Rosca de Reyes is a bread shared in Mexico on Epiphany, January 6, by family and friends. This “King’s Cake” is a yeasted bread in the shape of a ring, decorated with dried fruit. A small doll is inserted to represent the baby Jesus, and whoever finds this doll in their slice traditionally hosts a fiesta on February 2 for Día de La Candelaria. The February party can be expensive, especially if you have to buy forty tamales as we did one year. We were too new to Mexico to know that if you find the doll in your mouthful, some just swallow it and don’t confess. Well, had I known this, I hope I would not have done that. Our tamal party was a great fiesta shared with friends without resorting to drastic subterfuge.
Sounds crazy — swallowing a plastic doll (it used to be ceramic in years past) — but apparently this is done, as I learned from reading an article in Spanish about Rosca de Reyes. A reader left this link with a comment when she read the recipe I wrote one year ago when I baked Rosca de Reyes for the first time. If you want to read the Spanish article, use Bing Translator. Bing gives a convoluted translation, but you will get the gist of it.
This is an egg bread recipe, basically the same as the one used to make challahs, the braided breads eaten on Jewish holidays. My rosca recipe was inspired by the recipe for Chernowitzer Challah on Epicurious, with my usual change of adding whole wheat flour, and this time using honey instead of sugar for added moisture. I also added the spices traditionally used in Rosca de Reyes. Plus, I substituted melted butter for some of the oil for added flavor.
The Huffington Post has a recipe for La Gallete des Rois, King’s Cake as baked in France. It has a frangipane filling, the most delicious almond anything I have ever eaten. My mini breads weren’t filled, but served with frangipane spread on the split side. Well, when I say “on the split side”, I mean smeared on every available surface the little rolls could offer, and then they were cut again to offer even more surface area on which to spread this almond wonder.
Rosca de Reyes with Frangipane makes about 20 rolls
- 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons/7 grams/0.3 ounce) instant yeast
- About 2 cups (250 grams/9 ounces) whole wheat flour, plus more as needed
- About 2 cups (250 grams/9 ounces) white flour, plus more as needed
- 3/4 cup (170 ml./6 fluid oz.) warm water
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup (1.6 oz./55 grams) vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup organic melted butter (1.6 oz./55 grams)
- 3 tablespoons honey (50 ml.)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon anise seed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams/0.3 ounce) salt
- 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
- Dried fruit for decoration, cut into small strips
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, blend yeast and flour.
- Add water and mix with the dough hook until smooth.
- Cover the bowl with a plate and allow to rest for 20 minutes for yeast to develop.
- Add eggs, oil, butter, honey, cinnamon, anise and salt and knead with dough hook for five minutes. Add more flour if necessary until a smooth ball forms.
- Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with an oiled plate and allow to rise until doubled. (Or refrigerate overnight for a longer rising time and more yeasty flavor and proceed with recipe the next day after dough has reached room temperature.
- Form into 2-oz (60 grams) balls, press with the flat of your hand until 2 1/2″ (63 mm.) across and press a 3/4″ (19 mm.) hole into the center with the handle of a wooden spoon to form a ring.” (I pressed the ball of dough into a 2 1/2″ (63 mm.) cookie cutter for uniform roundness.)
- Place roscas on 2 greased baking sheets and let rise until almost double in size.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.).
- Gently brush rolls with beaten egg and arrange pieces of dried fruit on tops, such as dried apricot, peach and prune.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating baking sheets after 15 minutes, until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped.
- Transfer to a rack and cool. Serve with frangipane.
- 5 oz. (140 grams) organic sugar
- 4 oz (120 grams) organic unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 5 oz. (140 grams) ground almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 tablespoons rum
- Beat sugar and butter together until fluffy.
- Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.
- Refrigerate until cold and firm.
The dough for Rosca de Reyes can be kneaded by hand or in a bread machine, kneading the raisins in by hand.
Flours tend to hold more moisture in our humid climate in Mexico, so I had to add more flour, almost a cup, for a smooth ball to form. Conversely, your flour may be very dry, necessitating more water for the dough to form a ball. Add it in one tablespoon increments.
If you are not sure how to grind almonds, use a coffee grinder, the kind with a rotating blade in the bottom, not a burr grinder. Or grind in a food processor. Whichever method you use, adding some sugar helps speed the grinding, but don’t over-grind, as you will almost end up with almond butter, not a bad result, but not the intended one in this case. Grind in two batches. If a few nuts remain whole, pick them out and grind again.
The rolls are wonderful as an afternoon snack, split and toasted, then slathered with frangipane.
The translation of “rosca de reyes” puzzles me. Our Cassel’s Spanish Dictionary gives a definition of rosca as screw-thread or twist. It also offers “twisted loaf” for rosca de pan”, as in “braided bread”. I have never seen this bread braided, as challah is. “Reyes” means “kings”.