rosca de reyes

In Spanish, a ‘rosca’ is a wreath and ‘reyes’ means kings. The ‘rosca de reyes’, therefore, is a wreath of the kings and is baked in Mexico to mark Epiphany on the 6 January, when the three kings presented gifts to the Christ child in the stable. This is a delicious, enriched bread full of eggs and butter but it goes one better: the top of the bread is lavishly decorated with candied fruit and inside the bread the baker hides a little token or a tiny model of Baby Jesus. Whoever gets the token hosts a party on 2 February (the day Christ was presented at the temple) where tamales are served. Versions of this bread are made all over the world to celebrate Epiphany – such as the ‘galette des rois’ in France – and while the shapes change, they all seem to feature a token in the middle.

500 g/4 cups plain/all-purpose white wheat flour

2.5 g/1¼ teaspoons instant yeast, 5 g/1¾ teaspoons dry yeast, or 10 g/⅝ cake fresh yeast

120 g/1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for dusting

50 ml/3 tablespoons water

10 g/2½ teaspoons salt

5 eggs

1 teaspoon orange flower water

200 g/13 tablespoons butter, at room temperature and cubed, plus extra, melted, to glaze

DECORATION

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon water

½ tablespoon sugar, plus extra to sprinkle

½ teaspoon salt

candied fruit, eg. angelica, pears, plums, orange, lemon, cherries or anything bright and cheerful

2 prepared baking sheets

2 tokens or statues

MAKES 2 MEDIUM LOAVES

Making a predough

Put the flour in a bowl and make a well. Add the yeast and sugar to the well and pour in the water. Flick some flour on the water to close the well. Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour. After 1 hour, it will be foamy and bubbling through the top of the well. If it is not, check for signs of life by simply digging through the flour on top of the well.

Making the dough

Sprinkle the salt around the edge of the flour, then add the eggs and orange flower water to the well. Mix and then knead well for 10 minutes –  for instructions on kneading.

Now add the butter and knead again for 10–20 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated. Don’t panic! The dough will get very slack but it will firm up again.

Scrape the dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm/plastic wrap and allow to rest until doubled in size – 12 hours in the fridge or 6 hours at room temperature.

Pull the dough out onto a floured surface.

Shaping

Divide the dough in 2 and shape into tight balls. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes until they soften up a bit.

Poke a hole through the middle of each ball with the handle of a utensil. , overleaf.

Gently widen the dough with your hands and with gravity to expand it into a ring. overleaf.

The dough making the ring should be about 6 cm/2½ inches wide. Place the rings on the prepared baking sheets. Push the token or statue up into the dough from beneath.

To decorate, make a glaze by mixing together the egg, water, sugar and salt. Paint it over the rings with a pastry brush. Sprinkle sugar thickly over the tops of the rings in 4–6 stripes – 3 cm/1½ inches wide – spaced evenly around each ring. Between the sugar stripes, arrange your choice of candied fruit.

Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise until doubled in size – 2 hours if the dough is warm, or 4 hours if the dough is cold.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F) Gas 4.

Bake the rings in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the bread is golden on the top. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.

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