Friday, January 6, 2012

Día de los Reyes!

We had been waiting in Madrid at Plaza del Callao for half an hour in vain. "We were told that the Kings´Parade would start here, is that true?" we asked a policeman. "No," he answered, and told us what places the parade would go to. After racing across town, we made it to Cibeles (see picture below) just in time---to see everyone leaving.
Large TV screens were up to show the parade, people were singing the last songs, firecrackers were being set off, and there was still a crowd in sight. But before we had arrived at the Plaza, we had spotted some abandoned floats in the shadows--they were adorned with lifesize camel and giraffe statues, as well as elephants and an ostrich (I believe). I guess they were representing all of the kings´ modes of transportation...
We got a small Roscón de Reyes at "El Museo del Jamón"(see  which did not have artifacts; it was a cross between a Spanish bar and a delicatessen. That was the first time I ever celebrated that holiday.

January the 6th is literally the "Twelfth Night" after Christmas. Christians believe that three wise kings visited baby Jesus on that date. In Spain, children write letters to Gaspar, Balthazar, and Melchior, to ask for presents, which they open on Epiphany. They eat a fancy bread called Roscón de Reyes, and hide a bean in it. The person who finds the bean becomes king that evening, and must purchase the next Roscón for the following year.

I was excited this Tuesday when I started making my Epiphany desserts way ahead of time. I´ve never been able to make anything on that date before! The Roscon dough was especially cooperative.The bread rose generously, the cream-colored dough blew up like a cloud on several occasions. I ended up with not one, but two Roscones! Is this bread called Rosca, Roscón or Rosco? I´m not sure, so I´ll use those names interchangeably. I picked the dried fruits that seemed most attractive to me at the time, so place your favorite dried fruits on your Roscon. 

The recipe is mostly Penelope Casas´recipe (, with a few variations:
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon brandy
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 teaspoon orange rind
1/4 pound butter
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 cup sugar
6 cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk, scalded and cooled
5 cups flour
1 cup fruit pieces
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
dates and dried apricots for garnish
Yield: 2 bread rings

Boil water, then pour it into a small glass bowl and wait for its temperature to reach 115 degrees F. Add a tablespoon of the sugar you´ve already measured for the rest of the bread, then add the yeast. In a mixing bowl, place the butter, brandy, rinds, shortening, sugar, eggs, yeast, and flour and mix together. Scald the milk and cool it. When cool, add it to the rest of the mixture. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, then turn the dough over. Let it rise for 2 hours. Knead for another 4 minutes. Shape the two rings ("crowns"), and let them rise for another hour, on cookie sheets. When they have doubled in size, brush the beaten egg with water on it. Sprinkle the sugar on top, and decorate with dates and dried apricots. Press a red kidney bean in each ring of dough, if you don´t have a miniature baby Jesus or trinket that is safe to place in it. The person who finds it will be the "king" or "queen" of the day! I thought the kidney beans I put in the dough, which happened to be inordinately tiny, were not festive enough, until we found them in the dough! The symbolism is what´s important. I had even forgotten I had placed the bean by the time I cut the second ring, and was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I wondered what strange object had filtered its way into the bread.

Place in oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, until it is golden brown. Eat it warm, and pour some pastry cream (crema pastelera) on it. Serve it on a festive plate! It is large and thus hard to store (I had to cut one of them in two as you can see below, to be able to put it in a container) so it is best eaten soon!

Coming up this Sunday: Galette des Rois, or Pithiviers, from France

1 comment:

camelia said...


We bumped into your blog and we really liked it - great recipes YUM YUM.
We would like to add it to the

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