Monday, January 7, 2013

Allergy-Free Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings’ Cake)


by Kelley Lindberg


Once again, I found myself up to my elbows in bread dough and candied fruit yesterday. My son’s Spanish teacher, who is from Spain, wanted to serve the class Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings’ Cake) today, January 6, as she teaches them about the huge Epiphany cultural celebration in Spain. The Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the arrival of the three Wise Men (the Biblical Magi) after Jesus’ birth. In some cultures, such as in Spain, the Epiphany can be as big (or even bigger) holiday than Christmas Day. There is a parade in Madrid that rivals our Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but instead of Santa, the Madrid version brings the three Wise Men on floats. Children get presents on January 6 in many cultures, too.

While some local Mexican bakeries probably offer Rosca de Reyes, I volunteered to make them because there are a few kids in the teacher’s classes with food allergies (my son included), and I don’t want them to miss out on this cultural experience. I did some research to find out how to make a safe Three Kings’ Cake for my son’s teacher, and discovered that the Rosca de Reyes that is served in Spain on the Epiphany is basically the same thing as the Three King’s Cake served in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. It’s a simple bread shaped into a ring (to represent a crown), lightly glazed and decorated with candied fruit and sugar. There are as many recipes as there are chefs, naturally, but last year I practiced making several different cakes for a couple of weeks until I developed a recipe that was simple and free from egg, milk, and nuts.

Another fun tradition with the Rosca de Reyes is that the baker always tucks a small plastic baby Jesus, or a coin, into the baked (and cooled) cake. Depending on the region’s traditions, whoever finds the coin or doll will either: 1) have good luck, or 2) have to bring the cake to the next celebration.

The simplest recipe I finally created uses frozen bread dough. Kroger’s frozen white bread dough (available locally at Smith’s) is free from milk, eggs, and nuts, so that is what I used. Rhodes dough had a milk warning, so I didn’t use that one. If you need a gluten-free recipe, just substitute your favorite gluten-free bread dough. All Rosca de Reyes (or Three Kings’ Cake) recipes call for candied fruit – the best is home-made candied fruit (like orange rinds), but I don’t have the patience to make my own, so I used the candied cherries you find at Christmas-time that people use to make fruit cake. But not everyone likes that kind of candied fruit. So a better option might be to use maraschino cherries – everyone loves those! And they’re easier to find any time of year. You can also use raisins or dried cranberries.

Start a new tradition in your family this year, and serve a Rosca de Reyes for the Epiphany this week, or make a Three Kings’ Cake for Mardi Gras (which will be Feb. 12 this year). It is surprisingly easy, the kids can have fun decorating the “crown,” and you’ll find a new way to connect with cultures near and far who celebrate these fun holidays.

(I ended up making cakes for all 5 of the teacher’s Spanish classes. Because each cake had to serve about 25 kids, I used two loaves to form each cake, so the photos show larger cakes than a single loaf will make.)

Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings’ Cake)
1 loaf frozen bread dough (or make your own dough for regular white bread)
1/4 c. candied fruit, raisins, dried cranberries, or maraschino cherries cut in half (or a mix of your favorites)
2 T corn syrup (like Karo syrup)
1 – 2 tsp hot water
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Food coloring (optional)
Small plastic baby or coin

Heat your oven to 175 degrees, then turn it off. Place the frozen bread dough in a greased loaf pan, and cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick spray. Put the pan in the oven and let it rise for several hours, until it has risen about an inch higher than the top of the bread pan.

Grease a large cookie sheet, or put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. (Parchment paper is the best!)

Dump out the dough onto the parchment paper or greased cookie sheet, and gently stretch out the loaf until it is 12 – 15 inches long. You don’t want to handle it too much, but you need a long-ish rope. Then form the dough into a circle. Pinch the ends together well so that it doesn’t come apart while baking.

To make a glaze, put the corn syrup in a small bowl or cup, then add a small amount (1 tsp or so) of hot water and stir it. It just needs to be thinned a little so that it will be easier to brush onto the top of the cake. Then use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over the dough.

Place the candied fruit, raisins, or cherries along the top of the crown. Press them down into the dough a little so that they stick to it, but are still showing – otherwise they might fall off during the baking. This is where the kids can get creative – the candied fruit are the jewels in the crown!

Finally, you can use either white sugar or colored sugar to finish decorating the crown. Mardi Gras cakes usually have green, purple, and yellow sugar. The Spanish version served on the Epiphany uses white sugar. If you’d like colored sugar, use a small glass jar to shake the sugar with food coloring, or purchase colored sugar at the store. When you put the sugar on the cake, don’t be shy – it isn’t really sprinkled on, it’s dumped on, usually in bands around the cake! Google some images of Rosca de Reyes or Kings Cake and you’ll find hundreds.

As soon as you’ve finished decorating the cake, bake it for 20 -25 minutes at 375 degrees. (If you’re at sea level, you might start checking it after 15 minutes. I’m at 4500 feet, so things always take longer to bake up here.) It should be just turning golden, like bread, but don’t let the bottom burn. When done, place it on a wire rack to cool.

After the cake cools, carefully lift up one edge of the cake and slip the plastic baby or coin (I like to wrap the coin in aluminum foil) under the edge so that it is hidden. Warn your guests/family about the prize in the cake so that you don’t have to make any unplanned trips to the dentist.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)gmail.com