Stollen Kisses

Local bakeries reclaim the boxed bread

Don't let that Safeway fruitcake spoil you on a delicious Christmas tradition.

Fruited breads date back thousands of years, to an era when dried fruit was a luxurious taste of sweet. If you've only been exposed to factory-produced loaves, however, you'll never realize how good they can be.

The chalky, airy panettone you've picked up at the grocery store, for instance, is nothing like Emporio Rulli's panettone Genovese ($22 for a small, $28 for a large). The dense, buttery loaf is almost as tart as it is sweet, freckled with golden raisins, pine nuts and candied orange rind. Emporio Rulli, 464 Magnolia Ave. (at Cane St.), Larkspur; 415-924-7478 or rulli.com

Imported, boxed stollen just doesn't emanate the subtle aromas of brandy and citrus that perfume the single-serving stollen at Thorough Bread ($3.50), its crumb shot through with rum-soaked raisins and candied fruit. Thorough Bread, 248 Church St. (at 15th St.); 415-558-0690 or thoroughbreadandpastry.com

And you'll feel doubly resentful for every lame fruitcake joke you've ever heard when you taste the fruitcake from Arizmendi's Inner Sunset location ($14). Studded with real pineapple, apricots and almonds, it's soaked in just the right amount of brandy. Arizmendi, 1331 9th Ave. (at Irving St.); 415-566-3117 or arizmendibakery.org