Rosco de Reyes

The 5th of January is my birthday and, ever since I moved to the UK, I am rarely back home to celebrate.

On the top of this, more often than not (not this year), I have to work as there are no three wise men celebrations in the Uk and spending one’s birthday on your own is not much fun.

As I grew up, people always felt “sorry” for me ( as “having your holiday in Christmas must reduce the amount of gifts”), but I actually felt happy with my “choice”. It is, after all, a happy day when children flood the streets to see the three wise men arrive town (every town) and to call out the name of their favourite one whilst they catch the sweets that fall from sky. That night, like in Christmas eve, children go to sleep early and dream of the presents that may arrive.

In Spain, and Hispano America, in addition to this, there is a very delicious cake made only for the arrival of the three wise men. It is called Rosc@ de Reyes.

This year, I was actually lucky enough to eat a Rosco de Reyes which mum bought for New Year but it felt a bit wrong (kind of like eating turron during the summer) and so I began considering how complicated it could be to make one… Or two… to take to the office for my birthday. This is how I came about this recipe… At Robin Food’s blog.

Robin Food is a very informal cooking program on Basque Tv that my niece and I enjoy watching because of the very entertaining presenter and knowledgeable guests. You can actually access their videos via iTunes or the blog. Please see the blog for further information.

Ingredients :

For the 140 gr ferment:

90 g strong bread white flour
50 g milk (room temperature)
2 g fresh yeast
Crumble the yeast and mix with the flour using your fingers.
Add the milk, mix until the consistency of the paste is smooth.
Make a ball, place in a bowl covered with clear film and leave to ferment in a warm room for 3 hours.

For the 120 g milk infusion:

120 gr of milk
1 cinnamon stick
Rind of 1 orange
3 spoons of white rum
2 spoons of orange blossom water
Heat up the milk with the other ingredients until it begins to bubble. As it reaches boiling point, stop the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
When it cools down add the rum and blossom water.
Set aside.

340 g strong bread flour
15 g fresh yeast
60 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature.
70 g of sugar
2 eggs
Pinch of salt

1 bitten egg for the glazing
Grainy sugar to sprinkle.
If you like them, you could also decorate with almonds or glazed fruits as topping.


1. Make sure that if you use fresh yeast you crumble it on to the flour. Don’t dissolve it.

2. You can freeze the fresh yeast but, i have been told that it looses strength.

3. Despite the fact that sounds a bit strange, preheating the oven from the beginning helps the fermentation process by bringing the room temperature up.

Cooking instructions:

Preheat the oven at 220 degree celsius.

In a large bowl crumble the yeast. Mix it with the flour. Add the ferment on to the mix and work it. The ferment gives texture and depth of flavor as I understand it.

Add the eggs, sugar and the pinch of salt to the mix. Combine the wet mix with the flour mix.

It will be a sticky mix so don’t panic.

After a couple of minutes mixing, still in the bowl, incorporate the butter. Work the dough for ten minutes (see video link for tips)

The mix needs to be worked until is smooth, elastic and gloss. shape it into a ball, place it in a bowl, cover it with a wet towel and leave it to develop for 1 hour or until it doubles the size.

After the resting time, “massage” it a bit (again refer to video) and leave it to rest (covered to avoid a crust) for 10 to 15 minutes prior to shaping it.

Flour the trays or cover with baking paper, shape the dough onto a circle by making a hole in the middle and pull the dough out creating a doughnut shape. Make sure that you have the same thickness throughout.

In Spain, we place a surprise inside the rosc@. Traditionally a dry broad bean or even a coin (not sure what health and safety would make out of this). The idea is that whoever gets the piece of rosc@ containing it, will pay for the next one! When mum worked, very often they saw people turning red about to choke in order to avoid picking up the bill.

Back to the recipe: if you want to place a dry broad bean, this is the stage to do so. It is also now that you should brush the dough with part of the beaten egg and leave it to rest until it doubles the size again. This could take 45 to 60 minutes.

Brush the cake again with the rest of the beaten egg, sprinkle the sugar and any other toppings you fancy.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes at 200 degree celsius.

When it is baked, place on the cooling wire and make sure it cools down before eating.

I like to cut it in half (horizontally) and stuff it with creme Anglaise but you can also fill it will whipping cream. Either way, if you want to do this, you can place the surprise in the cream instead.

On this occasion, as it was to accompany the office morning coffee, i kept it simple. However, i must admit that I brought a whipping cream can for those feeling peckish.

Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Recipe from Iban Yarza, via Robin Food ‘s blog

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