Three Kings Sweet Bread (Rosca de Reyes)
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Rosca is the name given to any ring-shaped bread or cookie. This sweet bread was once used by the friars to evangelize: a small doll, representing the Christ child, is baked right in the bread- "hidden", to symbolize the hiding of the infant from King Herod's troops on the day of Los Santos Inocentes, the Holy Innocents. This treat is traditionally served on the festive Three Kings Day, when the children receive their toys. Whoever gets the slice of rosca with the doll in it has to provide the tamales and atole for the next party, on Candlemas. To make a party-size rosca, you'll need:
FOR THE DOUGH
8-1/2 cups flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups butter
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1.6 ounces (2-3/4 cakes) compressed yeast
FOR THE DECORATIVE PASTE
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1-3/4 cups flour
Crumble the yeast cakes into 1/2 cup warm water (about 85 degrees). Mix with all other dough ingredients and beat the batter well until smooth and elastic. On a large baking sheet, shape the dough into a ring, resembling a large wreath. Cover the ring with a clean cloth or towel and let it sit in a warm place for two hours.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you'd like to hide the infant in the cake, tuck a miniature plastic doll inside. After the rosca has risen, and before putting it in the oven, prepare the decorative paste by creaming the butter and sugar together, beating in the egg and gradually mixing in the flour. Use this paste to decorate the sweet bread in the form of rays coming out from the center.
Bake until the rosca is golden brown. Decorate with candied fruit; in Mexico, candied cactus, called biznaga, is used.