Although there are many different opinions as to where the roscón came from originally, it is likely that it came from the Roman winter festival in honour of the god Saturn. it would then seem to have been taken over by the Christian faith and eventually used to celebrate the day of the “Tres Reyes” some two weeks later.
Traditionally Spanish “Christmas” is celebrated on the 6th of January when the Three Kings (Tres Reyes) gave their gifts to Jesus. In a similar way to Santa Claus, the Three Kings give gifts to the children, but instead of climbing down a chimney they tend to arrive on all manner of quadrupeds or even on motorised floats. The streets are full of children keen to see the Three Kings and catch the many sweets that are thrown to the waiting crowds.
In some towns the Three Kings set-up residence in some public building then give out presents to the children of the town. The gifts of course were pre-delivered by the children’s parents, but they of course don’t know that. It is rather a shame that the innocence of our childhood is usually lost with age!
The roscón traditionally was a circular sweet bread which has evolved slightly over the centuries to include first a filling of whipped cream and more recently other fillings such as custard or flavoured creams. It also often has crystallised fruit set into the dough and normally a small gift hidden in the filling. The latter has in general little value. In some households, the finder has to pay for the roscón, so one is better off not being “lucky” and finding it!
In the region of Aragón a second roscón is eaten on the 29th of January in honour of “San Valero”, a 4th century bishop and saint of the city of Zaragoza and now the patron saint of the city.
For over 20 years a humongous roscón is baked every year and given out to the citizens of the city. Just to put the adjective “humongous” into perspective, I am talking about a roscón that is over 1 kilometre long and over a ton in weight! Nevertheless the organisers usually run out before all the hungry mouths are fed…….
So on to the recipe, which is designed for a bread maker! I know, you don’t often see me using modern kitchen appliances on this blog, but I do have a couple of mechanical gadgets that I use and this is one of them.
I enjoy bread making, and the traditional method of kneading the bread is something I enjoy. I just picture my “favourite” politician and start throwing the dough around! There are times however when just dumping the ingredients in a machine and pressing a button does have its advantages. Expect to see a couple of no-knead bread recipes in the near future to offset my use of a bread maker today……..
I love the smell of this dough! It is all down to the orange blossom water. If you can get it then perfect, if not look for some other scented water such as rose water.
Roscón de Reyes (or for Saint Valero)
Ingredients for 8-10 people:
10ml Agua de Azahar (Orange blossom water)
1½ tsp Yeast
500ml Whipping Cream
1½ lots (600ml milk) Custard Filling adding an extra 25% of sugar.
Too see my recipe for Custard Filling please click here.
Melt the butter in a measuring jug. Add in the agua de azahar and eggs then beat together. Add in enough milk to bring the volume up to the 300ml mark.
Grate the orange and the lemon into the butter mixture.
Put the butter mixture into the bread maker pan.
Add the dry ingredients in the order shown.
Start the machine on the dough cycle.
Once the dough is prepared, roll out into a sausage of about 3cm diameter then mould the ends together to form a ring.
Place on a round oiled baking sheet in a circle of around 30cm diameter. Leave to double in size.
Bake in a preheated oven for 35 minutes at 190ºC. If your oven has a bread baking option, where more heat comes from the lower heating element, it is the recommended option. This is not essential though, a normal oven setting will work just fine.
Leave on a rack to cool.
Once cold cut open laterally and fill with whipped cream. If you are going to put a gift into the roscón now is the time, just place it into the cream before placing the top half on top.
Dust with icing sugar just before serving.
Alternative Serving Suggestions:
Grate white chocolate onto the cream before placing the top half of the roscón in place.
Fill with custard instead of cream.
- If you are unable to source orange blossom water just omit or try using something like rose flower water.
If you ever have the opportunity, pay Spain a visit on the 6th of January for the “Three Kings” celebration. The towns and cities really do go overboard and with all the expectant children the atmosphere really is quite special. Until then…. well you will just have to make do with a roscón. I wish you every success. If I can be of any further help just drop me a line via the comments section on the post.
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge