I was born in America to newly immigrated Mexican parents. They didn’t always celebrate holidays in a traditional way since coming here, as they made every effort to assimilate by mastering the language and adopting new traditions. But they made sure my brother and I respected our roots and spoke fluent Spanish.
One day, about 6 or 7 years ago, my dad’s friend gave him a Rosca de Reyes and he brought it home and taught us about the tradition and its significance. I knew about the story of the three wise men from the catechism class I was forced to attend every weekend for years, but had no idea that in Mexico the day the wise men were said to arrive to see baby Jesus with their gift offerings is very much celebrated. Some households don’t even open Christmas gifts until that day, which happens to be today.
The Rosca is a sweet pastry in the shape of a crown, with beautiful and tasty candied fruits which sit like jewels adorning the crown. Inside the pastry is a little doll, signifying the baby Jesus. Families gather and enjoy slices of pastry together and hope not to be the one who finds the baby inside the bread because that person is traditionally responsible for hosting a tamale dinner on February 2nd, which is Dia de la Candelaria, or candle mass day, which also happens to be the day midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox…a.k.a. another reason to get together and party!
This was my first attempt and making a Rosca and I was very pleased with the results. The cook at mexicoinmykitchen.com created this recipe and posted it here. I followed her recipe but tweaked the technique and added some extra flavors. It’s even more special now because I stuffed it with a sweetened cream cheese filling. My family loved it!
Rosca de Reyes with a cream cheese center
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- 2 Envelopes or 2.5 tbsp of dry active yeast
- 4 cups all purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 3 large whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks mixed with 2 tbsp of water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp orange extract
- 1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened, Plus more for buttering a large bowl and plastic wrap
- Freshly grated orange zest from one orange
- 1 scraped vanilla bean
Ingredients for filling:
- 2 – 8 oz. packets of softened cream cheese
- 1 scant cup confectioner sugar
Ingredients for topping:
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
- 6 tbsp softened butter
- 1/2 cup of confectioner sugar
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- Membrillo and quince paste
- Dried, candied fruit of your choosing
- 1 egg, beaten (for the egg wash)
- 1 tbsp milk
- White sugar to sprinkle on top of the bread
- 4 plastic baby dolls
Pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and sprinkle with yeast. Stir with a whisk until yeast has dissolved, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Feed those yeasty buggers by whisking in 1/2 cup of the flour and a tsp of white sugar and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 25 minutes.
While the yeast is multiplying, mix flour, eggs, sugar, orange extract, orange zest, vanilla bean scrapings and salt in a large bowl. Mix until crumbly.
Add the flour mixture slowly into the yeast mixture, mixing on low speed. Allow each flour scoop to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all flour is incorporated, add butter, 1 tbsp at a time until fully incorporated. Mix for about 7 minutes on low-medium. Dough will be very sticky.
Place dough onto a floured surface and knead it a little until you have a smooth dough. Once your dough is smooth and elastic, place in a buttered bowl, and cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let dough stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 and 1/2 hours. I like to heat my oven to 170 while kneading, then turn off and allow the dough to rest inside the warmed oven.
Just before the end of the first rise, mix together the ingredients for the filling and set aside.
Turn the bulky dough out onto a floured surface, and knead a few times, then shape into a round cushion and make a hole in the middle to shape into a large ring. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten out the dough a little and spread cream cheese mixture down along the center of the dough, leaving about a half inch around the edges. Fold the dough around the cream cheese mixture and pinch the edges closed. Loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
While the dough is resting for a second time, get your toppings ready. Combine softened butter with the confectioners sugar until creamy. Add in the flour, almond extract and egg yolk and mix well until you have a smooth paste. I added a little food coloring to mine for that pink hue. Cut your dried and candied fruits and fruit paste into strips or triangles. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and milk to create an egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make sure your dough isn’t resting in the oven before you fire it up!
After the second rise, brush the dough with the egg wash. Form the confectioner sugar paste into strips and place them gently around the Rosca. Then adorn with the dried and candied fruit and fruit paste. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool. Once fully cooled, insert the plastic baby dolls from the bottom of the bread.