In Mexico, many other Central and Southern American countries, and some parts of the U.S., they celebrate el Día de los Reyes on the 6th of January, which is TODAY! Traditionally, on the 5th of January, children leave their shoes out by a miniature nativity scene so that the three kings can place gifts in them. They also leave food, hay, and water for the kings and camels to express their gratitude for gifts. Later, everyone celebrates this day of epifanía or Epiphany by sitting around an oval-shaped, chewy, lightly sweetened Rosca de Reyes and Mexican hot chocolate or atole.
The rosca is shaped this way to symbolize the crown of Jesus; the candied fruits represent the jewels on the crown. Traditionally, the rosca is filled with baby Jesus figurines. The people who get the slices of rosca with the baby Jesus figurines in them will have to make and serve tamales (or whatever else you want to serve) on the 2nd of February (I still owe a party or two…oops!)!
After doing a bit of research on rosca recipes, I realized that there are many disparate versions out there depending on which region you follow. So, based on the knowledge I acquired, I created a "new" version. My goal with this version was to recreate the rosca I remembered eating while living in East L.A. There was no edible filling like raisins or cajeta, so I didn't include that, but I did post it in the recipe below as an option add-in, along with directions on how to add it, for anyone who would like to include it.
I made a lot of mistakes on this rosca, so bear with me through this post. I'm glad that it looks pretty well, though. I'll do better next year!
I made the bread a bit sweeter by adding sugar to the baño (literally means "bath", but is the glaze, in this case) that goes on top of the bread. The pasta (sugar/flour paste) browned a lot because I didn't realize that I was supposed to put it on until after it was done baking! DOH!
Also, I candied the pineapples myself from a fresh pineapple. I also candied the cherries. Not surprisingly, I couldn't find fresh papaya, so I bought the candied papaya. The candied papaya was dry and kept poking and popping out of my rosca. The fruits I candied, however, looked shiny and beautiful and were sticky enough that I didn't have to worry about them popping up.
Candying sugar is a lot easier than I thought it would be. If you ever make this rosca, I highly suggest you candy your own fruit instead of buying it. If you can't find fresh papaya (I couldn't around this time of year), try dipping the store-bought kind in the leftover sugar syrup from the other fruits so that they adhere to the rosca. I followed this recipe to candy the fruits.
I am submitting this bread to yeastspotting!!
adapted from various sources
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/4 c warm water (105-110°F)
1/4 c warm milk (can put both milk and water in one measuring cup and microwave mixture for 30-45 seconds. Check the temperature!)
1 Tbsp sugar
4 - 4 1/2 c AP flour (I needed 4 1/4 cups. You could also use half wheat and half white flour. Be prepared to make adjustments with the liquid, though!)
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c milk (I used whole)
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
Zest of one orange (optional)
Zest of one lemon (optional) (I used orange zest only)
1/4 c leche condensada
1 tsp vanilla extract (I forgot to add this!!)
1 egg whites (use the white from the pasta below)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar (I accidentally used granulated sugar. Don't make my mistake.)
After baking, add the pasta:
Pasta (I halved this part of the recipe from What's Cooking and still had more left):
1/2 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 c flour
1/3 c butter, softened
3-5 Baby Jesus figurines (I used 4)
Cajeta or dulce de leche
Proof yeast in 1/4 cup of water and milk (105-110°F) and 1 Tbsp of sugar. While yeast mixture is proofing, mix the flour and cinnamon together in a large bowl or on a table, and form a well (alternatively, you can use a stand mixer). In the middle of the well, put in the yeast mixture, butter, egg yolks, whole eggs, condensed milk, and vanilla. Mix the wet ingredients together and then gradually blend in the flour until you form a ball. Knead the dough or use a stand mixer for about 8-10 minutes. Cover the dough with a clean towel, and allow the dough to sit in a warm place in a greased bowl for one hour or until its doubled in size.
Once the dough has doubled, take out the dough and knead the dough for a few seconds to remove the air out of them. Roll the dough back into a ball, place a dough scraper or knife in the middle of the ball to create the rosca, which should be oval-shaped with a large hole in the center. Make sure the hole is larger than you would think it should be since the hole will close up after the second rising. Allow the shaped dough to rise for about 45 minutes.
If adding cajeta, dulce de leche, or melted chocolate: Once the dough has doubled, take out the dough and knead the dough for a few seconds to remove the air out of them. Roll the dough back into a ball, and then roll out the dough to form a long rectangle. With the long part of the rolled-out dough in front of you, pipe or spread the filling on one side of dough. Add raisins on top, if desired. Brush egg wash on the side facing you. Fold the opposite side of the dough on top of the egg-washed side. Then, roll the dough into a thick, snake-like shape, pinching the ends together really well so that they don't come apart (the dough should now look like in the photo above).
Mix the baño mixture with beaters or in a mixer, and brush it on top of the shaped, risen dough. This mixture will also help the dried fruit adhere to the rosca (it didn't help at all for me).
Bake the rosca for 25-30 minutes in a 350°F oven. Next, spread the pasta in 6-8 sections on top of the rosca, leaving enough space in between them for the fruits. Cut the fruits and place them on the rosca to the left and right of the pasta.
Allow rosca to cool for 5-10 mins, and add in the figurines, if using, underneath the rosca by punching a hole at the bottom with the figurine itself. Tuck the figurines in the rosca well so that they don't fall out.