Rosca Rey de Reyes, or Rosca de los Reyes, is eaten in México, Puerto Rico, and Portugal on Twelfth Night (January 6th), celebrated in the Catholic religion as the day the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts for Jesus of Nazareth. A tiny ceramic doll, coin, or bean may be hidden in the bread, and traditionally the person who finds it throws a party on Candlemass (February 2nd), or is in charge of preparing the “Rosca” for the following year.
In this recipe we are using coffee to re-hydrate the dried fruits instead of the more commonly used port wine or dark rum, adding an innovative twist to the flavor combinations. Please note that this specialty bread involves a 2-day process, so be sure to set aside enough time for the steps involved.
Serves 8 to 10
For the lemon sugar:
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
6 drops fresh lemon juice
For the coffee-infused fruit:
¼ cup sultanas (golden raisins) or dried mango, chopped
¼ cup candied orange peel, chopped
½ cup strong coffee (cold brew or espresso)
For the dough:
2 ¼ cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup warm water
1 envelope (2 ½ teaspoons) dry yeast
7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
¼ cup cashews, almonds, or walnuts
For the decoration:
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
Lemon sugar (recipe follows)
Fresh figs, cut into quarters, or pineapple chunks
Candied orange or lemon peel
Mango, or pineapple marmalade (optional)
1 bean wrapped in wax paper (Portuguese tradition)
1 tiny ceramic doll (Mexican tradition)
Prepare the lemon sugar:
Combine the white and confectioners sugars in a bowl and mix well. Add lemon juice and combine with either a spoon or your fingers (the mixture should have a coarse texture). Put in a warm place to dry.
Prepare the coffee-infused fruit:
Place the sultanas (or mango) and the candied orange peel in a jar and add the coffee. Close with lid and allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.
Prepare the dough:
Sift the flour, confectioners sugar, and salt into a bowl and stir in the yeast. Make a well in the center. Over a low heat, gently melt the butter and water. Remove from the heat to cool. Add the orange and lemon peels, then add to the dry ingredients along with the eggs. Mix well.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Put in a clean bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
[Chef’s Note: When you let the dough rise, be sure to keep it away from drafts, in an area that is about 75-80˚ F. You don’t want the dough to get too warm.]
On a lightly floured surface, knead the nuts and coffee-soaked fruit into the dough, working the dough until it becomes firm and elastic again. [If the dough is still sticky at this point, add a little bit of flour and knead some more!] Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest while you prepare the cookie sheet.
Grease a large cookie sheet with melted butter or non-stick spray. Place the dough on the cookie sheet, and using your hands make a cylinder of approximately 2 feet in length. Form the dough into a circle and pinch the two ends together with your fingers. Cover and let rest in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F approximately 5-10 minutes before the dough is finished rising.
When the bread is ready to go in the oven, brush the surface with the egg-water glaze and decorate with the lemon sugar, fresh figs (or pineapple), and candied orange or lemon peel.
To follow the Portuguese tradition (optional):
Place a bean wrapped in wax or parchment paper under the dough.
To follow the Mexican tradition (optional):
Place 1 tiny ceramic doll under the dough.
Bake for 20 minutes and check the color of the bread. If it is already golden brown in color, cover it with aluminum foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Brush with warm marmalade for a nice gloss.
Serve when completely cooled. If you decide to hide a surprise in the dough, be careful with your cutting (and eating)!
Recipe and photos by Melissa De Leon Douglass.