A Sweet Treat for the Feast of Epiphany – Rosca de Reyes
The Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, is traditionally celebrated on January 6 in western Christian Churches. While the Roman Catholic Church has moved the celebration of the Epiphany to the Sunday following the Feast of Mary Mother of God (January 1), this feast continues to be celebrated on January 6 in many homes and communities. In Latin cultures, the Three Kings bring gifts to children on this day and families gather for festive meals.
Rosca de Reyes or Roscón de Reyes (King’s Bread) is a traditional pastry served on the Feast of the Epiphany. It is generally served with a cup of hot chocolate or atole in Mexico. In Spain, people savor this sweet bread for breakfast, while in Latin America it is more commonly served in the afternoon.
The tradition of making ring cakes dates back to the Saturnalia, when the Romans would fashion round cakes made with honey, figs, and dates, and distribute them to all people, including slaves. In the third century, people started to put one dried fava-bean in the dough, and whoever received the piece of bread that contained the bean would be named rey de reyes (king of kings) for a short period of time.
The cakes that are made today are formed to imitate a crown – shaped as a ring and decorated with bright “jewels” (fruits.) In Spain, a fava-bean is still hidden in the dough, but in Mexico a doll representing the baby Jesus in tucked inside the ring. The doll symbolizes that Jesus had to be hidden and protected after he was born. Today in Mexican culture, the lucky person who finds the doll is expected to take the figurine to church on February 2 and host a party that day to celebrate El Dia de la Candelaria (Candlemas).
The following is a recipe for Rosca de Reyes for those who like to bake and would like to try a special treat.
Rosca de reyes
(King’s Bread Ring)
2 packets of yeast
2 Tablespoons lukewarm water
2/3 cup boiling hot milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 well beaten eggs
1/3 cup softened shortening
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 cups finely-chopped candied or dried fruits and citron or a little dried lemon peel + a handful for decoration
Chopped nuts. maraschino cherries, and/or orange peel for decoration (optional)
Soften yeast in lukewarm water. Combine hot milk, sugar, salt, and stir to blend. Let cool to lukewarm. Add softened yeast, eggs, shortening, and half of the flour. Beat until well blended. Add remaining flour and candied fruits. Mix until the dough is moderately stiff. Knead lightly on floured board until smooth. Grease baking sheets.
To shape dough:
To make 2 small rings, divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a rope about 20-inches long. Shape into 7-8-inch circles on greased baking sheets, or use ring molds. Put one china, or heat resistant plastic doll into each ring so that they do not show.
To make one large ring, roll the dough into a longer rope and shape into a ring of desired size. Tuck a doll into the dough.
Brush with melted shortening. Let rise in slightly warm place until double in bulk. Bake at 375˚ for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. (The smaller ring will take less time to cook.) Let cool.
To decorate: Blend powdered sugar and milk (or water) to make a thick icing. Spread icing over ring(s) and decorate with more candied fruits, maraschino cherries or peels.
Image by Tamorlan
Used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0