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5 Sweet Holiday Breads from Around the Globe

From Sweden’s saffron-infused St. Lucia Buns to the elegant northern Italian panettone, these holiday breads are sure to impress your guests.
By Published Dec. 23, 2016

If you’re looking for traditional dinner rolls, you’re not going to find any on this list. (That’s what this list is for.) Today’s focus: sweet holiday breads from around the globe. From the saffron-infused St. Lucia buns of Sweden to the sweet, chocolaty babka so iconic of Jewish bakeries in New York City, we’ve got your holiday sweet tooth sorted.

ST. LUCIA BUNS

St. Lucia buns indicate the beginning of the holiday season in Sweden.

Lussebullar, also known as St. Lucia Buns, are a staple of St. Lucia Day, which ushers in the holiday season in Sweden. While this Swedish delicacy typically gets its rich yellow color from saffron (a spice revered in times past by royalty), many modern bakeries rely on artificial food dye. But in our recipe, we decided to stick with tradition—instead of food dye, we opted for ¼ teaspoon of crumbled saffron threads. Because if you’re going to make St. Lucia Buns, you might as well make them fit for a queen and her king. 

CHOCOLATE BABKA

Chocolate babka is more than just a punchline in a Seinfeld episode.

Chocolate babka is good any time of the year (literally any time), but this sweet loaf enjoys an uptick in consumption during Jewish holidays, including Hanukkah. And because it’s tough to find a decent babka outside the New York City metropolitan area, we decided to develop a recipe for one in our own Boston kitchens. Sorry, New York City, but the rest of the world deserves to eat some good babka too.

PORTUGUESE SWEET BREAD

Find this sweet bread in Hawaii and coastal New England.

Well-known throughout coastal New England and Hawaii where it’s made in bakeries founded by Portuguese immigrants, this eggy, yeasty, buttery sweet bread is perfect for your holiday spread. It’s delicious eaten on its own, but you should also try dunking it into a cup of coffee, slathering it with some jam or preserves, or using it to make French toast.

PANETTONE

Panettone originated in Milan and is a staple on Christmas menus in northern Italy.

Originating in Milan, panettone is a tall, luxurious, candied and dried fruit-filled sweet bread made during the Christmas season. Though panettone was once just a northern Italian specialty, it can now be found in American grocery stores. You could snag a loaf at your local shop, sure—or you could bake your own. (You should really bake your own.)

STOLLEN

Stollen dates back to medieval Dresden.

Stollen—a sweet yeasted bread—originated in Dresden during the middle ages and is served at Christmas throughout Germany and Austria. Its characteristic folded shape symbolizes the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, and its candied fruit and nuts represent the gifts of the Magi. This is a great after dinner snack, to be enjoyed with a good cup of coffee (or a good glass of brandy, which is also an ingredient in the bread).