For this January Joy prompt, as promised, I am bringing you the recipe for a traditional Mexican (and as far as I know, Spanish) holiday bread. This year we made our own, as we were lucky to have over a friend who is actually studying to become a pastry chef. She has a lot of experience already, and she is still learning new techniques. So, I can tell you, this Rosca was delicious. I brought some of the ingredients from Mexico (namely the little Jesus figurines, which are simply impossible to find on this side of the Ocean*), some candied fruit, dried orange blossom (flor de azahar)...
But before going to the recipe (and don't worry you don't need any fancy equipment, just your hands and some patience, as the dough has to rise 3 times), I wanted to dig in the history behind this tradition:
<< Rosca de reyes or roscón de reyes (kings' ring) is a Spanish and Latin American king's cake pastry traditionally eaten to celebrate Epiphany. It is traditionally eaten on January 6, during the celebration of the "Día de Reyes" (literally "Kings' Day"), which commemorates the arrival of the three Magi or Wise Men. In most of Spain, Spanish America, and sometimes, Hispanic communities in the United States, this is the day when children traditionally get presents, which are attributed to the Three Wise Men (and not Santa Claus or Father Christmas). In Mexico before children go to bed, they leave their shoes outside filled with hay or dried grass for the animals the Wise Men ride, along with a note.
The tradition of placing a trinket (figurine of the Christ Child) in the cake is very old. The baby Jesus, when hidden in the bread, represents the flight of Jesus, fleeing from King Herod's evil plan to kill all babies that could be the prophesied messiah. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2, Candlemass Day (Día de la Candelaria). In the Mexican culture, this person also has to throw a party and provide tamales and atole to the guests. In Spain, roscones bought in cake shops hide in their interior a figure - either of Jesus or others like little toys for kids and a dry faba bean. Whoever finds the figure is crowned and becomes the "king" or "queen" of the banquet, whereas whoever finds the bean has to pay next year's roscón.>>**
Now, as for the recipe. We roughly based ourselves on this one, but we modified it by adding an infusion of milk with orange blossom and using typical Mexican candied fruit and "costrón de azúcar": 4 stripes of a sugar and butter crust that represent the cardinal points which were supposed to guide The Magi on their journey.
-140 g starter yeast ("mother dough", see recipe below)
-120 g milk
-340 g flour
-70 g sugar
-6 gr. dry yeast (or 15 gr. fresh yeast). We used 1 pack dry yeast.
-60 g butter
-a pinch of salt
-candied fruit of your choice to decorate. You could use candied orange, dried almonds, figs, dates or other fruits. Traditionally, the candied root of a cactus, biznaga (Echinocactus platycanthus), was used, but it is an endangered plant so it is better to avoid it.
-1 egg, beaten (to decorate).
-dried orange blossom.
For the starter yeast,
90 g flour
50 g milk
2 g dried yeast
What to do
Mix all the ingredients for the starter yeast and let ferment for 3 hours at room temperature. You could also leave it a whole day in the fridge (this is what we did. When we came back from a day in Haarlem, we set ourselves to work).
Preheat oven to 200ºC. Make an infusion with milk, orange blossom and cinammon. Let it all boil together and then rest for a few minutes.
Mix the starter yeast with the rest of the flour, pinch of salt, lemon rind, eggs and milk-orange blossom infusion. Work the dough for at least 1 minute. Once these ingredients are well integrated add the butter, bit by bit and work the dough for another 10 min. The dough will be light and sticky. You should continue working the dough until it becomes smooth, very soft and shiny. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, on a greased bowl covered with a damp cloth, until it doubles its volume. Work the dough for 5-10 min and form the "roscas" (rings). To do this, make a smooth ball of dough, dig a hole in the middle of it , then roll it between your hands and stretch it to the desired size. Insert your figurines / faba beans at random places on the bottom side of your rosca. "Paint" your dough with the beaten egg, place it on a tray covered in baking paper and let it ferment for another 45-60 minutes, until it doubles its volume again. Decorate with candied fruit or almonds, add the sugar crust stripes*** and bake for 16-18 min or until golden brown. Enjoy with a delicious hot chocolate, preferably the Mexican kind.
*If anyone would like some figurines, drop me an email with your address and I'll be happy to send some your way.
** according to the wikipedia.
***For the sugar crust:
Mix 100 gr. butter with 90 gr powdered sugar and 90 gr. of flour to form a dough. Let it sit for a while (preferably in the fridge). When you are ready to decorate roll it out and cut stripes, then put them over your Rosca, at 4 corners to represent the North, South, East and West.