This dessert is popular in Mexico and traditionally served around January 6th. Traditions vary across many Hispanic countries, but in Mexico a figurine is stored inside and the lucky person to get it is responsible for planning a party on February 2nd for the rest of the guests. Yes, a get-together leads to an excuse for having another party. This recipe is adapted from an amazing blog called "La Cocina de Norma" (in Spanish only). I've tried some of Norma's recipes and they are usually on the dot. Below is the full step-by-step recipe with some adaptations for the decorations and sugar paste which I added.
This recipe has two main components that you prepare, the dough and the sugar paste, in addition to the decorations which consist mostly of fruit paste and candied or dried fruit that you can buy at a specialty store. I suggest to start with the mise en place: lay out most (if not all) of the measured-out ingredients that you will have to use on your work surface. That way it is easier to grab things as you go, and avoid having forgotten a thing or two.
Preparing the dough
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 25 grams yeast
In a bowl, dissolve the flour and yeast in warm water and let stand for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
- 650 grams all-purpose flour
- 10 grams salt
In a large bowl, mix and sift flour and salt and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture and mix for one minute with a hook using a standing mixer (if you do not have a standing mixer, all of the following steps will have to be done by hand).
- 4 eggs
- 50 ml milk
- 80 ml orange juice
- grated peel from 1 orange
- 1/2 teaspoon orange essence
- 150 grams butter at room temperature
- 125 grams sugar
Turn on the mixer to medium speed using the hook addition and add eggs one at a time. Add milk, orange juice, orange peel, orange essence and knead for 4 minutes. Add butter by pieces, alternating with sugar, while the hook is running until the mixture is well integrated for about 10 minutes. The mixture is ready when the dough is even and elastic.
Move the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (I use vegetable oil to avoid any strong flavours). Place a film of oiled plastic wrap and a cover with a towel. The dough will have to rise to twice the volume. It takes about 2-3 hours in a warm room, but this will vary depending on your location.
- Fruit paste, dried fruits (cut in small squares, I used guava paste) or raisins
- Porcelain figurine or Large bean
On a floured surface, make a long tube with the dough, about 90 cm or just under 3 ft. Flatten out with a rolling pin and top with the fruit filler and the figurine. Roll lengthwise and make a ring over parchment paper on top of the baking sheet you'll be using. You should use a large baking sheet, preferably without edges. Cover and let rise for another couple of hours, until it has almost doubled in size.
Preparing the Decorations and Sugar Paste
- Assorted fruit paste and candied fruits (I used candied figs and cherries, as well as quince paste)
Cut into strips and set aside for decorating the ring once it has risen.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg yolk
- green food colouring (optional, I used it on half of the mixture since I could not get any green fruit paste)
Mix all of the ingredients into a paste that you can hold with your hands. You will have to make small strips and place them over the risen dough ring.
Final Assembly and Baking the Rosca de Reyes
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Take the ring after it has risen and glaze evenly with the egg mixture. Now comes the fun part. Add the strips of sugar paste on top of the ring in several places, and decorate with the fruit strips and candied fruits as you wish. Did I tell you we were making a crown? Well, that is the point of this dessert, so the decorations are meant to symbolize the jewels in a crown.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. The bread will puff up some more in the oven. Once done, place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for a 30 minutes. Once it has cooled down, you can transfer onto a cutting board and let cool for another 30 minutes.
The Rosca is sliced and it is usually served with hot chocolate. If you can find Mexican hot chocolate, go for it. They are chocolate tablets that also contain cinnamon that you dissolve into hot milk. But coffee, tea or any other warm drink go well with this dessert.
It will hold at room temperature for a couple of days, but I prefer to keep it wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. If you want to store it for longer, you can pre-cut some slices, tightly wrap them in plastic and foil and freeze for up to two weeks. Just leave out on a counter to thaw. It will regain its sponginess and keep its crumb as long as it doesn't get freezer burn.