It’s the season for gift giving.  To my mind, one of the best ways to show you care is a home-baked gift from your kitchen.  The beauty of home-baked gifts is that they are universally appreciated and enjoyed.  You can make them weeks ahead of time and freeze, then defrost in the fridge the night before you are planning to deliver them.  I like to make quick breads for my homemade gifts.  Shown in the photo are pumpkin cakes and tropical banana breads.  Most recipes for quick breads call for baking them in 9 by 5-inch or 8 by 4-inch loaf pans.  I prefer smaller pans to bake them in.  The pumpkin breads are baked in mini Bundt pans, and the banana breads in mini loaf pans.

If you’re looking for a homemade showstopper, check out the star bread in the photo. I use my basic challah dough recipe to make this golden brown scrumptious beauty. Filled with chocolate hazelnut spread, sprinkled with cinnamon and nuts, this home baked delight is sure to impress.  It may look like it requires the skills of a talented pastry chef, but it is actually not too difficult to make if you follow the directions.  My recipe provides instructions for a very large star bread, but you can easily make two smaller ones by dividing the dough into four pieces, then following the instructions for shaping the bread into a star with smaller dimensions.

Buy festive wrapping paper, ribbons and bows to wrap the breads.  Get creative and have fun decorating your homemade gifts.  Enjoy!


Star Bread

  • 1 pkg. yeast (I use Fleischmann’s Active Dry 1/4 oz. pkg—make sure it’s not rapid rise)
  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 Cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour (I use King Arthur’s unbleached bread flour)
  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons oil (I use canola oil)
  • ½ cup chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts, chopped
  • ½ stick butter or margarine, cut into small pieces


  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water

Before you begin, make sure to have a food processor on hand. Line an insulated cookie with parchment paper.

Place yeast in warm water with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and allow to proof (to bubble up a bit so you know that the yeast are alive) 5 to 10 minutes.

Place flour, 1/4 Cup sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix.

Beat egg and oil in a small bowl, then add to water/yeast mixture.

Start food processor.  Pour in liquids.  Combine for about 15 seconds.  It should be well combined.

When all combined, process for another 40 seconds. Dough will be more sticky than when you knead by hand.

Remove from food processor, place on a pastry or cutting board sprinkled with flour, knead just a few times, adding a little more flour if necessary to prevent sticking.

Place in bowl which has been lightly greased with oil and allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk.  This usually takes a couple of hours.  Make sure to cover the dough and leave it in a warm place to rise.

Punch it down, then divide the dough in half.  On a lightly floured board, roll each half of dough into a circle of approximately 10 inches.

Place one of the dough circles onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread the chocolate hazelnut spread on the circle, leaving a ½-inch border.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, walnuts and butter pieces.  Place the remaining dough circle on top and press lightly.

Place a 3-inch coffee or custard cup into the center of the top dough circle, and press lightly to make an indentation, but do not cut through the dough.  Now cut 16 equal strips from the edge of the coffee cup to the outer edge of the circle.  Working with two adjacent strips at a time, twist them away from each other in a double twist.  Repeat this 7 times. Cover and allow to rise again for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the egg with the water, then brush the glaze on the star challah and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm or within a few hours of baking.

December 2018