I have helped my mother make these for Christmas for as long as I can remember. I started with simple chores, watching to see if the milk scalds or sifting the flour and eventually I could make them all on my own. I don't sift the flour, I use bread flour. My mother's looked nicer than mine because she bought the candied red and green cherries and cut them in half and used them to decorate the tree. No one in my house eats candied fruits so I don't buy them.
Christmas Tree Coffee Cake 1/2 cup warm water 2 envelopes of yeast 1 1/2 cups milk 1/2 cup sugar 2t salt 1/2 c shortening 2 eggs, lightly beaten 7 to 71/2 c bread or regular flour
brown sugar cinnamon chopped nuts softened butter
powdered sugar milk vanilla extract
Add the yeast to the warm water, 110 degrees, set aside. Scald the milk. Put it in a 4 quart pan over medium heat and heat until a skim appears on the top of the milk. Take the pan off the heat. Add the shortening, sugar, salt to the warm milk. Stir until the shortening dissolves. Add flour, one cup at a time to four cups, the mixture should have cooled some. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture. Add more flour. At around six cups of flour, either transfer to mixer or begin kneading. You should make a delightful soft dough. Let it rise until double. The recipe makes two large trees or three small trees. The large feeds my family of five. Decide how you are going to divide the dough. Then roll it into a 1/4" thick rectangle. Dab the dough with butter about 1-2 tablespoons. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Roll into a long snake and shape into the tree. Let rise until double and Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Decorate with powdered sugar thinned with milk.