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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: Baking delectably sweet Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread) is a delicious, joyful way to celebrate Three Kings Day, also known as Dia De Reyes or Epiphany, in Mexico on January 6, commemorating when the kings brought gifts to Baby Jesus.
- Three Kings Bread, also known as Three Kings Cake, is sweet, scented with orange zest, and designed to resemble a crown.
- Whoever gets the Jesus figurine in their slice must cook tamales for everyone on Candelaria (Candlemas) Day the following month.
Epiphany is widely celebrated around the world, and each culture has its own delectable festive food. Check out our recipe for Homemade Galette des Rois (King Cake), a French almond-custard pastry.
Table of Contents
What is Rosca de Reyes Recipe (Three Kings Bread)?
- Rosca de Reyes is a sweet bread made with yeast dough. It’s flavored with orange zest and decorated with festive candied cherries, strips of quince paste, and sugar paste. A baby Jesus figurine is inserted into the bread after baking, and it’s a surprise to see who gets the slice with the figurine.
- The bread is shaped like a crown to symbolize the Three Kings, also called the Three Wise Men or Magi, who followed the Star of Bethlehem to give gifts to the baby Jesus.
- The tradition of Rosca de Reyes was brought from Spain to Latin American countries, and over the centuries, it has evolved to reflect the local food culture. On January 6, family and friends gather to enjoy the bread with hot chocolate and give children gifts.
Tools You Need
- Stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (optional)
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons
- Baking sheet and parchment paper
- Pastry brush
Key Ingredients and Why
- Bread flour has a protein content of 11-14%.
- The high protein content gives the bread a stronger gluten network and a pleasant chew.
- With a protein content of 9-11%, all-purpose flour creates a more delicate crumb structure than bread flour.
- Using both flours gives Three Kings Bread the perfect texture between chewy and soft.
- Sugar feeds yeast, converting it into gas, making the dough rise and making the rolls light and airy.
- Sugar helps to retain moisture in the dough.
- Salt enhances the flavor of the bread and strengthens the gluten, giving the rolls the perfect crumb.
- Salt also relaxes the dough so that it’s easier to shape.
- Instant yeast does not require sponging and gives a quicker, more efficient rise than active dry yeast.
- Mix instant yeast with flour first to avoid direct contact with salt so the yeast won’t get deactivated.
- If you use active dry yeast: for every teaspoon of instant yeast, use 1 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast. Bring the liquid in your recipe to blood temperature and mix in active dry yeast. Let it sit at room temperature for roughly 5 minutes until foam forms on top.
- Using eggs yields plush, rich bread.
- The egg wash gives the crust an attractive golden shine.
- Bread dough made with milk has a softer texture and a richer flavor than dough made without milk.
- Butter contributes to the moisture of the bread, helping to keep it soft and tender. The fat in the butter prevents the bread from drying out too quickly.
- Did you know it’s easy to make your own butter? How to Make Homemade Butter guides you through the process.
- Fresh and fragrant orange zest is a popular flavor in sweet breads of Latin America.
- When zesting an orange, gently scrape from the top layer of the peel and avoid the bitter pith underneath.
- Powdered sugar, also called confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar, is the main ingredient in the decorative sugar paste on top of the bread.
- The paste is a thick glaze with a crystallized, glossy look.
- Bright orange quince paste, also known as “membrillo,” adds a fruity, tangy flavor and festive color to the top of the bread.
- Candied cherries or glacé cherries are preserved cherries soaked in sugar syrup.
- Their candied flavor and bright red and green colors make them the perfect garnish for this Christmas bread.
- The cherries symbolize the rubies and emeralds worn by the Three Kings.
How to Make Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread)
- Combine the dry ingredients: Add the bread flour, all-purpose flour, instant yeast, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Mix in the liquid ingredients: Mix the eggs, milk, and melted butter, as well as the orange zest on medium speed for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the bowl.
- Proof the dough: Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it with oil and covering it with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
- Shape the dough: Knead the dough into a ball and make a hole in the middle. Fashion the dough into an oval ring. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Can I Make Rosca de Reyes in Advance?
Yes, you can make Rosca de Reyes in advance.
