Do you have a dish that you make for which you’ve become known? On the staff team that I was on for years in Maryland, I became known for bringing Pampered Chef’s Taco Ring to the annual staff Christmas party. It’s a simple, sharable dish that was beloved by everyone. If I had ever showed up to the party without that Taco Ring, there would have been YOU KNOW WHAT to pay.
So when it came to choosing today’s Saturday Snacks recipe, I was drawn to a dish that could hopefully be for you and I what that ring made of seasoned ground beef and cheese was for me back in the day. Today, we’ll be making D23’s Cheesy Pull-Apart Christmas Tree. Well, technically, we’ll be making D23’s Bob Cratchit’s Cheesy Pull-Apart Christmas Tree. Bless Bob’s heart, but I have no idea why they threw his name on this snack. No offense to Mr. Cratchit (or the adorable Tiny Tim), but we’ll be shortening the snack’s name from here.
In theory, this dish appears to be the best of all worlds. It involves pizza dough, two types of cheese, and garlic. Yes, please. I had high hopes for this dish, yet one nagging thought hung out in the back of my mind: would the little pizza dough balls actually hold their shape once the whole things gets pulled out of the oven? I had visions of a giant Christmas blob in my head. And I was worried.
The ingredient list features something that I’ve never purchased: Sweety Drop Miniature Peppers. The Walt Disney World chefs love to use these little babies, and while I’m always intrigued by them, I’ve never actually bit into one. A quick Google search made it look like my Publix carried these peppers, and I was looking forward to trying them for the first time. Unfortunately, my Internet search was a bit too quick. While Publix does list the Sweety Drop Peppers on their website, if I had looked more closely, I would have noticed the little button that says “Bring this product to your store.” Whomp whomp. No dice. After a quick conversation with an ever-faithful produce team member, I decided to grab a bag of small sweet peppers. The peppers are just meant to be decorative, so I figured I would make do with the sweet peppers in place of the Sweety Drop variety.
Our first steps are to preheat the oven to 450 degrees and to chop two cloves of garlic as finely as possible. I went about the task and then added the chopped garlic into a small bowl that held 1/4 cup of olive oil. Can we just agree that freshly chopped garlic is one of the very best scents in all of kitchendom? Holy cow, it’s intoxicating. I gave the garlic and oil a swish and set the bowl aside as instructed.
My next mission was to roll 20 balls of pizza dough as evenly as possible. This took a bit of work and I ultimately had to go back and take from the bigger dough balls to help create the others. I finally got to a grand total of 20, but, spoiler alert, not all 20 were needed. Let’s talk.
One of my biggest pet peeves when making the Saturday Snacks recipes is the fact that nine times out of ten, the accompanying picture does not match the at-home version of the recipe that has been provided. Take this recipe, for example. We’re asked to divide the pizza dough into about 20 balls. Now look closely at the example picture above. There are roughly 94 dough balls in that tree. Well, not exactly 94, but you get what I mean. C’mon, Disney, if you’re gonna give us a recipe, please for the love of all things sanity, actually make the at-home version and include a picture of that. Don’t show us what we can’t achieve if we follow your recipe, show us what we can. Deep, cleansing breath…
I made the decision at the grocery store to call an audible and make the recipe using mozzarella string cheese instead of a block of mozzarella because it would just be easier. This was 100% the right way to go. It’s the holidays, and I don’t know about you, but I need things to be easier, not harder.
I measured and cut 3/4-inch pieces of string cheese, and tucked them inside the dough balls, making sure to re-roll the dough around the cheese.
My next step was to cover my largest baking sheet with parchment paper and try to place the dough balls in a Christmas tree formation. The balls must slightly touch each other, and, after analyzing the example photo, I placed the pizza dough balls (seam side down) where I felt they should go. I scooted each row over and added one extra dough ball per row. And I ended up only needing 19 total dough balls. If you want a bigger tree, just grab a second bag of pizza dough and keep rolling those dough balls.
Once the tree was assembled, I brushed that glorious olive oil and garlic mixture over the entire surface. I used A LOT of that concoction, but didn’t come close to using it all. My Christmas tree would’ve been swimming in oil if I had.
I placed the baking sheet into the oven and hit the timer for 15 minutes. At 10 or so minutes, I peeked into the oven and what met my wondering eyes caused a fist pump and a HALLELUJAH. It looked soooo good.
At 15 minutes, that Christmas tree looked golden brown and actually like a Christmas tree. My Christmas blob fears were all for naught, and I lifted the pan out of the oven for the next step.
I sprinkled 1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese on top of the tree and placed it back in the oven for the required 3 minutes. And I zapped a ramekin filled with marinara in the microwave.
I also chopped a small bunch of fresh basil to be sprinkled across the top of the tree when it came out of the oven. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of basil, but I just eyeballed things and went with my preference.
The recipe calls for us to use sprigs of rosemary for garnish (in the example, they’re only used as decoration on the platter), but I opted not to buy the rosemary. I don’t need to stand on formality; I need to get that hot cheese and bread into my mouth, thank you. It also asks us to use small basil leaves for garnish, which I did since I was already using basil for the topping.
After the 3 minutes were up, I pulled the pan out of the oven and sprinkled the fresh basil across the top of the tree. I also sliced a few of the small red sweet peppers and placed them on top with the basil leaves. And I stood back and admired this easy and oh so pretty holiday snack.
I began pulling the tree apart and chomping into the pieces. The bread was toasty and puffy and the air trapped inside the dough created a hollow space. The melted cheese is in there, trust me.
Dunking the pieces in the hot marinara made the snack even better, and I loved this snack all the way around. Cute and themed and delicious? Winner winner bread and cheese dinner. Or, in my case, lunch.
Friends, we’ve come to another holiday season here at Saturday Snacks and I once again find myself grateful for you. I’m so glad that you and I have gotten to have the Disney snack adventures that we have had. Thank you so much for reading.
I’ll be taking a Christmas Saturday Snacks hiatus for the next two weeks, and I’ll be back for more snacks on January 8th. I wish you the happiest of holidays and may your New Year be bright. You deserve it.
Ready to give D23’s Cheesy Pull-Apart Christmas Tree a shot? You can do it! The recipe is below:
Bob Cratchit’s Cheesy Pull-Apart Christmas Tree
- 14 oz. of premade pizza dough
- Mozzarella cheese cut into 3/4” chunks
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Two cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. of finely chopped basil leaves
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Handful of small basil leaves for garnish
- Sweety Drop Miniature Peppers for garnish
- Rosemary for garnish
- Marinara for dipping
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Mix the olive oil and garlic together and set aside.
- Divide the pizza dough into equal-size pieces. You will need about 20 pieces to make the tree shape.
- Make a ball with the dough, and gently insert a piece of cheese into the center. Be sure to seal the cheese inside the dough so it will not escape while baking.
- Place the balls seam side down on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Be sure to have them slightly touching each other.
- Brush the dough with the olive oil garlic mixture.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and immediately return to oven for about 3 minutes to toast the cheese.
- Sprinkle with the basil leaves and garnish with remaining ingredients.