Old Fashioned Holiday Pull Apart Bread

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Inside: A modern take on a classic family recipe for old fashioned holiday pull apart bread; perfect for Christmas morning breakfast or for lazy winter weekend mornings. 

Well, here it goes! My first ever recipe post on DIY Passion. I needed some serious courage to  foray into the realm of baking, but I feel drawn to it this year and so I’m going to follow my gut. My plan is inspired by my Gramma and a collection of her old recipes I have in a spiral bound book. My intention is to pick a recipe, maybe once a month, and attempt it, adapt it and then document the outcome for you in a neat little recipe and baking post. 

My hope is that doing so inspires you to be creative and helps to inspire me too! I mean, there are some seriously cool recipes in that book. Most of them are lacking in the details and instructions category though – so this will certainly be an adventure and I wholly anticipate a few fails.

Speaking of which – this old fashioned pull apart bread recipe was handed down generationally in my family. It was a total challenge for me to do because I’d only ever eaten these buns on Christmas morning and I’d never seen them being made before! I had to constantly text my Mom as I was going through the few instructions I had in order to get clarification on a few of the key steps. 

My first attempt was a total flop – the buns were too big and glutenous and they didn’t brown the right way. After crowdsourcing with my family over email and text, I had it figured out and was able to try again. My second attempt was nearly perfect and I think my Gramma would be very proud of me!

A couple of things before we get to the actual baking situation: these buns don’t need a butter wash, but you can add butter to get them to brown faster. Also, my Great Aunt Mardi made a note on one of the versions of the recipe about doing a cinnamon dip, which I think would be absolutely divine. Expect that to be one of the things I try next month! I cannot resist a good cinnamon loaf or sprinkle, can you?? 

Lastly, my best attempt was with the traditional pull apart bread recipe HALVED. I found my standard KitchenAid mixer just couldn’t hold up to the double batch. If you want to double this recipe, I’d literally do it in two batches instead of one double. It will make clean up and managing the dough much simpler. 

Old Fashioned Holiday Pull Apart Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

Old Fashioned Holiday Pull Apart Bread

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 2 minutes

Fun and festive sweet bread that is pull apart and perfect for Christmas morning breakfast; adapted from an old family recipe.


  • 6 cups white flour plus 1 cup for kneading
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 T shortening
  • 1/2 T salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup glacee cherries


  1. Activate yeast with 1 tsp sugar and 1/2 cup warm-hot tap water. Stir and set aside.
  2. Add milk, shortening and salt to medium sized bowl. Pour in boiling water and whisk. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Add yeast mixture and egg to a stand mixer and beat until incorporated and a few bubbles form.
  4. Using beater attachment, add 2 cups of flour to the mixer on low speed, followed by 1 cup of the milk-water mixture and alternate until the dough starts to come together.
  5. When dough starts to form a loose and sticky clump, sprinkle remaining 1 cup of flour onto a clean working surface and knead it into the dough until it's just incorporated and no longer sticky to the touch.
  6. Put the dough into a large bowl and allow it to rise for approximately 75 minutes in a warm, dry spot.
  7. Once risen, put dough back onto a clean counter and cut into small pieces using kitchen scissors. The pieces should be about the size of a donut hole or a walnut.
  8. Shape the dough pieces onto a parchment lined baking sheet into a tree form. The bottom row has six dough balls.
  9. Allow the dough to rise again for another 60-75 minutes until the balls are nice and puffy.
  10. Cut glacee cherries into quarters and dot around the dough where the balls intersect.
  11. Place in a 375F oven one sheet at a time for 16-17 minutes, rotating half way.
  12. Serve warm with butter.


This dough can be frozen before baking and kept for a couple of weeks.

Once baked, wrap in plastic and foil tightly and consume within a week.

Did you make this recipe?

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Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this recipe and for you to share your experiences too!

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