It’s nearly Epiphany and, in Mexico, that means the shops and bakeries are full of a traditional Mexican celebration bread called “Rosca de Reyes”. This bread is shaped in a circle to represent the crowns worn by the Three Kings. That’s fun. Inside the bread, the baker tucks little clay or plastic figures of the Baby Jesus. Every person cuts his or her own slice of the rosca and hopes they will not get a little figure in their slice. If they do, they have to host a party on 2 February and invite everyone to eat tamales. That’s fun too. In my humble view, though, the fun stops there. A traditional Rosca is rather ugly and dull. Roscas are decorated with stripes of what is sort of thin short crust pastry alternating with candied fruit. Everyone I know picks off the candied fruit and throws it away and most people don’t really like the pastry either. In fact, most people don’t really like the Rosca bread either. It’s usually dry and more often than not made with margarine. Eating it is a tradition and an excuse for a get together.
Never fear, though, the global head quarters of Virtuous Bread is here to make it fun and easy to bake good bread with the emphasis on good. To that end, we have developed a recipe for a new and improved Rosca. Prettier shape, prettier decoration, and definitely more tasty. Maintaining the theme of the three kings, we have made a plaited ring with three strands and added three sumptuous ingredients, worthy of a king: orange, chocolate, and nuts. This is a bread you will want to share and the recipe makes enough for one HUGE Rosca that feeds about 30 people or two smaller ones, so plan for a party with a crowd.
Ingredients for the dough
500 g plain white wheat or spelt flour
2.5 g instant/5 g dry/10 g fresh yeast
100 g sugar
250 g milk (heated to boiling point and then let cool right down)
1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
grated rind of 1 orange
10 g salt
100 g butter (room temperature, cut into cubes)
Ingredients for the stuffing
100 g of good quality dark chocolate that you pulverise into smaller bits in the magimix or cut up with a knife
300 g unsweetened, dessicated coconut
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
10 tablespoons of icing sugar (add it gradually and just sweeten to taste, remember that the dough is sweet too)
Juice of the orange you grated earlier
Don’t forget the little figures of the baby Jesus! We have not! If you cannot get any you could use marbles or pebbles or something heatproof like that.
Ingredients for the decoration
1 egg lightly beaten
1 teaspoon water
pinch each of salt and sugar
To add insult to injury (optional)
50 g butter (melted)
50 g sugar
Measure the flour into a big mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour and add the sugar, yeast and milk. Flick flour over the top of the milk and let it rest for one hour.
Add the rest of the ingredients for the dough EXCEPT THE BUTTER and knead for good 10 minutes. Add the butter and knead again for 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 2 hours until it has doubled in size. If your kitchen is cold this may take longer. If you like you can do this in the fridge over night or all day. Just remember this makes your dough a little tougher but it also makes it easier to shape.
Meanwhile, make the stuffing by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and mixing well. Hands is best. If you need a little more moisture, add some orange juice (from your grated orange) but be careful of adding too much. You want a definitive paste, not a thin mush.
Pull the dough out and divide it into three pieces. If you are making 2 small Roscas, divide the dough into two halves and then further divide each half into three pieces and follow the instructions for stuffing and braiding.
Roll each piece out into a long rope about 10 cm wide and 65-70 cm long (if you are making one big rosca) or 35-40 cm long if you are making two small ones. Gently tug on the short edges as you roll to keep them square. Wet your finger tips so you don’t stick to the filling and spread the filling along the entire length of each rope, leaving a little edge down each long side. Roll them up tightly LENGTH WISE so you have three LONG, stuffed ropes.
Then simply braid them as you would hair! Bring the ends together to make a ring and pinch them tightly shut. Place the dough on a baking tray you have lined with non stick baking paper.
Cover the ring (or rings, if you have made two) and let it rise for 1 hour or more – until it has doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 180 celcius. Beat the egg, water, salt and sugar together and glaze the top(s) of the ring(s). Scatter the slivered almonds on the top and pop the dough in the oven for 45 minutes. Check it after 30 minutes or so and cover it with baking parchment if it or the almonds are getting too brown.
Remove from the oven and lift it up paper and all to cool on a cooling rack. While it is hot (this is the optional bit) brush on melted butter and sprinkle the top with sugar.
Tie a ribbon around the place where you have joined the ends. Gold and silver are good colours for kings. But then again, so is red. Or green. Go on, whatever ribbon you have. You will love this bread and so will the people who try it. It’s lovely, it’s tasty and it’s rich.