Provençal Christmas Bread Recipe for Traditional French Food at Home

This Christmas bread recipe is made as part of the traditional French food served in Provence at Christmas.

Called pomp a l’huile, literally meaning oil pump, it is made with olive oil which is native to the region. The Christmas Bread, pomp a l’huile tastes like a sweet focaccia.

Pompe a l’Huile is one of the Provençal French Christmas desserts called the thirteen desserts (les treize desserts), that is part of the Christmas eve dinner tradition.

Today this bread is not just made in Provence but may appear on French Christmas dessert tables around France.

Thirteen desserts in Provence with pompe à l'huile in the middle

Traditional Provençal Christmas Bread Recipe (pompe à l’huile)

French Recipes Desserts

Prep time: 5 minutes + 6 hours rest for the dough

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Makes 2 loaves (pompes). One for Christmas Eve with the 13 desserts, the second for breakfast Christmas morning.

Serves 6


7 ½ cups (600 g) of sifted cake flour

2 ¼ tsp of active dry yeast (1 cube, about 40 g)

¾ cup (150 g) of sugar

2 large eggs

1 egg yolk

½ cup (100-150 ml) extra virgin olive oil, first pressing

2-5 Tbs of orange flower water to taste

1 grated orange zest

1 cup (approx) of warm water

A pinch of salt


This is adapted from a French recipe and will be most accurate if you use metric weight for the flour and sugar. I bought myself a metric scale that I now use for baking. It is so much easier and accurate than measuring cups, etc. If you feel like making the leap the item below got the highest ratings on Amazon. I use a Polder which I like very much.

EatSmart Precision Pro - Multifunction Digital Kitchen Scale w/ Extra Large LCD and 11 Lb. Capacity

I recommend cake flour or pastry flour because it's more like French flour than all-purpose flour in the US.

Let the ingredients come to room temperature before mixing.

Provençal Christmas Bread Recipe (Pompe à l’Huile)

Step by step guide:

1. In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in a little warm water and let sit until dissolved approximatly 5 mintues.

2. Into the yeast add 1 cup (100 g) of flour and a pinch of sugar stirring together. Cover with a damp cloth and let stand to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

3. In a bowl, add the remaining flour, olive oil, sugar, whole eggs, a pinch of salt, orange blossom water, orange zest and half a glass of water (4 oz). knead until all combined. (you can use a food processor at the minimum speed).

4. Add the yeasted dough, kneading 4 or 5 times until evenly distributed.

5. Place the dough ball in a bowl, covered with a damp cloth. Let stand in a warm place until it has risen by half, about 3 hours.

6. Divide dough in half. Knead both batches slightly to expel the air.

7. Roll the dough into a disk of 1 inch (2 cm) thick on an oiled baking sheet cutting slots radiating 1 or 2 inchs (2 or 3 cm) from the center of the disc and let stand in a warm spot 1 hour.

8. Preheat oven to 300 F (150 ° C)

9. Make an egg wash: Beat egg yolk with 1 Tbs water. Paint on top of the pompes for a glaze.

10. Bake in center of the oven until golden and puffed about 10 to 15 min. During the first few minutes of baking introduce steam in the oven by pouring water into a preheated pan placed at the bottom or lowest rack. This promotes the rising of bread. Monitor at the end of cooking.

Bread is done when loaf responds to tapping with a hollow thumping sound.

Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Serve warm or cold Christmas Eve with the 12 other desserts. The other pompe to be consumed the next day at breakfast with coffee, hot chocolate etc.

Although not traditional but still delicious you may prefer this Christmas bread recipe made with butter. In this case replace the olive oil with 200 grams (14 Tbs) of butter melted and cooled, preparation and rest the dough remain the same.

Related articles:
If you desire a light and delicious fruit cake like I do, try this French Christmas fruit cake recipe.

Another delicious dessert at Christmas is French apple pie. Check out my French apple pie recipe.

Learn more the culture of France

Christmas in France has many traditions you can enjoy at home.

Perhaps you’d like to serve famous French desserts as part of your Christmas tradition. Check out these other famous French dessert recipes.

Return from Christmas Bread Recipe to French Culture Adventures

Image credit courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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