"Roscon de Reyes" is a traditional dessert, served the night before or morning of “Reyes” or Epiphany, January 6th. "Dia de Reyes" or simply "Reyes" is the day when children in Spain receive gifts from the "Reyes Magos"–Wise Men or Magi. The 3 kings who brought baby Jesus gifts. Instead of gifts from Santa Claus, they receive them from the "Reyes Magos."
It is traditional to put several surprises inside the "roscon." A porcelain figure of a baby wrapped in foil and a dry bean are hidden in the dough. Whoever finds the baby will have good luck and be the king of the party, but if you find the bean - pay for the cake!
- Sift flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Make a hole in the center of the flour.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir and dissolve the dry yeast in the lukewarm milk-water mixture. Once dissolved, pour the dissolved yeast into the center of the flour. Stir in just enough flour from around the bowl to make a thick batter.
- With your hand, grab about a teaspoon of the flour from the side of the bowl and sprinkle it over the top of batter. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place, away from any draft. Allow batter to turn spongy, about 15 minutes.
- In a medium-size mixing bowl, use a hand mixer or whisk to beat together the butter and sugar. The mixture should be smooth and creamy. Set aside.
- Put grated orange and lemon rinds, eggs, brandy and water to the bowl with flour mixture. Mix all. The dough will be sticky.
- Beat flour mixture until it is elastic and smooth. Beat in butter-sugar mixture and mix until the dough is smooth. The dough should be formed into a ball, then covered with oiled plastic wrap. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave it again in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled in size. This will take approximately 1.5 hours.
- While you are waiting for the dough to rise, grease a large baking sheet with vegetable shortening and set aside for use later. If you will use a baking stone, no need to grease it
- Once the dough has doubled, remove plastic wrap and punch dough down. Lightly flour a clean counter or cutting board and place dough on it. Knead for 2-3 minutes. Then, using a rolling pin, roll dough into a long rectangle, about 2 feet long and 5-6 inches wide.
- Roll the dough on the long side into a sausage shape. Carefully place the dough onto the large baking sheet or stone and connect the ends together, forming a ring. If you will hide a bean or a small foil-wrapped, ceramic figurine in the cake, now is the time to tuck it under the dough. Cover with oiled plastic wrap again. Leave in a warm place and allow to double in size. This will take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly beat the egg white in a bowl. Uncover the dough and brush the top of the cake. Decorate the ring with the candied fruit pieces. Push them into the dough slightly so that they do not fall off. Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on a rack before serving.
In the last half of the 20th century, filling the roscon with whipped cream or a thick custard became popular. Today about a third of the roscones sold in Spain are filled. If you want to fill yours, use a bread knife to slice the bread in half horizontally and carefully remove the top. Next, squeeze in the whipped cream or filling you've chosen and carefully replace the top. Keep refrigerated until serving if filled with cream or custard.