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On Christmas Eve, Brazilians sit down to a meticulously prepared (or, in city-slicker Rio, pre-ordered) ceia de Natal. That ceia, or supper, will likely include a turkey and farofa, but a few sweet staples make the Brazilian ceia more than Thanksgiving 2.0 for a gringo. Among our favorites:

This sweet bread is originally from Milan, but it’s ubiquitous on the streets of Rio in summery December. It’s lightly sweetened and invites nibbling, as the fluffy loaf can be pulled apart in bite-sized pieces. The most typical and popular version is made by Bauducco with raisins and candied fruit, but homemade, exotic and couture versions abound. The pricey Kopenhagen chocolatier sells cherry brandy and chocolate mousse panettones, whereas the famous Argentina alfajor brand Havana sells a panettone with doce de leite. We once saw a bakery selling savory panettones (in this case, with bacalhau, or salt cod), but we do not endorse this.

Nova São Luiz's rabanada, photo by Nadia SussmanLike Brazilian French toast, except with no syrup, this sweet is instead coated in a generous layer of cinnamon and sugar and keeps far better than its syrupy counterparts do, meaning it can be stored and gobbled in a moment of gula (gluttony). Wilder versions can be found with mango sauce, red wine or queijo coalho (salty white cheese) and coconut. Not to be confused with rabada (oxtail).

Arroz com passas de uva
Dried fruits – and raisins in particular – are a Brazilian Christmas favorite (see panettone, above), so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they would show up in rice. A variety of extras have made guest appearances in this dish, such as ham, apples, cashews and even bacon.

Variations on rabanada can be found at the following locations, and Casa do Pão and Nova São Luiz offer panettone as well.

Panettone at Nova São Luiz, photo by Nadia SussmanBotero
Address: Rua das Laranjeiras 90, Laranjeiras
Telephone: +55 21 3235 6314
Hours: Mon.-Fri. noon-3pm (lunch); Tues.-Sat. 6pm-1am (dinner); Sun. 1pm-7:30pm
Casa do Pão
Address: Rua São Salvador 87, Laranjeiras
Telephone: +55 21 2558 6786
Hours: 6am-7pm (call to check for special holiday hours)
Nova São Luiz
Address: Rua Ministro Tavares de Lira 93, Flamengo
Telephone: +55 21 2557 8718
Hours: 5:30am-10pm
Address: Rua Ipiranga 54, Laranjeiras
Telephone: +55 21 2556 9398
Hours: Mon.-Sun. 11:30am-1am
(photos by Nadia Sussmann)
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