Roscón de Reyes is a dessert typical of the Spanish Christmas holidays. Simple or filled with cream, this sweet bread that smells of butter and orange blossom is a must for the Epiphany breakfast. And in the dough it also hides a surprise!
Some dishes, especially traditional dishes, have an enormous evocative power. They don't just talk about ingredients, but about people, stories, traditions. The Roscón de Reyes it's a age-old dessert, which in Spain is now the protagonist of the entire holiday season.
Eggs, butter and orange blossom water are some of its ingredients. The result is one big donut, a dough similar to a brioche, covered with candied fruit, laminated almonds and granulated sugar.
Simple or cut in half and seasoned with cream, cream and sweet truffle, marzipan, cream yema quemada or whatever comes to mind from an inspired pastry chef, this cake never fails Spanish tables the morning of January 6. It is accompanied with a cup of hot chocolate, surrounded by friends and family. The joy for newly discarded gifts (in Spain it is traditional to exchange gifts on Epiphany day) does the rest.
The magical powers of the Roscón de Reyes
The funniest feature of this dessert with a high sentimental content is that it hides one in the dough surprise it's a dried fava bean. The reason for this peculiarity must be sought in history. Or in stories.
According to some, the origin of the Roscón de Reyes dates back to Roman times, specifically to the Saturnalia, the celebrations that took place between 17 and 23 of December in honor of Saturn, god of agriculture. These are the days that coincide with the winter solstice and the end of work in the field and those that allow us to glimpse, shortly thereafter, even the end of the darkest and coldest days of the year. The light after the darkness.
During the celebrations, cakes were prepared in whose dough a dried bean was hidden. The slave who was lucky enough to find her stopped being a slave to become the "king of the party" for a day.
Juan. H. Sampelayo, in his book 'Gastronomía española', moved the origin of the Roscón de Reyes to the France of Henry III, between 1574 and 1589. He says that the king's pastry chefs used to cook a huge donut hiding, of new !, a fava bean in the dough. The diner who was lucky enough to find her turned into a king and could give "orders to ministers and advice to ambassadors". In this way, the Roscón would arrive directly on the table of the first Bourbon King, Philip V in the eighteenth century and from him to the other Spanish kings. In this sense, el Roscón de Reyes would be a close relative of the French Galette des Rois.
With the passage of time, however, the broad bean she has lost her "magical powers" and has been replaced by one little surprise: a figurine, a tiny toy, a key ring (of what we might find in the chocolate egg).
Those who, when cutting a slice of Roscón, find the surprise, become the "king of the party" and have the right to gird their heads with a cardboard crown that comes as a gift with this dessert. Not to mention that the donut covered with candied fruit is reminiscent of a crown studded with precious stones. Usually, adults give the crown to children, who are the big stars of the last of the Christmas holidays!
Be careful though, the bean continues to play a role, even if it is no longer so positive: whoever finds it now has to pay the Roscón. Or return the money to those who bought it!
All versions of the Roscón de Reyes
As often happens with traditional recipes, there are as many versions of Roscón in Spain as there are pastry chefs with their hands in the dough. The secret of the perfect Roscón is the leavening, preferably double: the dough, once cooked, must be spongy and light. A mission that is far from easy, which explains the endless queues of gourmet patients outside the most renowned pastry shops, such as Moulin Chocolat y el Horno de San Onofre in Madrid. Better to book then and avoid nasty surprises: receiving the Three Kings without a piece of this wonderful dessert would be a crime!
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