Sweets and candies are often associated with holiday celebrations in the U.S., but elsewhere in the world, it’s breads — ranging from yeasted and unleavened to sweet and savory — that make the season.

In some countries, they’re even symbolic. For instance, Bulgarian Christmas bread symbolizes prosperity for the upcoming year.

Some classic Christmas breads from around the world include panettone and stollen, both of which are filled with fruits and nuts. You can make them yourself, but you can also find them in several places in town.

Two local German bakeries go into massive production mode for the traditional Christmas stollen, which is oblong-shaped and sprinkled with icing sugar. The shape of the bread is said to symbolize the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes.

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Pierre Osborne, executive pastry chef at Edelweiss Restaurant, starts making stollen by early October.

“We will bake 80 loaves of stollen per day through February,” he said. “This year, we had 350 stollens before Thanksgiving, and the Monday after, there were only eight stollen left.”

According to Osborne, customers buy stollen for themselves, to give as gifts, or even to “send back to Germany for family and friends there.”

The key to his stollen success is the use of good-quality ingredients.

“We use only real butter, and the golden citrons (raisins) are soaked in rum 72 hours,” he said. “And, of course, we use a thick roll of marzipan. Each loaf weighs around 2 pounds.”

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Uli Wimberger, owner of Wimberger’s Bakery & Old World Deli, is another excellent source to meet your stollen needs for the holidays.

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For Mari Younkin, a retired personal chef and master dessert maker, stollen, panettone and Irish breac tea Christmas bread are her go-to holiday breads. Breac (pronounced brack) is Irish for “speckled,” and is called this because the dough has nuts and raisins in it, “so it looks speckled inside.”

She offers recipes and tips for storing holiday breads.

“Panettone is an egg-based dough like brioche,” she said. “It has fruit and raisins studded in it and can be served warm or at room temperature. I serve it Christmas morning for breakfast, slightly warm with apricot preserves. The next day, if there are leftovers, I make bread pudding served with a warm vanilla bourbon sauce.”

Her breac bread is a dense, dried fruit-studded cake with a bread texture.

“It also contains an actual cup of hot breakfast tea in the batter,” she said. “Serve it warm or room temperature with your favorite spread and a hot beverage.”

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For stollen, Younkin says, “It’s best made a few weeks ahead and stored in airtight containers at room temperature to mellow and soften the flavors. I make this bread and share it with family and friends through the holiday season. Freezing is a great option, as well.”

Cortney Smith, co-owner and instructor at Gather Food Studio & Spice Shop, for her personal festive events makes stollen and buñuelos (a Mexican sweet bread of fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar). For the cooking school she teaches a class on making a master sweet dough, which is fermented overnight and can be used to make her braided fruit and nut bread.

“Basically, you make the dough, then form the bread and let it rise in its shaped form overnight (12-16 hours),” she said. “Then you bake it. The fermentation works especially well here at altitude, because it helps get nice, big air pockets for soft, lofty dough. And it has just a bit of a fermenty, yeasty, sourdough flavor. It’s by far my favorite sweet dough.”

Now you are set, with recipes in hand, to try introducing some worldly traditions into your home this holiday season.

contact the writer: 636-0271.

contact the writer: 636-0271.

Food editor

Food writer for features life section and columnist for Go! Entertainment - Table Talk column

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