A few adjectives can sum up this bread: sweet, tasty, time consuming. It’s taste is wonderfully gentle and sweet and it could be a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. I highly recommend it, although I will tell you that it’s a time snarfer. (Don’t you love all this wonderful vocabulary?)
This Mexican sweet bread is typically made for the celebration of the Epiphany. The tradition is to hide a plastic baby Jesus doll in the bread and whoever finds the doll has to make Tamales for everyone at the end of the month. Wouldn’t you know it, the plastic doll that we put in ended up in one of the pieces of bread shown above (the piece with the sweet pasta strip and single slice of fruit, to be exact). I changed the recipe a bit by inserting a cream cheese filling that I was told was pretty typical in Mexico. Also, I must give credit where due: my sister was hoping to be a credited helper on this recipe, and she was very helpful, so I can’t take all the glory for myself.
Rosca De Reyes (Three Kings Bread) Recipe :
(Adapted from Mexico in my Kitchen)
1/2 cup of warm water
4 1/2 teaspoons of dry active yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
3 large whole eggs
4 egg yolks (mix with 2 Tablespoons of water)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoon orange extract
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
freshly grated orange zest from one orange
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
For Sweet Pasta:
The “sweet pasta” strips are the cookie-like strips that you see on the top of the bread.
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
6 Tablespoon margarine, softened
1/2 cup of confectioner sugar
For Egg Wash:
1 egg (beaten)
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
Fruit for Top :
Obviously you won’t be able to use all of these fruits, but you can mix and match. These are just my recommendations.
I know, it never ends…
white sugar, for sprinkling
1 small plastic baby Jesus doll
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 the bowl with a clean towel. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 25 minutes.
2. While letting yeast/flour mixture, mix the flour, eggs, sugar, orange extract, orange zest, salt and butter in a large bowl. Mix until crumbly. You can mix it together with your hands if you like… it worked well for me.
3. Add yeast mixture to the bowl and mix. The dough will be sticky. Place dough on a floured surface and start kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will take about 15 minutes to get this results.
4. Place dough in a greased, large bowl and cover with a clean towel. Let dough stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 and 1/2 hours.
5. While the dough rises, mix the margarine and confectioners sugar until creamy. Then add in the flour and egg yolk. Mix until smooth. If the mixture is to soft to roll, refrigerate the mixture until you think that you can work with it. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface and cut into strips. (The dough is supposed to be rolled out super thick and cut into relatively short strips.) Then chop the candied fruits of your choice to preferred size.
6. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth.
7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with rack in lower third. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead a few times. Roll it gently into a long rectangle. Then spread the cream cheese up the middle and fold the dough over the filling and pinch it to seal. Pinch the ends shut as well. Move the caterpillar of dough to a large & greased baking sheet, and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
8.For the egg wash, whisk egg and cream together. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Place the sweet pasta strips on the top of the dough. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 5 minutes. Place dried fruit slices on the top of the bread. Then bake for 5-10 more minutes until bread is a nice golden brown color. The time will vary depending on your oven.
9. Let the bread cool for about 10 minutes before inserting the plastic baby doll in the bread from the bottom of the loaf-ring-thingy. Don’t tell anyone where it is or that the doll is even there. Whoever finds the doll in their slice of bread has to make Tamales for everyone at the end of the month!
10. Enjoy! (Whewy!)