The tradition of the Three Kings Bread or Rosca de Reyes dates back to the middle ages in Europe, and was brought to Latin America from Spain. In Mexico, Three Kings Day is a very important holiday, and even for some children, it is the day they receive the gifts the wise men brought them. Usually, Roscas are bought in bakeries, but if you happen to be unable to find one, you can step up to the challenge and make the most delicious Rosca to keep up this lovely tradition with your family and loved ones.
As a first step, you need to get all the ingredients, including the mini baby Jesuses. Back in the old days, when they didn’t have the plastic dolls, the tradition was to put a painted split pea instead.
To make a large Rosca, for up to 15 people, you will need:
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1 envelope (or 7 grams) of dry active yeast
- 4 cups of all purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 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 (or 3/4 cup), plus more for bowl and plastic wrap
- Freshly grated orange zest from one orange
And for the topping, you will need:
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons of margarine
- 1/2 cup of confectioner sugar
- Dried fruits like candied orange or cherries
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk
- White sugar to sprinkle on top of the bread
- Combine warm water with yeast until foamy and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of flour and set aside for 25 minutes or until doubled in size.
- In another bowl mix the rest of the flour, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, orange extract, orange zest, salt and butter in your mixer or by hand.
- Combine both mixtures for about 7 to 15 until dough is manageable enough to form a smooth yet sticky dough. Sprinkle flour (as little as possible) on to your working area, place the dough and form a ball. Place in buttered bowl and let it sit for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- Prep the toppings by mixing the margarine with the sugar, dry the cherries (if in syrup) and cut the dried fruits into strips.
- Take the dough out and onto your working station, form a long log and join both ends to form an oval. Insert plastic dolls (1-3) well distributed from the bottom, then patch the holes. Place the oval-shaped dough in a buttered baking sheet, cover with buttered plastic wrap and let it rise for another 45 minutes.
- Brush the dough with egg wash, form strips with the confectioners sugar paste and place along with dried fruits on the dough by pressing lightly.
- Preheat oven at 400 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Make sure it is golden brown and if not, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another ten minutes. Place in a rack and let it cool before serving with Mexican hot chocolate if possible! Happy Three Kings Day!