- To store in the fridge: Storing the unbaked bread in the refrigerator will slow the rise. After the first rise, shape it into a crown shape and put it in the fridge for up to one day. But note not to over-proof the bread. If it more than doubles in size, best to bake it off immediately to avoid a deflated and dense result..
- To store in the freezer: You can bake bread and freeze it, or you can shape the dough and freeze it before baking.
- After the first rise, shape the dough into a crown shape and put it into an extra-large oiled freezer bag. Seal the bag well and freeze the bread dough for up to four weeks.
- When you’re ready to bake your bread, remove it from the bag and let it thaw slightly for about 30 minutes. Cover the bread ring with a tea towel and let it rise until it has doubled in size and a finger indent doesn’t spring back immediately. Then brush with egg wash and bake as directed.
How to Store Rosca de Reyes
Store in an airtight container for up to three days.
What can I do if my dough is too sticky or too dry?
- The dough should be fairly sticky, but it should still clear the sides of the bowl.
- If your dough is wet, add a bit more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it’s the correct consistency.
- If the dough is stiff or dry, add one tablespoon of milk at a time until the dough is soft.
Why didn’t my bread rise?
- If your dough didn’t rise, check whether your yeast is expired. Also, storing it in the fridge or freezer will keep it fresh longer.
- Salt does retard yeast growth, and in concentrations that are too high, it can kill the yeast. Keep salt and yeast separate, or mix each with flour first.
- If your dough was super wet and only had tiny bubbles, it was over-hydrated. The gluten networks can’t develop properly due to too much water incorporated. Flours don’t absorb liquid the same, so only use three-quarters of the recommended amount of liquid at first, and then add more gradually until the dough is smooth and elastic, as noted in the recipe.
- If your dough was too dry, the gluten networks would be too hard or not elastic enough to rise. Different flours don’t absorb liquids at the same rate, and you need more liquid.
- Do not over-proof or under-proof the dough. The telltale sign you use is how your dough looks: if the dough has doubled in size, almost feels lighter but still strong and a finger indent doesn’t spring back right away, then it’s ready.
- The more you shape your dough, the more tension it’s receiving, which means the longer time the dough needs to rest enough for a better rise.
Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can mix this dough by hand. Here’s how: in a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then stir in the remaining (wet) ingredients until moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 15 to 20 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- The sugar paste is very soft at room temperature. It must be fully chilled before you’re able to decorate with it.
- Quince paste (also called membrillo paste) is often sold in the gourmet cheese section of grocery stores.
- You can make your own Candied Cherries (Glace Cherries) for this bread if you wish!
- For a less traditional but delicious twist, you can knead 1 cup (5 oz/142 g) of chopped dried fruit into the dough before the first rise.
More Festive Bread Recipes
Rosca de Reyes Recipe (Three Kings Bread)
For the Bread
- 1¼ cups (6¼ oz/177 g) bread flour
- 1¼ cups (6¼ oz/177 g) all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (2½ oz/71 g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup (2½ fl oz/75 ml) milk, lukewarm
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz/85 g) butter, melted
- zest of 1 orange
For the Sugar Paste
For the Garnish
- Quince paste
- 5-10 candied cherries, cut in half
- Egg wash
- 1 baby Jesus figurine
To Make the Bread Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast and salt and stir until blended. (See Tips for hand kneading instructions.)
- Add in the eggs, milk, butter and orange zest and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic. If the dough seems too sticky, you can add more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the correct texture is achieved. Transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- On a work surface, shape the dough into a ball and then poke a hole in the center and work the dough into a large oval ring shape, roughly 7x10-inches (18x25 cm) wide.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise until doubled again, about 45 minutes.
To Make the Sugar Paste
- While the dough is rising, combine the flour, powdered sugar, butter and egg yolk in a small bowl until a paste has formed.
- Spread the paste into an 1/8-inch thick layer on a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- When the dough is ready for baking, brush all over with the egg wash.
- Cut 8 strips from the chilled sugar paste that are roughly 8x½ inches (20cm x 12mm) and drape them on the dough ring.
- Cut 4-6 strips of quince paste and arrange them between the strips of sugar paste along with the halved cherries.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until baked though and golden brown. Let cool completely before inserting the baby Jesus figurine into the bottom of the loaf.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.