One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making and consuming natalizia, a fabulous Italian bread similar to, but not quite as adorned as, panettone. I call this a tradition because I have been making it for approximately 10 years, ever since I found a obscure cookbook Celebrating Italy by Carol Field. Field provides a wonderful history of tiny hamlets and feast days along with seemingly well-researched and old recipes (I mean old as in back to the Roman period). She spend a good portion of the Natale section on the pandolce, panettone and natalizia Christmas breads. It takes me all day to make 2 tall domed natalizia and the time is worth it. This bread is airy, eggy and when sliced thin, toasted and slathered with butter is the most delicious thing I know. Sorry if I am drooling.
Now, on another bread topic (yes, bread does seem to feature heavily in my life), I made a wonderful discovery today. If I heat my oven as high as it will go (which, for the record, is 550F), place a cast iron skillet on the bottom filled with warm water and bake baguettes at this blasting heat for 25 minutes, their crunch is fabulous and they get wonderful air pockets. While I still say I could use a bread oven someday when we settled down, this new approach definitely produces an almost bakery-worthy crust.