While many cultures celebrate Christmas on December 25th, there are some places around the world that wait until January 6th to celebrate and open presents. Central and southern Mexican states generally celebrate on the 6th, when the Three Kings arrive and present their gifts to the baby Jesus, according to tradition. It is for that reason that Three Kings Bread is so important and representative of the holiday. While you might be able to find this cake in different stores or pastry shops, it makes all the difference if you make it at home! Recognizable as the traditional sweet by the orange extract, this is a delicious bread that’s moist and light .if you’re lucky, you’ll even end up with the slice with the toy baby Jesus in it! There’s nothing like making this emblematic bread yourself and sharing it with your family and friends will make it worth the effort!
Three Kings Bread
Yields 1 loaf, 16 servings
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus extra if needed
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 3 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 orange, zested
- 1 1/4 tablespoons orange extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/4 cup candied or dried fruit (oranges, cherries, etc.)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons light rum
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- white sugar, garnish
- sliced almonds, garnish
- 1-3 small plastic toys, optional
- In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast into warm water and gently stir to blend. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, or until mixture become bubbly and frothy.
- In a separate bowl, drizzle candied or dried fruit with light rum and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place for 20-30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- In a large bowl or mixer, combine remaining 3 1/2 cups flour, eggs and egg yolks, sugar, butter, orange extract and zest, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon, and mix together. (You can do this by hand or with a mixer.)
- Add floured yeast mixture and stir to incorporate; it will be sticky.
- Knead dough until smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes in a mixer; 12-17 by hand), then transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel.
- Place in a warm, draft-free place and let rest 1-1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute.
- Form dough into a ring.
Note: You can make a ball and gently create a hole in the middle or you can mould the dough around an angel food cake pan, i.e. rolling dough into a log and then forming a circle and sealing it together.
- Preheat oven to 375 F and place cooking rack to the lower third of oven.
- Transfer ring to a greased, rimmed baking sheet and cover with a clean towel. Place in a warm, draft-free place for 40-50 minutes, or until almost doubled in size.
- In a small bowl, whisk together heavy cream with your beaten egg. Brush egg wash over dough and decorate the top with rum-infused candied/dried fruit.
- Place dough in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 F and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until bread is golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool. Before serving, insert plastic toys (if using) into the bottom of bread, sprinkle top with sugar and almonds, and cut into slices.
Recipe adapted from Mexico In My Kitchen