When it comes to Kings Cake or Kings Breads or anything to do with the Magi, we tend to think Mardi Gras. That’s fine, Mardi Gras marks the end of the Carnival Season, and the transition to the Lenten Season.
According to the Catholic Church, January 6 marks the Epiphany, also known as Feast of the Three Kings, and the end of the Christmas Season. For Roman Catholics, this is the transition to “ordinary times.”
People often think that Ordinary Times refers to those parts of the Liturgical Year that are unimportant. While the term does lump together all those days outside the major liturgical season of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, they are just as important. Ordinary Times are actually divided in two, and they are numbered, with specific readings assigned to each. Advent begins the Church Year, immediately followed by Christmas. The Lenten Season is immediately followed by the Easter Season. The times between Christmas and Lent are the first half of ordinary times; the days between Easter and Advent are the second half.
That said, for some the days between Christmas and Lent are also known as the Carnival Season. Traditionally speaking, a Kings Cake can be enjoyed anytime between January 6th and Fat Tuesday. This year I thought it would be fun to have two cakes. One today, as a conclusion to our Feast of the Three Kings, and the other for Mardi Gras.
Rosca de Reyes is of Spanish origins. My grandfather, Don Juan, was a Spaniard. In honor of my roots, I give you this sweet bread.
Rosca de Reyes (Kings Day Sweet Bread)
1/4 cup Sugar
2 packages Active Dry Yeast
6 tablespoons Milk, warmed
2-1/2 cups Flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon finely grated Orange Zest
1 teaspoon finely grated Lemon Zest
4 tablespoons Butter, softened
2 large Eggs
2 teaspoons Dark Rum
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier
1 Egg White
1 teaspoon Water
1/4 cup sliced Almonds
Assorted Candied Fruits for the crown
1 large Almond or food-safe small plastic Baby Jesus, optional
Measure out 1/4 cup of sugar. From that sugar, mix 1 teaspoon of sugar, the yeast and the warmed milk. Measure out the flour. From that flour, stir in 3 tablespoon of flour into the yeast to make a wet paste. Let stand in a warm place for about 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift the remaining flour with the salt. Add the remaining sugar, Finely grate the orange and lemon zest, add to the dry flour mixture. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the rum and orange liquor. Make a well in the middle of the flour, and add the egg mixture and the yeast. Mix into a sticky dough. Knead the dough in the bowl for about 10 minutes until no longer sticky.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and continue to knead, probably for another 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour.
Punch the dough down. Pull some of the dough (if desired) from the rest, and set aside. Slip in the trinket, if you so choose, into the main ball of dough, then shape the dough into a ring, joining the ends, and place on an oiled cookie sheet. Take reserved dough, roll out into a rope, and decorate the crown as desired with strips of rope. Cover and let it rise for about 45 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the egg white with a little water to create an egg wash. Brush the top of the cake with lightly the egg wash, then sprinkle with almonds. Arrange candied fruits as desired to adorn the crown.
Bake in the heated oven for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Meaning of the trinket: The person who finds the almond or baby in their slice of cake becomes “King” for the day. They are crowned with a paper crown and are responsible for providing the following year’s King Cake. If found by a child, the child’s family is responsible for the following year’s cake.