'Tis the season for carb-loading. You'll find holiday breads and cakes--sweet or savory, fruit-filled, rum-soaked or spiced--in many cultures, and luckily, many bakeries around Los Angeles specialize in the regional treats. From Italian pannettone to Swedish Lucia buns, here are five of our seasonal favorites.
The stollen that Hans Röckenwagner sells at his bakeries every winter is inspired by the bread his German relatives gave his family every year. His version is super moist and rather light, filled with rum-soaked fruit and citrus rind. Let it sit for a couple of days before eating, to really let the flavors settle. It's great with coffee for dessert, and rather fantastic as French toast, which Rockenwagner serves at his Abbot Kinney café. You can also find stollen filled with marzipan and fruit at Euro Pane in Pasadena.
You'll see boxes of this Italian holiday bread at just about every grocery store, but it always pales in comparison to those baked fresh locally. Most versions, like the one made at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village, have raisins and citrus flavors; order one to pick up Christmas Eve. Others, like the festive bread at Bottega Louie downtown, have a bit of chocolate. Enjoy this fluffy bread by the slice, or try it in bread pudding.
3. Panforte di Siena
The Village Bakery specializes in this rich, dense, chewy fruit-filled cake for the holidays. It's more fruit cake-like than a bread, but deliciously chock-full of hazelnuts and almonds, spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper, and fruit they candy themselves. It's delicious with an espresso, but also makes a fantastic accompaniment to cheese.
Among other traditional baked goods at the charming Berolina Bakery in Glendale, you'll find these saffron-scented rolls, also known as Lucia buns, for the Swedish holiday table. These slightly sweet, soft rolls are considered a specialty for the Winter solstice (falls on Thursday, December 22 this year). The golden color symbolizes the promise of light on the shortest, darkest day of the year. Or pick up a loaf of limpa, a special rye bread that has a touch of anise and orange zest.
5. Rosca de Reyes
Topped with candied fruit and cactus, this bread it traditionally served on Three King's Day (January 6), but the three locations of La Monarca Bakery offer it in two different sizes, and by the slice, now through the new year. Like a Kings Cake, baby Jesus dolls are hidden throughout the bread, and whoever finds the prize has to throw next year's party. [Photo: The Glutster/Flickr]
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