What is Three Kings Day
Just when you thought the holidays were over I have one more to tell you about before closing out the season. January 6th is el Dia de los Reyes Magos or Three Wise Men Day. It is a traditional Christian holiday celebrated in Spain, Latin American and many other Christian countries around the world. The holiday marks the 12th day of Christmas, or Epiphany, for the church. On this day the three kings or wise men (also known as Magi), visited and brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
Religion aside Mexico this day is especially important to children. For niños it means gifts from the Reyes Magos. The night before on January 5th little children all over Mexico leave their shoes near the doorway, outside or perhaps by the window, with a note to the Reyes. They ask for a gift and state the reasons why they deserve it. As you can imagine it was one of my favorite holidays as a child. My siblings and I received gifts on December 24th and 25th and additional, though not as extravagant, gifts on January 6th.
How is Dia De Los Reyes Celebrated
Nowadays as a non-Christian for me this holiday is about good childhood memories and family traditions. One of the traditions for Mexican families is to eat this bread called Rosca de Reyes or King’s Bread.
On January 6th after opening presents from the reyes magos we sit down to drink a cup of chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) with a slice of this sweet bread. Often times families and friends gather for a celebration and the Rosca is always present and served to the guests.
The bread I can best describe as a cross between brioche and hints of a fruit cake…sort of. The bread is shaped in an oval form and is decorated with candied fruits. The shape and fruits are meant to replicate the jeweled crowns of the Wise Men.
Additionally a porcelain baby Jesus figurine is hidden in the dough before baking. For those attending parties, and are served the Rosca, it is considered good luck to be the one who finds the Jesus figurine in their bread serving. That lucky person must also host a party on February 2nd for the Candlemas holiday.
The years I lived in Europe I used to bake my own rosca de reyes and made substitutes for ingredients where I could. It seems like every year I would experiment with flavors and fruits for my rosca.
Tips & Alternatives for Making A Rosca De Reyes
One of the traditional ingredients in the rosca is candied fruit, and I’m not a big fan of it so I swapped it out for dried fruit and dyed decorative toppings. The great thing about this bread is that it can easily be adjusted and tweaked to your personal tastes.
Feel free to replace the craisins and raisins for candied fruit of your choice. It’s very important not to skip the soaking time to avoid burnt toppings.
Additionally I used half all purpose and half whole wheat flour but feel free to use only all purpose if you like.
Please use a food scale for accurate weight of measurements. The recipe makes one large bread, I cut the dough in half before rising and froze one half and baked the other.
- 350 g all purpose flour
- 350 g whole wheat flour
- 150 g light brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 180 g unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp fresh orange zest (from one medium orange)
- 50 ml juice from zested orange
- 1 tsp almond extact
- 4 lightly beaten medium eggs (egg weight between 53-63 gm)
- 150 ml tepid whole fat milk
- 1 pack (12g) instant dry yeast
- 1 lightly beaten egg for wash
- craisins, to decorate and use as many as desired
- golden raisins (sultanas), to decorate and use as many as desired
- red and yellow food coloring
- a cup of Mexican hot chocolate
- In a small bowl cover the craisins and sultanas with warm water and set aside to soak. Meanwhile, melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly. Once cooled mix in orange juice and almond extra and set aside. In a large bowl mix all of the flour, salt, sugar and zest until well combined. In a separate small bowl mix the tepid milk and dry yeast, lightly beating to help it along. Make a well in center of bowl with flour, pour the milk-yeast mix, melted butter, and the 4 lightly beaten eggs. Mix and knead the dough until smooth. You may need extra flour depending on conditions in your kitchen. Cover the dough with clean kitchen cloth and allow to rise for one hour or until doubled in size. **I made two small breads, one baked right away and one frozen to baked another day. If you would like to do the same then cut full dough in half, allow one half to rise and freeze the other right away.**
- Preheat oven to 180c or 356f and prepare large baking sheet. Lightly punch dough down. Cut off a small piece to create the decorative braids. Then divide that small piece into two. Knead each small piece with a drop or two of red and yellow food coloring separately until color is blended well -use extra flour if needed. Between your balms work the dough into long thin strands -- you'll need 3 per braid. Braid the small dough pieces and set aside. Knead the large risen dough into a large oval shape, punch a whole through the center just like a doughnut. Continue until the dough is shaped like a large doughnut with a slight oval shape. Lightly brush the bread dough with egg wash. Drain the craisins and raisins, place the decorative braids on top like in the photos. Next use the craisins and raisins to decorate the bread. Use my pictures as a guide or be creative. Brush the fruit and decorative braids with egg wash then sprinkle with granulated sugar. Make sure the whole bread is coated.
- Bake for 20-35 the time will depend on the thickness the dough was as well as whether the whole dough or half was baked. After 20 minutes check the bread by inserting a knife into the center if clear it is finished baking. Make sure that the color is golden and that when tapped the bread sounds hollow. For the full recipe more baking time is needed, and if the fruits are begging to brown cover the bread to prevent burning and continue baking until finished. Allow to cool completely before serving. Serve with Mexican hot chocolate or your favorite hot chocolate.
Feel free to replace the craisins and raisins for candied fruit of your choice. It is important not to skip the soaking time to avoid burnt toppings. Additionally I used half all purpose and half whole wheat flour but feel free to use only all purpose if you like. It is important to use a scale for accurate weight measurements. The recipe makes one large bread, I cut the dough in half before rising and froze one half and baked the other.
What Flavors Does This Rosca De Reyes Have
While this rosca doesn’t look like the traditional ones in Mexico the bread does taste delicious!
The strongest taste and smell is that of the orange zest. I only wished the almond extract taste would have been stronger. Perhaps next time I’ll add more. The tart craisins compliment the sweet sultanas and orange perfectly. Of course a cup of strong and dark Mexican hot chocolate is a must as it brings the whole bread and celebration together.
Enjoy and Feliz dia de los Reyes!
Now that I live in Mexico again, I can enjoy the traditional Rosca de Reyes in all shapes and sizes! Below are what some of the small personal size ones look like. You can read all about them here.