Though we love red and green frosted sugar cookies as much as your average Christmas-crazed six year-old, given our fair city's bounty of ethnic eats, it would be a shame to let our holiday dessert dining become, well, too cookie-cutter.
For a trip around the world in festive sweet treats, turn the page for our list of L.A.'s top ten international holiday baked goods.
1) Stollen from Emil's Swiss Bakery
Emil's version of the traditional yeast bread, laden with dried fruit and covered with a dusting of powdered sugar, is lighter and subtler than most of its brethren. Sweet but not cloying. Solid but not leaden. Complex without the citrus peel bitterness that plagues lesser stollen. The bakery is celebrating its 50 anniversary. Here's to many more.
2 and 3) Lemon Ball Cookies and Panettone from Eagle Rock Italian Bakery and Deli
Eagle Rock Italian does a bustling sandwich and deli business year round, but at the holidays it's all about the baked goods, including an array of Christmas cookies. (Try the bite-size rainbow cakes.) The real standouts, though, are the soft sugary lemon balls (available in 1.5-pound trays) and the housemade panettone, sweet and fruity on its own but over-the-top good in a holiday bread pudding.
4) Rosca de Reyes from La Monarca Bakery
Topped with crystallized sugar and colorful strips of dried fruit, La Monarca's rosca de reyes is a massive oval of sweet cakey bread with a taste and texture similar to Danish pastry. Though the cake, complete with a figurine of the baby Jesus hidden inside, is traditionally eaten in early January for Candelaria, La Monarca sells its version by the slice starting December 15. Whole loaves can be pre-ordered at any of the locations beginning on December 26.
5) Basler Leckerli from Rockenwagner Bakery
The uber-stylish German bakery has superior versions of a handful of European Christmas pastries, including excellent lebkuchen, but we're particularly taken with Rockenwagner's leckerli. Like stollen, these Swiss-German spice cookies are fragrant with citrus zest and are chock full of nuts, but they have a wonderful chewy texture and light sugar glaze. ($4.95)
6) Lussekatter from Berolina Bakery
Golden-hued, lussekatter, or Lucia buns, are a staple of the Swedish holiday season. Redolent with saffron and just a touch sweet, these soft, bready rolls are delicious with tea.
7) Bûche de Noël from Susina Bakery
Susina's artfully decorated yule logs, complete with perky meringue mushrooms are almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Though the vanilla rum version is delicious, the bakery's chocolate sponge cake soaked with coffee liquor and rolled with whipped cream is magnifique. These bûches keep our bouches amused.
8) Pan de Pascua from Rincon Chileno
Filled with dried fruit and nuts, this Chilean Christmas fruitcake is a panettone-stollen hybrid, with a little bit of Irish brown bread thrown in for good measure. Though dense, Rincon's hearty round loaf has a moist, chewy crown, and inside it's surprisingly light and spongy.
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9) Croquembouche from Maison Richard
Though in France these profiterole towers are commonly served as wedding cakes (because of their resemblance to Christmas trees), they've gradually become a holiday favorite. Maison Richard's custard-filled pastries are light and airy, and for those who don't want to invest in a whole tree, the bakery offers them by the puff.
10) Sweet Potato Cake from Paris Baguette
This Korean bakery chain offers a selection of its cakes specially decorated for the holidays. We're particularly enamored with the moist sweet potato cake topped with a rich butter cream and a wintry tableau.