Although in the UK Christmas is the pinnacle of celebrations, in most South American countries and Spain, Epiphany is widely celebrated – sometimes even more than Christmas itself! As a child, I remember leaving my shoes by the side of my bed on the eve of Epiphany ready for the wise men to visit and leave presents. Next to my shoes, there would be a bowl of grass and water for the hungry camels to eat and drink!
Rosca de Reyes (three kings bread) is a sweet milk bread which is traditionally eaten to celebrate Epiphany and there are different variations depending on which country you visit. In Argentina, the traditional Rosca de Reyes is ring shaped and is covered in a lot of crema pastelera (crème patisserie). it is decorated with glace cherries and other dried fruits to represent the crown of the wise men!
In the past, there used to be a small plastic doll/toy hidden in the Rosca de Reyes however due to health and safety this tradition has been stopped!
What will I need to make this amazing Rosca de Reyes?
- Plain flour: Good old plain flour is perfect for this recipe. You cannot use self raising flour as we are using yeast in this recipe.
- Milk: Rosca de Reyes is a type of sweet milk bread so milk is kind of a given ingredient! I used semi-skimmed milk but if you do have full fat milk, it would be even better. The milk should be lukewarm to make the Rosca. You will also need milk to make the crema pastelera!
- Yeast: I use Allison’s dried active yeast because I like that it needs to be dissolved in a liquid and therefore you are always sure the yeast is alive before adding it to the rest of ingredients. You can obviously use fast acting yeast, which is easier, as you add the yeast straight to the solid ingredients and all liquid is added at once. If you can find fresh yeast easily, then you can also use it!
- Sugar: Caster sugar is best as it is smaller granules than granulated sugar. You will use sugar to make the sweet dough and also to make the crema pastelera.
- Eggs: I used large eggs for this recipe! You will need eggs for both the sweet dough and for the crema pastelera. Always make sure the eggs are at room temperature before you begin baking!
- Unsalted butter: The butter should be soft and at room temperature before adding so make sure you take it out of the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes before you begin baking!
- Honey: This will be used when making the sponge ferment with the yeast and milk. It makes the milk bread much more softer.
- Salt: Only a pinch is added but is definitely needed when making a a sweet bread. The salt needs to be added to the side so it does not touch the yeast directly otherwise it might kill it!
- Zest of lemon and orange – This gives the dough a lovely delicate flavour. I added the zest of a whole lemon and a whole orange and it is extremely fragrant!
- Vanilla extract: This will be added both to the dough and to the crema pastelera
- Corn flour: Crema pastelera is essentially set custard and the way it thickens and sets is because of the added cornflour. Cornflour, although amazing, tends to form lumps easily if not dissolved in liquid first so make sure you completely dissolve the cornflour in a bit of milk before adding to rest of ingredients.
- Glace cherries and jelly diamonds: To decorate the Rosca de Reyes with jewels!
- Two empty and clean cans (of tomato for example) – Cover the cans in metallic foil and then greased with butter. The can will be placed in the hole so that when the rosca rises for a second time and then bakes, the hole does not close.
This recipe will make 2 medium sized Roscas (as per the picture!) or one gigantic one.
For the sponge ferment:
- 15g dried active yeast (you can use 30g of fresh yeast or 7g fast acting yeast)
- 120ml lukewarm milk
- 1 tbsp honey
For the dough:
- 600g plain flour
- 3 large eggs
- 150g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- the zest of 1 lemon
- the zest of 1 orange
- pinch of salt
- 100g soft butter
- extra egg to egg wash
For the crema pastelera (crème patisserie) :
- 500ml milk
- 50g corn flour
- 100g caster sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Glace cherries
- Jelly diamonds (optional)
To make the sponge ferment:
- In a clean bowl, add the lukewarm milk (not hot!), the yeast and the honey.
- Use a spoon to stir well until the yeast is completely mixed
- Cover with cling film and allow to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place until the yeast blooms and forms a lovely sponge
To make the Rosca:
- In a large container (or a clean surface), add the plain flour and make a large well in the middle. Add the salt to the outside of the flour.
- In the well, add the caster sugar, 3 eggs, vanilla extract, sponge ferment and the zest of the lemon and orange. DO NOT ADD THE BUTTER YET!
- Use a spatula to start mixing the dry and wet ingredients together. When a soft dough is starting to form, use your hands to knead together until a lovely dough is formed – you should not need to add any more flour.
- To this uniform dough, begin to add pieces of soft butter (in total you will add 100g of butter) and continue to knead. You will find that it looks as if the dough is splitting, this is absolutely normal. Continue to knead all the butter in. Once all the butter has been added, knead for a further 5-7 minutes until a uniform dough is formed again – IT WILL FORM!
- Put the dough back in a clean bowl and cover with cling film or shower cap and let it rest for at least 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, tip the dough into a slightly floured surface and gently press. If you are making two medium sized roscas, divide the dough into two equally sized parts. If you want one large rosca, do not divide into two!
- To make the medium sized roscas, start by taking one of the dough parts and fold the outsides into the middle. Turn upside down and make the dough into a ball.
- Flour your elbow (yes!! your elbow! – make sure that it is clean obviously!) by pressing your elbow into some flour in a bowl. Put your elbow in the middle of the dough ball and press down until your elbow touches the surface and therefore making a hole.
- Continue to work on making the hole in the middle larger with your hand. Grab a clean and empty can (a can of tomato works perfectly) and cover it in metallic foil. Grease the metallic foil covering the can with butter so that it does not stick to the rosca whilst baking.
- Place the can in the hole in the middle of the rosca and cover the rosca in cling film or with a tea towel. Allow the rosca to rest for 2 hours until it has doubled in size once again.
To make the crema pastelera
- Heat most of the milk gently until it comes to a boil (leave 50ml of cold milk or so aside to dissolve the corn flour). Ensure you are always stirring so it does not stick or burn. When it starts to boil, remove from fire, cover and set aside.
- Add the cornflour in the remaining cold milk and stir thoroughly to ensure all the cornflour is dissolved.
- Add the 5 egg yolks to a clean container and the caster sugar. Whisk either by hand or with an electric whisk until the mixture is lighter yellow and fluffy.
- Add the dissolved cornflour and milk into the egg/sugar mixture and continue to stir for a few more minutes, ensuring the corn flour has dissolved completely.
- Start adding small amounts of the warm milk to the egg/sugar mixture and continue to stir constantly so that it does not split.
- Once all the milk has been added, put the mixture in a clean pan and start to heat gently whilst continuing to stir/whisk.
- After 10-15 of gently heating, the crema pastelera will start to set. If at any point you see clumps forming, remove from the fire, whisk vigorously until clumps are broken up and then continue to heat gently.
- Once the crema pastelera has thicken, remove from the fire and transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with cling film, ensuring the cling film touches the surface of the crema pastelera. This ensures that no crust is formed on the top whilst cooling.
- Let it cool at room temperature and then refrigerate until completely set.
To assemble and bake the Rosca de Reyes:
- Once the dough has risen to double the size, start preheating the oven to 170 degree Celsius.
- Egg wash the Rosca de Reyes and bake for 20 minutes.
- Whilst the Rosca is baking, fill a piping bag with the crema pastelera with a medium sized nozzle.
- After 20 minutes remove the Rosca from the oven and pipe crema pastelera on top of the Rosca.
- Continue to bake the Rosca for a further 20 minutes in the oven and remove when golden.
- Decorate the Rosca with glace cherries and jelly diamonds.
I absolutely love Rosca de Reyes and I am super excited to share it with you!!
Buen provecho 🙂