Rosca de Reyes
Every January 6th, on El Día de los Reyes, Santa Claus and reindeers are traded in for wise men and camels. Celebrated throughout Spain and Latin America, kids leave shoes out along with grass and water for the camels in exchange for presents the Reyes Magos will leave behind. Growing up, it was one of my favorite holidays because it meant having at least one more gift to open. This year I forgot to leave my shoes out last night and if the camels came looking for straw they were disappointed but I still wanted to post my favorite recipe for Rosca de Reyes.
While it’s not officially observed in the United States, small community parades and quieter family celebrations mark the day. At the center of it all is the rosca de reyes, a direct descendant of the Spanish roscón de reyes and cousin to Mardi Gras’ Louisiana king cake. A sweet, brioche-like bread, it’s baked into a wreath or crown shaped loaf and decorated with candied fruits. A bean or baby figurine is tucked inside and whoever finds it may host Candelmas dinner the following month or provide next year’s rosca. While traditions vary, it’s really just another way to keep the celebration going.
Serves 8 to 10
¾ cup warm milk (110-115º F)
⅔ cup sugar plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
6 whole large eggs, well beaten
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole anise seeds
Zest of one medium orange
Zest of one small lemon
5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and at room temperature
1 whole large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
1 large fava bean or small plastic baby figurine
1 cup candied fruit (orange, lemon, cherries, citron)
Sugar topping (optional):
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine the milk, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let it stand until it begins to foam, about 10 minutes.
Using the paddle attachment, add the eggs, rum, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, anise seeds, orange zest, and lemon zest to the yeast mixture and stir at low speed until well-incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the flour, one cup at a time, alternating with the butter, until both are well incorporated, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Switch to the dough hook attachment Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until the dough is smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, about 15 minutes. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, punch it down, reshape it into a ball, and turn it over once. Cover the bowl with lightly oiled plastic wrap and place in a warm draft-free place. Allow to rise until it doubles in bulk, about 1 to 1½ hours. At this point, it can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
Prepare the sugar topping if using. Beat the butter in a small bowl until smooth. Add the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and cinnamon and beat on low speed until incorporated. Add the lemon juice and beat until it forms a smooth, pliable paste. Set aside until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a large log shape then join the ends to create a wreath with a large hole in the middle. Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with sugar. Shape the sugar topping into desired shapes and distribute across the cake evenly. Decorate the cake with candied fruits. Tuck the fava bean or figurine into the bottom of the dough.
Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven, take them off the baking sheet, and let them cool on a wire rack. Serve with hot chocolate.