Mangers with candy

Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

For some, Bing Crosby coming out of the speakers, eggnog in the bowl and candy canes everywhere are harbingers of Christmas. For others, the appearance in bakery windows of the classic Italian sweet bread, panettone, has similar significance. The airy, fruit-studded, wonderfully oversize Milanese delicacy is the love child of brioche and fruitcake. Around now, a flood of imported mass-produced versions may tempt you (if you’re like us, you see them in department stores and wonder how they can stay fresh for weeks and weeks), but they rarely deliver on their ribbon-tied, gift-wrapped promise. Thankfully, the carb mavens at Grandaisy Bakery (73 Sullivan St between Broome and Spring Sts, 212-334-9435; 176 W 72nd St at Broadway, 212-334-9435) make a homespun version just like Nonna used to (um, if we had a Nonna). The cylindrical, yeasted loaf is fluffy, slightly sweet and loaded with generous chunks of candied citron peel and juicy raisins steeped in rum. It’s almost impossible not to tear off chunks until the entire loaf is gone, but pace yourself—smothered with custard and baked, it makes an unbeatable bread pudding. If you have more self-control than we do, go for the large loaf ($25; the small is $15) and enjoy a toasted slice in the afternoons with your coffee, slathered with butter. ’Tis the season, so get one soon—Grandaisy stops carrying these on January 6. Oh, and did we mention you can serve it for Christmas, too? Want to ship it? For details, call 646-442-2385 and ask for Romel.