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Thursday, December 22, 2016

A decorative, filled bread/pastry, that resembles baby Jesus in swaddling cloth, for Christmas (Crèche Bread)

This method of forming a loaf that looks like a braid (but isn't) is easy enough for most beginners, yet looks quite impressive.

I know this as Crèche Bread, which is French, but from my Scandinavian heritage (go figure). So, one of those things that has been changed and passed down for several generations. I'm not sure where it was altered with the French translation. But Crèche refers to the nativity scene, with Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloth, in a manger. The dough folds over in layers, as if "wrapped" in cloth.

This method works well with yeasted, refrigerator roll doughs. The refrigeration helps relax the dough so that it can be rolled out thin. If you use a standard yeast bread dough, leave it slightly soft (not too much flour), and refrigerate the dough before rolling out.

This folding technique is for a filled bread, but it doesn't have to be, it could be "empty" and just be pretty. The filling can be sweet, such as chopped nuts, raisins, cinnamon and sugar, or sweetened cream cheese topped with jam or lemon curd. Or it can be savory, such as cream cheese, shredded hard cheese, sausage crumbles and/or herbs. The loaf in this photo is for our Christmas morning bread, filled with a sweetened, almond paste.

Have filling ready and waiting.

With chilled dough (just before final rise), on a floured surface, roll out into a large rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.

Transfer dough to a large, buttered baking sheet. Some dough might hang over the sides at this point. The sides will be folded over the center, and the ends will be tucked under, after filling.

Use a knife to mark dough, by scoring, into thirds, the length of the rectangle. Don't cut all the way through, just score. These are markings, only. Make the center third slightly wider than the side thirds, as the side strips will stretch while folding.

With a small, sharp knife, cut diagonal strips in the dough, on outer thirds, 1 to 2-inches apart, all the way down the length of the rectangle. Don't cut into the center third.

Place your filling down the center third, and spread to within 1/2-inch of side slits and top and bottom edges.

Beginning at the top, fold the strips inward, covering the filling, alternating and overlapping, from side to side.

Flatten and seal the ends, then tuck each end under.

Neaten up the sides and strips, gently.

Allow to rise till double. Optionally, just before baking, you can brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar, coarse salt, and/or chopped or sliced nuts. Bake (375 F degrees, until golden brown, for most doughs).

I baked this loaf the other day, wrapped it in foil, put in the freezer, and will warm it on Christmas morning.


  1. I really like the look of that bread and the fact that it is filled. The fanciest bread I have ever made is cloverleaf rolls. If I ever start making bread regularly, I'm gonna do this.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family, Lili.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      What I love about baking breads and rolls is you don't have to be perfect to get a good-looking result. My doughs always look lumpy before rising. Then poof! Once risen, they look pretty respectable.

      Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas!

  2. Lovely, Lili, and looks delicious! I remember I did this once years ago, and it was very easy, but looked fabulous. I hadn't thought about it in a long time, so thanks for sharing!

    I think that rolled yeast dough shaping (like this or pinwheels or parker house rolls) is a lot easier if you're a novice and/or don't have perfect bread dough to work with.

    I think it's nice to have something you can do that's "exciting" even if you're not a perfect baker (which I'm not, even though I've baked bread for years!) :)

    Christmas is so close now! What a wonderful time to reflect and appreciate our blessings and the people we love! Enjoy! Sara :)

    1. Hi Sara,
      The effort to result ratio is very misleading with this method of forming the dough. It's so much easier than it looks. I like to keep that a little secret from friends and family. Ha ha!

      Have a very merry Christmas, Sara, you and your family!

    2. Isn't it interesting, too, though, how the thing you know how to do seem easy; but if someone's never done it they assume it's complicated.

      I've taught friends to make quite a few things that are like this -- look hard, but really aren't. Especially younger marrieds or folks that don't have a lot of cooking experience are excited to make something impressive but know in their heart it really wasn't that hard. :)

      My bread always tastes delicious, but it sometimes isn't as attractive as I'd like it to be. I console myself that it looks home-made, so there's no question about that. :) I've definitely done the two loaf strategy and given the prettier one to neighbors, which you mentioned yesterday! LOL

      With a rolled, shaped thing, there's less chance of a lumpy exterior or a void baked in. I hope that anyone reading this who's concerned about doing bread will consider this.

