Roscon de Reyes
Origin: Spain and other origins.
Roscón de Reyes -twisted roll of kings- is mainly consumed on Three Kings Day in Spain (6th of January, day when the exchange take place). However it's origin it's little related to Christian lore, it's much older and has pagan roots.
In fact roscón de reyes goes back to Roman times, where it was elaborated for Saturnalia, or the slaves' holiday. It was celebrated in mid december to honor the agriculture god, Saturn.
The event commemorated the the end of the darkest period of the year and till the end of the month the "sun holidays" would come, when the sun entered Capricorn, the winter solstice. It meant the end of the labor in the fields. The slaves would be able to rest and recover from a hard season's work
The slaves were given round cakes made of figs, dates and honey. A dry lima bean, which represented prosperity, was hidden in the cakes. The slave who found it in his piece would be free for the day and be treated like a king.
This tradition was absorbed by Christianity when in the 4th century, the church established Three Kings Day. For many years their origin as winter solstice celebration was forgotten
However the custom spread. Many years later in France the celebration was called Le Roi de la Fave (the king of the lima bean). King Louis XV (1710 -1774) had been recently crowned (in fact he was a child) and an Eslavic cook wanted to make him a present on Three Kings Day. The cook prepared roscón de reyes traditional from his land with a surprise in inside: a diamond medallion he purchased with the help of collaborators.
The young king was so delighted with the dessert that he spread it among the French and European aristocracy. However instead of hiding diamond medallions they would use coins.
In Spain it was introduced by Philip V, Louis XV's uncle, and soon it became a highly popular tradition among the nobility. With time the custom seeped from the high classes to the common people. Madrid and Sevilla were the biggest cities to adopt it, and then spread throughout the country and later to Spain's colonies in Latin America.
The lima bean was first substituted by one diamond necklace, then by coins, then by figurines. The current custom is to put a figurine and a lima bean inside the roscón de reyes. The person who finds the figurine will have be lucky during the new year, as the wise kings protect him. The person who finds the lima bean must pay for the dessert.
Roscón de Reyes | Spanish Twisted Roll of Kings
- 350 grams of baking wheat flour
- 25 grams of fresh yeast
- 125 ml of fresh milk
- 100 grams of sugar
- 75 grams of butter (left at room temperature for soft malleable texture)
- 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
- orange zest
- 1 tbs of rum
- 1 tsp of orange blossom essence (fit for food)
- a pinch of salt
- To decorate: candied fruit, sugar, almonds, or whatever you like
- Put the fresh yeast in warm milk and dissolve with your fingers. Leave for 15 minutes so the yeast activates.
- Put 320 grams of flour in a bowl. In the center place the orange zest and sugar.
- When the milk and yeast are ready add it to the center of the flour
- Stir the center with a spatula, slowly incorporating the flour on the bottom and sides of the bowl until a thin paste forms, however flour must remain on the walls of the bowl
- Add the butter, the orange blossom essence, the rum, the egg yolk and the salt
- Mix well with the spatula until you have a sticky dough, incorporating the flour on the walls of the bowl
- Sprinkle the table you will be working on with the rest of the flour. Put the roscón de reyes dough and knead. It will stick to the surface at first, but as you knead it it will stop sticking. If it's impossible, add some more flour (only if strictly necessary). The dough has to be slightly sticky, but if you slide it quickly through the surface it mustn't adhere to it
- When the dough is ready shape into a ball. Sprinkle some flour in a large bowl and put the dough in it. Cover with cling film and put the bowl in a warm place, perhaps a room with a heater. The mass must double it's volume, and it can take from 2 to 3 hours depending on the temperature
- When the dough has grown enough remove from the bowl and knead for one minute to remove the air from it.
- Form a ball with the dough. With both thumbs make a hole in the middle and enlarge to give the roscón de reyes it's shape. It must have more or less the size of the baking tray you will be using
- Line the tray with baking paper and put the dough on it. It's likely it will shrink a little. Spread it evenly on the tray until it has a good size. If the dough sticks on the baking paper it doesn't matter.
- Cover the dough with another sheet of baking paper and let it leaven in a warm place until it's size doubles. It should take between 30 and 60 minutes.
- Once it's leavened, with a brush paint the roscón de reyes with egg batter and decorate to your taste
- Put the tray in the oven for 25 minutes at 160º C (302º F) until it gets a golden color and remove from the oven.
- Let it cool before cutting or filling it.
If you happen to be visiting Spain during the winter holidays, don't miss out on Roscón de Reyes!