On January 6, people from all over Latin America celebrate this day with a round bread, topped with dried fruit and sugar which looks like a king’s crown. The bread has a slightly citrus flavor and in it, lies a tiny plastic doll (Jesus). The baby Jesus, when hidden in the bread, represents the flight of Jesus, fleeing from King Herod’s evil plan to kill all babies that could be the prophesied messiah.
Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2, Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria). Another tradition includes whomever finds the plastic doll has to provide tamales and hot chocolate/champurrado.
This is a labor of love, I’ll admit — it took Abigail and myself hours. It’s an effort and time consuming but totally worth it- promise! One tip: make sure everything is room temperature. This ensures an even, smooth dough.
Enjoy the rosca with a nice of hot, thick cup of atole or Mexican hot chocolate.
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Preparation Time: 4 hours
For the dough:
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 envelopes (14 grams) of dry active yeast
- ½ cups flour, plus 3/12 cups all purpose flour (separated)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons orange extract
- 1 ¼ stick, unsalted room temperature butter
- zest of one orange
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the sugar topping:
- 1 egg yolk
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons, unsalted room temperature butter
- ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 3 tablespoons rum
- 2 cups dry fruit such as orange, cherries, figs
- 1 egg, beaten for the egg wash
- 1 tablespoon milk, for the egg wash
- 3 tablespoons sugar to sprinkle on top
- 2 plastic miniature dolls
- Pour warm water into a small bowl and add the yeast. Stir with a fork and let stand until it foams- about 5 minutes (make sure the water is not too warm or it will kill the yeast!). Stir in ½ cup flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the dough doubles in size- about 20 minutes.
- While the yeast is doubling in size, mix the rest of the 3 ½ cups flour, sugar, orange extract, cinnamon, ground cloves, vanilla extract, salt and butter in a large bowl. Mix until you get you get a crumbly mixture.
- Now that the yeast mixture has doubled in size, add it to the crumbly mixture. If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment and knead for about 5-7 minutes. If you are doing this by hand, knead for about 10-12 minutes. Either way, when you are finished, the dough should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a buttered/sprayed bowl and let stand in a warm place until it has doubled in size- about 1 ½ hours.
- Meanwhile, make the topping. Chop your choice of dried fruits and soak in 3 tablespoons rum. Let stand for at least 20 minutes (the longer the better!)
- Next, mix the butter and confectioner’s sugar until light and creamy. Slowly add the flour and egg yolk and mix until you form a smooth paste.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead a few more times by hand, cut the dough in half to get 2 medium roscas (if you just want one big one, don’t cut the dough). Using your palms, roll the dough into a long rope. Shape the coil into a ring, sealing the ends together. Let rise another 45 minutes in a warm place.
- Make the egg wash: lightly beat the egg and milk in a small bowl.
- Once the rosca has rose for the last 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the rosca onto a buttered, rimmed baking sheet. Brush the rosca with the egg wash. Form strips with the sugar paste and add the soaked dried fruit and decorate the rosca. Sprinkle with sugar.
- Place the rosca in the oven, bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake another 10 minutes, until golden brown color.
- Transfer the rosca to a cooling rack and let cool, once cool insert a plastic baby doll from the bottom of the bread. Warn guests about the doll so they don’t choke!Serve with a hot cup of Mexican hot chocolate, of course!