Of all the Italian treats and traditions I remember from my childhood, panettone is not one of them. It is, however, one of the easiest (and most inexpensive) to find in the stores at Christmastime, and so it is one I have quickly adopted.
Panettone is a dense, sweet, tall cake-like-bread-hybrid that is filled with fruit. It seems fairly difficult to make,which is fine because the one I buy at Trader Joe’s is so good, and filled with cranberries in place of the usual fruit.
What makes it especially good is the eggs and cream I soak it in to make bread pudding each year, which can then be reheated in the microwave and enjoyed with a spritz of whip cream on cold nights after crappy days at work. I use this recipe from Rachel Ray, which I find quite nice: sweet and dense, creamy when reheated, and it keeps well for a REALLY long time in the refrigerator.
Rachel makes hers in a muffin tray, which works ok, I guess. This year I used some foil cups I had leftover from the pumpkin flan I made for Thanksgiving, and it worked out MUCH better. I ordered the foil cups from here, and they were worth every penny! (Sorry Prudence Pennywise.)