… On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love left his shoe by the door and waited for the three wise men to leave a present.
Yes this is what happens on Epiphany night in many countries. In Mexico many people celebrate this night almost as much as Christmas eve, because this night is also loaded with symbolism, it is the night when the three wise men finally arrived to give gifts to the baby Jesus; and as such it is expected that the men will arrive and deliver a present to children… you just need to leave your shoe by the windowsill or by your bed or by the Christmas tree and the morning after there will be something there for you.
Of course this follows the previous night of families gathering to drink hot chocolate and cut the ‘rosca’. This is a bread/cake that is made on this night and it has the shape of a large ring, inside of which there is a token like a bean, a coin or even a plastic baby or person. When you cut the bread, if you get the token, that means that you have to host a party on the 2nd of February that usually features tamales.
These breads used to contain one or two tokens or babies, as the world keeps turning, it seems that these have reproduced and now at least in Mexico City roscas’ you can find as many as ten or more. Personally I prefer the cakes that contain one or two tokens because then, the one who gets it, becomes ‘special’ a king for a day I guess.
This is not an exclusive Mexican tradition, it is an adaptation from other countries like Spain and France where they eat Roscon de Reyes and Galette des Rois, respectively.
Below is a simple recipe for a Mexican Rosca, this is followed by one for Galette des Rois.
This is another excuse for getting together, gather on the last night of this period, drink hot chocolate and have a slice of this bread, if you get the token, then make tamales at your place and invite more people.
For the Bread
500 g strong white flour
100 g caster sugar
10 g salt
100 g softened butter
3 medium sized eggs
2 sachets or 14 g easy blend yeast
200 ml water
zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
2 plastic babies for the rosca, or substitute with a dried bean
100 g acitron [this is a candied cactus] if you can’t find this, substitute with candied fruits
100 g soft butter
100 g icing sugar
150 g flour
2 Tbsp caster sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer, add all the powdered ingredients for the bread mix, then add the softened butter and cream, add the eggs, water and the zest of the citrus fruits, mix using the bread hook for three minutes at a slow speed, increase to a medium speed and mix for six minutes or until the dough is very elastic, you need to develop a lot of gluten here, leave to rest for 30 mins or 1 hour is your kitchen is cold.
Take out of the bowl and roll into two balls that you are going to shape into two long saugages that you are going to link into a ring, don’t forget to insert the tokens.
Place on baking trays that are covered with greaseproof paper.
Mix the ingredients for the cover by beating them in a bowl to fully incorporate. Decorate the roscas by alternating the candied fruits and placing strips of the bread cover.
Leave to prove for another hour and place on greased in a medium hot oven 160 C fan, 180 C conventional Gas Mark 4 for 35 minutes. The roscas are ready if they sound hollow when their bottoms are gently tapped.
Galette des Rois
Make about 250 g puff pastry [or rather buy…] and roll it out into two round shapes about 2 cm thick. Place these on a baking tray that is covered with greaseproof paper. Push a bean into the dough. Sandwich them together with frangipane cream before baking. Trace a pattern on the top of the dough with the pint of a knife and brush it with egg. Bake in a very hot oven at 250 C conventional oven, 230 fan oven, Gas Mark 9, until the top is golden brown.
Below is a simple recipe for frangipane:
125 g butter
125 g sugar
200 g ground almonds
½ tsp vanilla essence (optional)
Cream butter and sugar until white and fluffy
Add eggs one at a time add vanilla essence and fold in almonds
With thanks to Ingrid Vargas-Cessa for giving me her version of this recipe for Rosca de Reyes that I have adapted.
Galette des Rois Taken from Larousse Gastronomique