in the Raw turbinado but if you can’t find coarse sugar you can just use more granulated sugar) on top.
This is just an overview of some of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How To Make a Beautiful Star out of Your Dough
- After you’ve made your dough, let it rise, covered, in a warm place and then divide it into 4 even pieces. Let these rest for another 15 minutes, and then roll each into an 11″ circle.
- Move one circle to a baking sheet and spread evenly with softened butter and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Try to leave a bit of the perimeter untouched, it just makes things easier in the end!
- Top with another circle of dough, butter, and more cinnamon/sugar. Then repeat with another circle of dough, butter, cinnamon/sugar, and finally your last circle of dough.
- Use kitchen shears to trim the layers so they’re all the same size
- Use a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass to make a 1 ½-2″ circular indent in the center of the dough, then make four even cuts from the edge of your mark to the edge of the dough.
- Continue to make evenly spaced cuts until you have 16 strands of dough.
- Take two strands that are beside each other (one in each hand) and twist them away from each other once, twice, and another half turn.
- Mash the ends together very, very well (while still making the dough look as tidy as possible). Repeat with the remaining dough until you have a star.
Let the dough rest for 30 minutes after preparing (cover it with a clean towel) and then if you’d like you can brush it lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. This gives it a golden brown exterior and crisp sweet topping. Bake until golden brown.
Tip: Over-baking bread is one of the quickest ways to make it too dry! If you want a surefire way to tell if the star bread has finished baking, insert a thermometer in the center and look for a temperature of 185-190F.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Here are a few other great options:
Cream cheese mixed with some granulated sugar
Jam (maybe layered with some of the cream cheese mixture above… yum!)
The chocolate filling I use for my chocolate rolls
Store for up to 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature. You can also freeze the baked star bread for several months.
Yes, this recipe works fine with either active dry or instant/rapid rise. If using instant yeast, whisk together the yeast with the sugar, salt, and half the flour. Then add your warmed milk and water and stir well, then stir in butter and eggs and then add additional flour as needed.
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Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast¹
- 1 cup whole milk (236ml)
- ⅓ cup water (78ml)
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1 large egg room temperature preferred
- 1 large egg yolk room temperature preferred
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar (70g)
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 4-5 cups all-purpose flour divided plus additional as needed (500-625g + additional as needed)
FOR FILLING (see note 2 for other filling options)
- ½ cup light brown sugar firmly packed (100g)
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon table salt
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened it needs to be soft enough to easily spread, so pop it in the microwave for a few seconds if you find it’s still difficult to spread
FOR TOPPING (Optional, see note 3 for other great topping choices)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- Coarse sugar for sprinkling may substitute regular granulated sugar
- Combine milk and water in a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until it reaches a temperature between 105-115F (40-46C). Always stir before checking the temperature as microwaves often heat unevenly.
- Pour the milk/water mixture into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast and just a pinch (about 1 teaspoon) of your granulated sugar over the mixture, then stir and allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes or until yeast is foamy. If your yeast does not foam it is most likely dead or the milk was not at the proper temperature and you will need to start over.
- Once yeast is foamy, add remaining granulated sugar, melted butter, egg and egg yolk, salt, and 2 cups (250g) flour. Stir well until everything is well-combined.
- Gradually add additional flour (this can be done by hand or with stand mixer and dough hook attachment on low-speed) until dough clings to itself and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- When enough flour has been added the dough will be slightly tacky to the touch, but not so sticky that it’s unmanageable. It's possible that you may use less or need to usae more dough than the recipe indicates, go by texture! See the video above for a visual.
- If making by hand, transfer dough to a clean, lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic (or about 5 minutes with dough hook on low speed in stand mixer).
- Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turn the dough to coat the entire surface with oil, cover bowl, and allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (1-2 hours).
- Once dough has risen turn out onto a clean surface and divide into 4 even balls (if it’s sticky and tough to manage, lightly flour the dough). Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare your filling.
- Whisk together brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Make sure your butter is soft enough to spread.
ASSEMBLY (please note that I have step-by-step photos in the post as well as a video in case you are more of a visual learner).
- Uncover your dough rounds and, working with one at a time, place on a lightly floured surface and roll into an 11” (28cm) round circle. Carefully transfer one circle to a parchment paper lined baking sheet (see note 4).
- Spread approximately 2 Tablespoons of the softened butter evenly over the surface, leaving a ½” (1.2cm) perimeter around the edge.
- Sprinkle evenly with a third of the cinnamon mixture, then place another circle of dough over the top. Spread another 2 Tablespoons of butter and sprinkle half of the remaining mixture, repeat with your next circle of dough and the remaining butter and mixture, then top with your last circle of dough (you will not put anything on top of this one, at least not yet). Trim the dough with kitchen shears (or a knife or pizza wheel) as needed so that the layers are all close to the same size.
- Use approximately 1 ½” (4cm) cookie cutter or wine glass rim to mark a ring in the center of the dough. Use kitchen shears to cut four even spaced cuts (through all layers of dough) from the edge to the edge of the mark you made.
- Repeat until you have 16 evenly spaced cuts.
- Take two strands that are beside each other, one in each hand. Twist the pieces away from each other once, then twice, then another half turn. Pinch the edges together very firmly (you don’t want them coming apart in the oven!). Repeat with the remaining pieces until you have a beautiful complete star.
- Lightly cover the dough with a clean towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F (175C).
- Once dough has rested and oven is ready, remove the towel and, in a small dish, whisk together egg and water. Lightly brush this evenly over the bread, then sprinkle evenly with coarse or granulated sugar (as much or little as you’d like!).
- Transfer to 350F (175C) oven and bake for 20-24 minutes or until golden brown or a thermometer inserted in the thickest part f the bread reaches 185-190F (85-88C). Allow to cool a bit then enjoy!
1) Yeast:You may use instant yeast instead. If doing so, combine it with the sugar, salt, and half the flour then add the warmed milk/water and stir well. Then proceed with the recipe, stirring in butter, eggs, and remaining flour as needed.
2) Filling:The options are nearly endless for different fillings you could use. Use the chocolate filling from my Chocolate Sweet Rolls, spread cream cheese mixed with some granulated sugar and raspberry jam, or how about a Nutella filling?
3) ToppingThis is my preferred topping and the egg wash adds a beautiful browning to the top of the bread and the sugar adds a nice sweet crispness to the top (my favorite part of the bread!). Other options are to just dust the top of the bread with powdered sugar, drizzle with a vanilla glaze (I recommend the same one I use in my coffee cake), the chocolate glaze I use in my chocolate sweet rolls, or just enjoy plain.
4) Baking panA pizza pan is ideal because it accommodates the shape of the star bread well, but if you don’t have one just use a cookie sheet. If you don’t have parchment paper just bake the bread directly on the ungreased pan.
Make ahead:To prepare a day in advance, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator immediately after step 6. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and allow to rise until puffed for 30-60 minutes, while the oven preheats. Then, uncover and proceed with step 8.
Storing:Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.