      I was actually thinking about pointing this post out to our DS, who is a competent baker and might be looking for something nice to take to a neighbor who has invited him for Christmas. I think that two half-batch ones would be nice. Take one fresh to the party, and then freeze and enjoy the second at home a different day.

      I've also seen this method used with non-yeast doughs, with a nice result. :) Sara

    3. Sara, many years ago, I invited another family over for a Mexican dinner. I made the tortillas, myself, but as you know, homemade tortillas come out rather motley and misshapen. I apologized for their appearance, and the husband said that because of their homemade look he knew they would be delicious.

      This sort of filled bread makes a very nice "party" item. I like them filled with savory ingredients, like cheese and cooked sausage crumbles, to take to parties. Now that I think of it, I may do a savory version for New Year's dinner. Hmmm. . .

      Have a great day, Sara!

  3. Gee, I haven't baked bread since the first time I learned to bake, my college course in food preparation. My rolls turned out hard as a rock, that was such an embarrassment, and I still remember my professors puzzled glare as she walked past my work station. Thank goodness my husband can whip up simple baked goods with our bread maker.

    I've been going through my stack of old magazines, and saved some bread and dessert recipes. No matter how many times I read the article, I just don't get it. I've even watched YouTube on baking cookies, and I can't get how long or well to mix things, in the past my cookies were a complete fail. Also I'm not able to eat sugars because I'm pre-diabetic for at least 20 years (perhaps longer, just that I wasn't tested), so I expect any year now to be diabetic despite my best efforts to watch my carb intake and exercise daily on the bike or treadmill. Oh woe is me lol..I am still grateful though as there are areas in my life that I feel blessed, like my loving husband and family.

    Have a nice day!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      my very first attempt at yeast bread was a solid, whole wheat brick. It wasn't only inedible, but I'm certain it would have broken a tooth to try and bite into it. I didn't try baking bread again for about 10 years after that first attempt.

      20 years of being pre-diabetic means that you have kept it at bay for 20 long, amazing years! And it means that even if you do become diabetic, you have proven that you will take excellent care of yourself and your blood sugar. That will minimize complications from the disease, tremendously, I'm sure.You've done an amazing job with this. We can't help the genetics that we're dealt. We can only do our best to minimize the damage.

      Have a wonderful day, YHF!

    2. Thank you, Lili, for your kind words of encouragement. It brought a smile though, reading that you too could ruin bread like that!:)

      As I page through the magazines, I immediately zero in on the easiest recipes, that are twists of familiar favorites. So I know my desire to improve in cooking is just not there. I may try a new ingredient in an old recipe, but that's about it.


    3. YHF,
      And it sounds like your style of cooking works very well for you. That's what matters.

      Bread-making is picky stuff. I had a friend who kept trying to make sourdough bread, only to have it never rise. It turns out her definition of warm water was not what the dough had in mind (she was using hot water). Loaf after loaf kept coming out flat. So, you and I aren't the only ones with bread-making flops in our past. And now, you have your husband to handle that chore. All's well.

      Have a very merry Christmas, YHF!

  4. Wow, that looks so impressive! Like something you'd find in an upscale bakery! I've never tried that technique, but I think I could pull it off. All the fillings sound delicious.

    I'm planning on making our annual cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. The smell of bread baking is one of my favorites. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thank you! I'm sure you could do this.
      Yum! Your cinnamon rolls sound terrific. I love them smell of cinnamon rolls in the oven. So yummy!

      Have a wonderful day, Kris!

  5. This looks really yummy! And I have a can of almond paste that I got on clearance last yr. I'm running out of time, though. I'm in charge of the big meal on Christmas Eve (minus the meat--my dad does that) as well as Christmas breakfast. I'll be contributing to the big Christmas dinner at my in-laws (there will be 32 of us there, but I won't be in charge). It's a lot of cooking, but food is my love language. Merry Christmas, Lili! Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      If/when you decide to use the almond paste in a filling, I can send you the recipe I used for the filling. (I got my almond paste on clearance after Christmas last year, and checked the sell-by date, and it's good through Dec 2017.) It does sound like you will be busy, busy, busy between now and the 25th!

      Oh my goodness! 32 people! That will be a very festive Christmas dinner. Have a wonderful Christmas, Melissa! Blessings!


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