Rosca de reyes is a Spanish and Latin American king’s cake pastry traditionally eaten to celebrate Epiphany.

Although the name indicates that it should be round, the rosca de reyes generally has an oval shape due to the need to make cakes larger than 30 cm (12 inches) across for larger parties. Recipes vary from country to country. For decoration, figs, quinces, cherries or dried and candied fruits are used.

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 Hispanic communities this is the day when children traditionally get presents, which are attributed to the Three Wise Men (and not Santa Claus). 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 (a figurine of the Christ child) in the cake is very old. The baby Jesus hidden in the bread represents the flight of the Holy Family, fleeing from King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine has the responsibility of hosting a dinner and providing tamales and atole on February 2 (Candlemas Day, Día de la Candelaria).

By Mely Martínez
INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup of warm water
1 Envelopes (2 1/4 teaspoons or 7 grams) of dry active yeast
4 cups (20 ounces) all purpose flour plus more for dusting
3/4 cup of sugar, if you want sweeter add 1/4 cup extra.
3 large whole eggs
3 egg yolks mixed with 2 Tablespoons of milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoon orange extract
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened (equals 6 oz. or 3/4 cup) Plus more for bowl and plastic wrap.
Freshly grated orange zest from one orange

Ingredients for the topping:
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
6 tablespoon margarine
1/2 cup of confectioner sugar
Dry fruit like figs, candied orange or cherries.
1 egg beaten for glazing the bread
1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk
White sugar to sprinkle on top of the bread
2 or 3 plastic baby dolls

NOTES:
Ingredients most be warm as indicated in the list.
Make sure your oven is preheated 20 minutes before baking to help the dough rise.
You can insert plastic doll from the bottom before baking. (I prefer after baking)

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Pour warm water into a bowl, and sprinkle with yeast. Stir with a fork until yeast has dissolved, then let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour, and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 25 minutes.
2. Mean while mix Flour, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, orange extract, orange zest, salt and butter in a large bowl. Mix until crumbly. You can do these steps with a mixer or by hand.

3. Add yeast mixture to the bowl and mix. It will be very sticky. Place into a lightly floured surface and start kneading until you have a smooth dough. It will take about 15-20 minutes to get this results. 7 minutes with your mixer. Do not add too much flour to your working area, the texture should be very soft, sort of wet but manageable. If you add more flour than needed your bread will be dry.

4. Once your dough is smooth and soft, place in a buttered bowl, and cover with buttered plastic wrap. It must be wet and elastic. Let dough stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 and 1/2 hours. Make sure your kitchen is warm to help your dough to rise. If the dough doesn’t double in volume after this time let it rest longer. The fermentation process develops flavor, so slower and longer is always best.

5. While the dough is resting, mix the following ingredients for the decoration: margarine with the confectioners sugar until it creamy. Then add in the flour and egg yolk. Until you have a smooth paste.

6. After the first resting period. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few times, then shape into a round cushion and making a hole in the middle shape into a large ring. Transfer to a greased rimmed baking sheet, and loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or more until almost double in volume. Gather all your decorations and the egg wash. For the egg wash whisk remaining egg with cream.
Preheat oven at least 20 minutes before baking at 375 degrees, with rack in lower third.

Two different ways to shape the bread into a ring form:
Method I

Method II

7. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Form strips with the confectioners sugar paste and decorate the dough. Place some of the dried fruit pressing them gently into the dough. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes until bread is a nice golden brown color. Depending of your oven it will require more time.

8. Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool. After the bread has cooled insert the plastic baby dolls from the bottom of the bread. Do not forget to let your guests know that there is a baby toy inside the bread. Rosca de Reyes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Enjoy!