Thursday, January 5, 2017

Roscón de Reyes or "The Kings' Cake"

The holidays are over in many parts of the world but luckily here in Spain they linger till the 6th of January. Gift sharing is synonymous with Christmas across most of the world, however, for the Spanish, gifts are exchanged on the morning of the day awaited by children and adults alike: Día de los Reyes! This feast, which occurs on the 6th of January, is known elsewhere as the Epiphany and is celebrated much more modestly. However, in Spain and much of the Hispanic World the feast is celebrated widely.

On this special day, before unwrapping the gifts, the family gathers around a breakfast consisting of hot chocolate and the star of Christmas desserts in Spain and in many Hispanic countries: el Roscón de Reyes. The whole day and feast pays tribute to the Three Wise Men or Magi that foretold the arrival of Jesus Christ. Tradition has it that children receive gifts not from Santa Clause but from the Reyes or Wise Men themselves.

The roscon is a brioche like dough, though less buttery, that is usually decorated with candied fruits and can be filled with whipped cream. Small figurines are hidden in the cake and the one who finds it will be a king for a day and will supposedly have a better year!

I usually miss this celebration as I go home for Christmas and New Year celebration. This year, however, my family came to Madrid to spend the holidays. Even though I could have bought roscon from any pastry shop, supermarket or market fair, I decided that it is time to make it at home! It is always so much nicer when you share homemade desserts with your family. It is even better when you eat this delicious dessert with your favorite hot chocolate recipe.

To make the roscon you have to start with the start dough or poolish. The quantities listed are for 4 to 6 people.

You need:
  • 75 g strong bread flour
  • 75 g milk at 37 degrees C (98/99 F)
  • 3 g fresh yeast
Mix all the ingredients together, cover and let the wet starter proof for 30 minutes. It should double in size and be full of bubbles.

For the final dough:
  • 175 strong bread flour
  • 40 g honey
  • 1 large egg (50 g of it will go into the dough the rest will be used for the egg wash)
  • zest of one medium orange and zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp of bourbon
  • 2 tsp of orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 g fresh yeast
  • the poolish made previously
  • 50 g soft butter
In a big bowl combine all the ingredients but the butter, and with the hook  attachment knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough should become smooth and shiny. Add the butter and knead again for another 10 minutes. After that time you will  have a smooth, elastic and shiny dough. Grease a bowl, put the dough inside of it, cover and let it rise until it doubles in size, which will take between 1 hour 30 min to 2 hours.

When the dough has risen, deflate it a bit by taking the sides of the dough and bringing them to the middle. Cover again and leave it the fridge for the next day.
If you don´t have time or you can´t wait, drop the dough on a lightly floured surface, shape it into a ball , make a hole in the middle and start stretching it carefully until you have a ring shaped roscón. I made a slight mistake while shaping mine as the hole should have been bigger so it won't close almost completely once baked. 
If you decide to leave the dough in the fridge overnight, you just need to make the same step mentioned above, 
Once the ring is formed, cover it and let it proof until it doubles in size, if the dough is cold it will take a bit longer! This step will take around 2 hours.

Preheat your oven at 200 C/392 F. Prepare the egg wash by mixing the rest of the egg with a teaspoon of milk and few drops of vanilla or cointreau.

Brush the dough with the egg wash and decorate it as you wish: candied fruits, pearled sugar, slivered almonds or whatever you like.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Traditionally the cake is served as it is, but in recent years some fillings like whipped cream or chocolate cream were added to spice up the traditional cake. 

Have the cake with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and enjoy a piece of Spanish tradition!

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