Thanks to La Lechera for sponsoring this holiday post. All ideas and opinions are my own.
Rosca de Reyes or Three Kings Bread is a brioche-like buttery bread eaten in Mexico, Spain, and in many parts of Latin America on January 6 or Three Kings Day, a day which commemorates the biblical story of the arrival of the Three Kings or Wise Men.
I was fifteen the first time I had Rosca de Reyes. I was studying abroad and living in a small coastal village in the south of Spain. It had been a difficult Christmas season away from my family and adapting to new holiday traditions. Even at fifteen I was confused by the lack of gift giving on Christmas morning, those were reserved for January 6, the day the Reyes Magos or Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus. Instead of stockings children left their shoes at the foot of their beds on January 5th, in hopes they’d find them filled with gifts in the morning. After the unwrapping of gifts the day was filled with a beautiful mid-day meal with a colorful, candied-fruit studded Rosca de Reyes as the grand finale.
In Mexico glorious, shiny Rosca de Reyes fill bakeries and markets from Christmas onward and are enjoyed with cups of steaming hot chocolate for dipping. A small porcelain or plastic baby is hidden inside the bread and whoever finds it gets the honor of throwing the season’s next celebration, Día de la Candelaria, or Candlemas on February 2 with tamales and atole and botanas or little Mexican party snacks. I couldn’t find any babies to stick in my bread but I found some foil-wrapped bubble gum coins instead (a dried bean or any foil-wrapped candies are also traditional).
This is my first year making the bread at home and it was fun for Armando and I to share our different Rosca de Reyes memories with the kids—my solitary Spanish experience and his eating Rosca de Reyes with neighbors and family every holiday.
How To Make It
This recipe turns the traditional round loaf of bread into a luxurious, grand dessert, topped with rings of homemade candied citrus and filled with fluffy whipped cream sweetened with creamy La Lechera Sweetened Condensed Milk. Filling the bread is simple; you just slice the entire loaf in half as if you were making a sandwich.
Evenly spread the sweet cream on the bottom half.
Then gently place the top back on.
The dough is flavored with more fresh citrus zest of lemon and orange and speckled throughout with anise seed. It is beautiful interpretation of a bread fit for kings.
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For the Bread:
- 2/3 cup warm water (between 100˚-110˚F)
- 1 packet (1/4 oz. or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- Zest of 2 large Navel oranges
- Zest of 1 large lemon
- 1 teaspoon anise seed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- A small figurine, dried bean or coin wrapped in wax paper
- 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water for egg wash
For the Candied Citrus:
- 1 mandarin orange
- 1 lime
- 1 lemon
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
For the Sweetened Whipped Cream:
- 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup NESTLÉ LA LECHERA Sweetened Condensed Milk
- STIR the water and yeast and let stand for 10 minutes in a warm place.
- COMBINE flour, sugar, orange zest, lemon zest, anise seed and salt in large mixer bowl. Add eggs, butter, yeast mixture and vanilla extract. Mix together with dough hook or by hand until a soft, smooth dough is formed.
- PLACE dough on lightly floured surface; knead gently for about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball. Place in large greased bowl; turn over. Cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size. (THIS IS WHEN THE CANDIED CITRUS SHOULD BE MADE)
- PUNCH dough down. Form the wreath by rolling dough into a disk, and then use your hand to make a hole in the center. Place on large, parchment lined baking sheet (may need to use it upside down) and continue to shape the wreath. Lift up one area and insert the figurine, bean or coin that has been wrapped in wax paper by pushing it up through the bottom. Smooth out lumps or tears from surface of dough. Cover with greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise in warm place for another 45 minutes until almost doubled in size.
- PREHEAT oven to 350º F.
- BRUSH wreath with egg wash. Decorate it with candied citrus.
- BAKE for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely. (AT THIS POINT PREPARE THE WHIPPED CREAM)
- WHEN completely cooled, use a bread knife and carefully slice through the wreath horizontally. Spread whipped cream evenly on bottom piece of wreath. Top gently with top half. Best served immediately after adding whipped cream.
- TO MAKE THE CANDIED CITRUS:
- SLICE mandarin, lime and orange thinly (should have about 18 slices). Carefully remove any seeds.
- PREPARE a large bowl with ice and water.
- BRING a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add sliced citrus and boil for 90 seconds. Remove slices from saucepan and place in ice water for 3 minutes. Drain.
- PLACE sugar and water in a medium skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add citrus slices in a single layer and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, turning occasionally, for 1 hour or until skin is translucent. Remove slices and allow to cool on a wire rack.
- TO MAKE THE SWEETENED WHIPPED CREAM:
- BEAT cream in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold in sweetened condensed milk.
To encourage your dough to rise, heat your oven to warm and turn off. Then place your covered dough inside.
Any citrus can be candied. Experiment with oranges or grapefruit for a flavor variation.
Bread can be made one day ahead and tightly wrapped in plastic. Add whipped cream immediately before serving.