Christmas is the perfect time to show off your baking skills, and there are many delicious traditional Christmas breads that you can bake and enjoy with friends and family or give as gifts during the holiday season. From a Czech braided Christmas bread to a three kings bread from Mexico, there is a nice variety of yeasted fruit bread, as well as sweet, non-fruit recipes and quick breads to try.
Of the eight breads here, most can be made a week or two ahead of the holidays; some of the fruit bread recipes actually recommend a few weeks to rest and allow the flavors to soften. All of these recipes are relatively easy to prepare, and they are certainly fun to bake. Bake a bread from your heritage, try something new and unique, or test a variation on a favorite family recipe.
01 of 08
Vánočka (vah-NAWTCH-kah) is an Eastern European braided egg bread not unlike Jewish challah and the Polish chałka, as well as Hungarian fonott kalacs. You can make a simple three-strand braid, although the traditional way to make it is by placing three braids of different sizes one on top of another. The dough is studded with raisins, almonds, and citron (similar to a lemon), and is sprinkled with sliced almonds before baking.
02 of 08
Norway has its own take on a Christmas fruitcake, and julekake has long been a favorite tradition in many families. The julekake is a simply shaped bread flavored with cardamom and candied fruits. This bread is easily formed into two loaves and is best when served fresh from the oven. If you have to bake it ahead, it does taste fine when toasted.
03 of 08
Slovak bobalki is a traditional Christmas Eve and Lent bread featuring baked balls of dough that make a lovely addition to the dinner table. Bobalki can be served as either a sweet or savory bread and both are tasty. For sweet bread, the dough balls are smothered in honey and ground poppy seeds; as a savory side, they're topped with sauerkraut and onion.
04 of 08
Stollen is a traditional German Christmas bread that is perfect for the holidays. This delicious fruit cake-like bread makes great gifts and can be prepared a few weeks in advance. In fact, it gets better with a little age. Traditional sweet stollens have a variety of flavors and icing is standard. This recipe includes candied fruits and almonds; the powdered sugar dusting is optional but highly recommended.
If you want to make stollen but have limited time, try using a very easy stollen bread recipe.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
If you are not a fan of bread filled with dried fruit, a cinnamon tea ring is a good recipe to try. The sweet cinnamon dough is formed into a ring before baking and then finished with icing made from confectioners' sugar and milk. This recipe makes six beautiful tea rings, so you will have plenty of sweet bread to serve after Christmas dinner and to gift to friends and relatives. You can add cranberries, raisins, or nuts if you like, but the tea rings are just as delicious with icing alone.
06 of 08
Three kings bread (rosca de reyes or spelled roscón de reyes) is a traditional Mexican fruit bread that is baked in a wreath shape. The wreath is adorned with dried fruit, and the bread is often braided. The most unique part is that a baby Jesus figurine is baked right inside the dough. Some specialty stores may carry this bread, but it is so much tastier if you bake your own.
07 of 08
08 of 08
These miniature loaves of cranberry bread are perfect for casual gifting. Since the recipe does not require yeast, there is no waiting for it to rise and very little mixing. This easy recipe calls for fresh cranberries, which are available in the United States from September through January. After baking, the three small loaves are drizzled with icing.