Silver Moon Bakery's Sicilian Bread
Nobody in Europe has a bigger sweet tooth on the Sicilians, who breakfast on gelato and drink coffee so sweet it makes my teeth ring. Silver Moon's Sicilian Christmas Bread ($7.50) is inspired by Sicily's great bakery tradition, including candied fruit, slivered almonds, and orange zest.
Bien Cuit's Chocolate Bread
Bien Cuit's chocolate loaf ($10) is an excellent addition to the city's roster of chocolate breads. This is a grown-up bread, made from wheat flour, cocoa powder, Callebaut chocolate chips, a bit of honey, and sourdough starter. The bitterness of the chocolate is highlighted by the bite of the dark-baked crust.
Note: Bien Cuit is also now open in Manhattan!
Bien Cuit's Stollen
Inside and out, there's a lot going on with Bien Cuit's stollen ($18). The dough is made from butter-sugar-egg, flour, leavening, dried apricots, dried cherries soaked in vanilla-spiked rum, and toasted almond, with a layer of almond cream inside. The snowdrift that coats the crust is made by soaking the warm loaf in a mixture of rum and butter, draining it, and then coating it in a blizzard of powdered sugar.
Silver Moon Bakery's Stollen
Silver Moon's dense stollen ($19) combines the attributes of holiday bread, gingerbread, and spice cookies. It's made with the butter-sugar-egg trinity, flour, milk yeast, spices, rum, cranberries, apricots, raisins, and marzipan.
Sullivan Street Bakery's Perfect Panettone
With signature modesty, Sullivan Street Bakery calls its Christmas loaf the "Perfect Panettone." This is a traditional bread, made to moist and flurry perfection from the butter-sugar-egg trinity, flour, salt, yeast, raisins, lemon zest, rum, vanilla bean, honey, and candied citron.
Dean and DeLuca's Panettone
Dean and DeLuca's Louis Volle is one of the most creative bakers in the city right now. His crop of seasonal loaves includes this delicious blood orange and pistachio panettone, a steal at $14. Topped with a slice of candied blood orange, this loaf is coated with Bronte pistachios (from Sicily) and has a delicate, fluffy crumb tantalizingly scented with orange oil—like cotton candy for grown ups.
Orwasher's Christmas Challah
Happily straddling ethnic and religious boundaries, the Orwasher's Christmas Challah ($7.50) is a traditional challah stuffed with cranberries, pistachios, golden raisins, and orange zest. You could bring it to either Christmas or Hanukkah, except for the fact that at certain angles the "x" on top looks like a cross.
Dean and DeLuca's Pear Buckwheat Bread
Another excellent Dean and DeLuca creation, this pear buckwheat bread ($6) contains big chunks of pears that have been soaked in pear brandy. I'm a sucker for any bread with buckwheat, and this contains not only buckwheat flour but buckwheat groats.
Maison Kayser's Chestnut Bread
In Paris, master baker Eric Kayser tells his customers that his chestnut bread ($7.50) is perfect for their Christmas foie gras. Made from flour, salt, levain, water, butter, and chestnuts, this loaf is also great with cheese or jam.
SCRATCHbread breaks down boundaries so enthusiastically that sometimes words fail the food writer. I'll just describe the breadCUSTARD ($10 a loaf) from top down: rosemary, pecan streusel, speck, wood-roasted acorn squash and sugar pumpkin, winter pie spices, and yes, bread. Heat before serving! I sliced a couple of slabs and fried them in duck fat for a savory, slightly sweet, slightly caramelized flavor sensation that pushed every taste button I had.