Recipe File: Rosca de Reyes | Three Kings’ Cake

The rosca de reyes, the food most closely associated with El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, begins to crop up in Argentine bakeries just after New Year's. A sweetened yeast bread formed into the shape of a ring, the rosca de reyes symbolizes both the crowns of the Three Kings and God's unending love. The Argentine version of the rosca is usually topped with pastry cream, candied cherries (and/or other candied fruits) and pearl sugar.

Rosca de Reyes by katiemetz, on Flickr
Three Kings’ Cake | Rosca de Reyes
Yields 1 large ring or 2 small ones

Ingredients

Sponge:
1/4 c. bread flour
1 Tbsp. honey
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/3 c. warm milk [100ºF to 110ºF]

Dough:
3 c. bread flour plus up to 1 c. bench flour
3 tsp. active dry yeast
1/3 c. warm milk
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. malt extract [optional]
2 eggs
7 Tbsp. butter, softened [just under 1 stick]

Pastry Cream:
2 c. milk
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Other:
1 beaten egg
red candied cherries
pearl sugar
apricot jelly [optional]

Directions

To make the sponge, in a medium bowl, dissolve the honey in the warm milk, and then add the yeast and flour, stirring to create a paste. Leave the mixture, covered, to rise and bubble for 2 hours.

For the dough, sift the flour and place it in a large mixing bowl, making a well in the center. Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add the sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract, malt extract, eggs, butter and the sponge to the well. Slowly add the milk and yeast mixture to the well while incorporating the flour into the wet ingredients with a wooden spoon. Once the dough comes together into a ball, turn it out onto a well floured work surface and knead by hand (the dough will be very sticky). Use up to 1 cup of additional bench flour to knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands, about 15 minutes. Shape dough into one large ball (or two smaller ones), and place in a greased bowl, covered with a kitchen towel. Allow dough to rise in a warm place, until it doubles in volume.

While the dough is rising, make the pastry cream. Scald the milk in a heavy saucepan (milk should foam but not boil). In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the whole egg along with the egg yolks, sugar and flour until smooth. Slowly incorporate the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid curdling the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until it just comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer the pastry cream to a clean bowl (pass it through a fine-mesh strainer if you spot small pieces of curdled egg), and cool the pastry cream to room temperature.

Punch down the dough and form it into a ball. Place the dough ball on a baking sheet lined with greased parchment or a silicone mat, and make a hole in the center of the ball. Carefully stretch and shape the dough into a ring. Insert a lightly crumpled ball of aluminum foil or an empty tin can in the hole.
Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until doubled in volume.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Using a pastry bag with a star tip, decorate the ring with pastry cream. Brush the ring with beaten egg, avoiding areas with pastry cream. Place the candied cherries on top and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

Bake the ring for about 35 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Optional step: While the rosca cools, prepare the apricot jelly. Bring the jelly to a simmer in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Let the jelly reduce until it has thickened slightly, about five minutes. Lightly brush the rosca with jelly to enhance its appearance and give it shine.

This recipe was originally published by me on the website Hispanic Kitchen.

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