While our children believe that Santa Claus leaves presents in stockings or pillow-cases hanging over the fireplace on December 24th. Although some presents might slip in earlier, in the main, Spanish children expect their presents to be brought by the Three Kings on ‘Dia de los Reyes’, on January 6th (Epiphany).
Celebrating when the Wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, there are no mince pies for Santa but instead gifts for the Wise men: a glass of cognac for each King, a satsuma and some walnuts. If you are going the whole hog, a bucket of water is left for the camels!
Traditionally, families also celebrate Reyes with a special round-cake called ‘Roscón de Reyes’ (in Catalonia it is known as ‘Tortell’).
Buried deep within the centre cream filling: a porcelain figure (traditionally baby Jesus) and a faba bean are hidden. Whoever finds baby Jesus in its portion is blessed and becomes the king/queen of the party. Whoever gets the bean has to pay for the Roscón!
If ever you decide to come and spend Christmas in Spain with your family, nothing better than the Three Kings Parade, generally held on January 5th. Special mention should be made of the one in Alcoi (Province of Alicante), which is Spain’s oldest parade, held since 1885.
The Roscón recipe below is from the cookbook The Cuisines of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking by Teresa Barrenechea. Hope you’ll enjoy it.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Minced zest of 1/2 lemon
- Minced zest of 1/2 orange
- 2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons orange-flower water
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- Olive oil
- 1/2 cup candied fruits, finely chopped (optional)
- Choose your filling: whipped cream, chocolate whipped cream, meringue, or pastry cream
- One faba bean
- One ceramic baby Jesus
In a food processor or blender, combine the 1/2 cup sugar and both citrus zests and process on high speed until you have a mixture of fine particle. Set aside.
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until foamy.
Add sugar-zest mixture, the butter, 2 of the eggs, the orange flower water, and the salt and stir with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are well mixed.
Add half the flour to the milk mixture and mix with your hands until well blended. Add the remaining flour and continue mixing until all the flour is incorporated.
Knead the dough in the bowl for a few minutes until it is smooth, flexible, and no longer sticky.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest in a warm spot for about 1 hour, or until it has roughly doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to its lowest setting and brush rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
Punch down the dough. On a floured work surface, using your palms, roll the dough back and forth until it forms a log about 30 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Place it on the prepared baking sheet and bring the ends together to form a circle with a hole in the center 4 to 5 inches in diameter, forming a ‘crown’. Alternatively, divide the dough in half and form 2 logs each 15 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Form the logs into 2 crowns on the baking sheet.
Add the bean and the baby Jesus.
Fill an ovenproof bowl with water and place it at the rear of the oven.
Place the baking sheet with the dough crown in the oven. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour, or until nearly doubled in size.
Remove the pan from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Break the remaining egg into a small bowl, beat until blended, and brush it onto the crown(s). Scatter the candied fruits evenly over the top(s), if desired, and sprinkle evenly with the sugar.
Bake the cake(s) for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool on the pan.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature.
Carefully slice the cake in half lengthwise. Spread the inside with the filling of your choice (whipped cream, chocolate whipped cream, meringue, or pastry cream) and top with the other half of cake.
Serve and enjoy!