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Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread)

Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread)
Growing up in my American household, January 6 was just another day. It usually coincided with the end of a winter break from school that was far too short. But while I was dragging myself out of bed and into school clothes, two thousand miles (or so) south of my location, my future husband was waking up excited to receive a gift left by the Three Kings.

January 6, or Dia de Reyes, was the day for presents, not Christmas. Three Kings Day follows the twelfth night of Christmas. The way I grew up having a hard time to falling asleep from anticipation on Christmas eve is the way my hubs had a hard time falling asleep on January 5. It wasn't Santa Claus he was waiting on, instead the Three Magi left gifts as they traveled through the town.

Of course the day also meant a celebration! The Merienda de Reyes was an Epiphany feast (a tradition brought to Mexico from Spain) that included food and drink like posole, tortilla soup, tamales, atole, hot chocolate—and of course Rosca de Reyes!

Traditionally a porcelain baby or dried fava bean is hidden inside the dough when forming the ring shape. The top is decorated with candied fruit and citrus peel. The person who receives the slice with the baby inside has to host next year's Merienda de Reyes and bake the Rosca. In some towns or families, this person actually holds the Candelaría party on February 2, but not in the town where my husband grew up. Either way, I think it's such a fantastic tradition.
Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread)
It's rooted in Christian religion (obviously with the Three Wise Men and the Twelve Days of Christmas), specifically Catholic. My husband, like many Mexicans, grew up in the Catholic church. I did not (and did not adopt it), but I believe that keeping up the tradition (or some part of it) and teaching our kids its roots is important. It can be hard in a multicultural household, but we try to integrate tradition from both sides. I suppose they see the best of both worlds growing up in America—but they only get presents on one of those occasions.

I realized recently that I've never shared a Rosca de Reyes recipe here on the blog. It's one of those things that wind up being made and eaten with barely a photo snapped. So, seeing as how today is Dia de Reyes and a #TwelveLoaves challenge day, I figured there was no better time than the present to finally do so! Our host this month is Kim from The Ninja Baker, and she assigned us the theme of a "new year challenge". We were to bake a bread that was a symbol, metaphor, or celebration of a challenge we had personally going into 2015. I decided that I really wanted to start sharing more "personal" recipes and the stories behind them here on my blog again. I did that alot when I first started blogging almost 6 years ago, but I don't do that so much anymore. I'm hoping that this is the year I get back to the roots of why I love being a blogger.

Lots of times you'll see a Rosca de Reyes decorated with bright red and green candied fruits alongside citrus peel. I prefer to use dried fruits in more natural hues like apricots, figs, prunes, pineapple, or mango. I don't mind using candied citrus peel, though. I also like to add nuts for a little contrast. A simple decorating paste is also a great way to add interest to the decoration. Sometimes I brush the warm loaf with melted butter and then shower it with granulated sugar. I don't think I've ever decorated a loaf the same way twice. I am partial to this particular orange-scented dough, one that I've adapted a bit from Diana Kennedy over the years.

Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread)
A traditional bread eaten on Dia de Reyes (or Three Kings Day) to celebrate the arrival of the three Wise Men or Magi. This bread is lightly scented with orange, adorned with fruit on the top, and has a plastic baby or dried bean tucked inside.
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Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread)
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 4 hours - mostly unattended
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Keywords: bake bread soy-free vegetarian New Year Christmas Dia de Reyes Mexican

Ingredients (1 loaf)
    for the starter:
    • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    • 30 grams (1 ounce / 3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 225 grams (8 ounces / 2 scant cups) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    for the dough:
    • 113 grams (4 ounces / 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
    • 100 grams (3-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at soft room temperature
    • 225 grams (8 ounces / 2 scant cups) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour + extra as needed
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
    • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (or the finely grated zest of an orange)
    for finishing and decorating the dough (choose one or a combination):
    • 1 plastic baby or a large dried bean
    • dried fruit
    • candied citrus peels
    • nuts
    • decorating paste (recipe follows)
    • 1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water or milk
    for the decorating paste (optional):
    • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) sugar
    • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at soft room temperature
    • 1 large egg
    • 100 grams (~3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
    to finish (optional):
    • 2 tablespoons melted butter
    • 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    making the starter:
    Sprinkle yeast over water in a small bowl. Once foamy, stir in sugar and egg, then add flour and salt and beat until combined. Turn out and knead until you have a smooth, slightly sticky, elastic dough. Lightly oil the bowl (clean it first, if necessary) and place the dough in it; cover and allow to rise until doubled in size, ~1 hour.

    making the dough:
    Line a baking sheet (or the bottom of a baking sheet) with a piece of parchment paper and lightly grease it. Combine the egg yolks, orange blossom water, and water in a small bowl.

    Tear the starter into pieces and place in a large bowl. Add butter and sugar and beat to combine. Beat in yolk mixture half at a time, alternating with the flour. Knead until smooth, but still slightly sticky, 10 minutes or so.

    Place back in a large, oiled bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled in size, ~1 hour. Dough should be puffy and pillowy at this point.

    Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Tuck a plastic baby (or large, dried bean) inside the dough from the bottom, and then push and turn the dough to form a round, pillow-shaped mass. Use your finger or fist to break a hole in the center of the dough. Very carefully lift and rotate the dough to enlarge the circle, taking care not to let the baby poke out of the dough too much (a tiny bit will be okay, because the dough will rise and enclose it).

    Set the ring of dough onto the prepared baking sheet.
    Rosca de Reyes - forming dough
    decorating the dough:
    Decorate the dough with dried and/or candied fruit and nuts. Brush the dough with a little bit of your egg wash if you're worried about anything not sticking. If you are making the decorating paste, leave space to add it once the dough has risen.

    Loosely covered with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Allow to rise until it has risen to about half its size again, 60 to 90 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 350° F during the last 20 minutes of rise time.

    making the decorating paste (optional):
    Once the dough is formed into a ring and is rising, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and then gradually add the flour until you have a smooth, cohesive paste. Transfer to a pastry bag or baggie with a corner cut off. Set aside and use to decorate once the ring has risen.

    baking and finishing:
    Remove the plastic wrap from the risen ring. Brush the loaf all over with the egg wash (egg beaten with water or milk). If using decorating paste, pipe it onto the risen dough now. You'll probably have more than you need, just save the rest for something else or discard it.
    Rosca de Reyes dough - decorated
    Slide tray into preheated oven and bake until bread is golden and registers at least 190° F on an instant-read thermometer, 18 to 20 minutes. Let bread sit for 5 minutes, then brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar (if using - this part is optional). Allow to cool for 2 hours before slicing.

    This bread stores well, and tastes just as good if not better the second day. To store, once bread has cooled completely, slide it into a paper or plastic bag and seal.

    This recipe doubles easily to make 2 loaves, or one extremely large oval-shaped loaf. Don't double the amount of decorating paste (because you'd have enough for 2).
    Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread)

    #TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and run with the help of Heather of All Roads Lead to the Kitchen, which runs smoothly with the help of our bakers.

    Our host this month is Kim from, and our theme is Happy New Year. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month's tempting selection of #TwelveLoaves Holiday Breads!

    If you'd like to bake along with us this month, share your New Year Challenge bread using hashtag #TwelveLoaves!

    I am also sharing this bread with Susan's Yeastspotting!

    More food and drink for a Merienda de Reyes:
    Champurrado (Atole de Chocolate)
    Mexican Hot Chocolate
    Pozole Rojo
    Tamal de Fresa