Roscón de Reyes – The Cake of Kings

A final post on Festive Food from me here.  The Twelve Days of Christmas come to an end on Twelfth Night, the evening of 5th January.  Traditionally in Spain this was the night to bake your Roscón de Reyes to be eaten the next day, Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of The Three Kings.

For the children of Spain this means polishing their shoes to be put outside, awaiting the arrival of the Kings to fill them with gifts.  I guess little gifts were the norm way back, although that has changed over time.  Naughty children were left Carbón, or coal….so get polishing and I hope you´ve all been good.

The Roscón is a light, brioche like sweet bread which is filled and covered with candied fruits and often split and filled with whipped cream or sweet custard.  Additionally it is traditional to bake or put into the cake a small trinket (it used to be a figure of the Christ child) and a dried bean.  The finder of the trinket in their slice was King for the day, and the finder of the bean had to pay for the cake!

This is the first year I´ve attempted to make a Roscón, but I was pretty pleased with the results.  I hope my neighbour is too as I am taking this over to her this afternoon as a little thank you in return for a huge basket of Persimmons she gave me.  Happy Epiphany to you all on 6th January!

Ingredients

  • 200g approx of sultanas, glacé cherries and candied peel, soaked in alcohol if desired (see my Boozy Fruits recipe)
  • 500g plain flour
  • 1 sachet of quick/easy blend yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150 ml milk
  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • Grated zest of one orange and one lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • To decorate – about 6 roughly crushed sugar cubes or 6 heaped teaspoons of sugar dampened with a few drops of water and thick slices of candied peel (see this excellent post on how to make your own over at Rufus´ Food and Spirits Guide) and some glacé cherries.  You will also need one beaten egg and 2 tablespoons of apricot jam diluted with a little water to glaze when the cake is baked.

Mix the flour, yeast and salt together. In a separate bowl beat the sugar, zests and butter until fluffy then gradually add the beaten egg, vanilla essence and milk.  It doesn´t matter if it curdles.  Now add the flour and knead to form a dough – if it is too dry, add a splash of milk.

Now add the fruits and knead for 5 minutes on a well floured surface with plenty of flour for your hands – things could get messy!  Put the dough into a bowl, cover and leave to double in size (about 2 hours).

Now knead again briefly and push a hole into the centre of the dough so that you can start to form a ring.  Imagine you are making a pizza doughnut with a hole in the middle.  When it is about the size of a large dinner plate, put it onto a lined baking sheet.  You can tuck the trinket/bean wrapped in foil under the cake now or put it into the cooled cake later if you are using. Note, next time I make one, I´ll make the hole in the middle larger as the dough rises quite a lot during baking.

Leave for about an hour until it has doubled in size and brush with beaten egg before pressing the candied fruit in around the top and sprinkling the sugar over.

Bake at 180º for about 45 minutes (check after 30 mins) and brush with the jam when it has cooled a little.  Leave to cool completely.  You can now serve it as it is or split it though the middle and fill with whipped cream or confectioner´s custard. Warning – this is a HUGE Roscón and will serve about 10-12 people.  It does keep for a few days, and if unfilled is also good sliced and toasted.

Adapted from a BBC Good Food Recipe.

Festive Cantuccini or Biscotti

 

A final, final (promise) Festive Recipe before we move into the New Year.

I´m not sure why, but in our family, Biscotti were always called Cantuccini.  Maybe it´s because the words biscotto (singular) or biscotti (plural) in Italian mean biscuits (cookies) and could apply to any type at all.  I´m not sure.

Of course, now we make our own, and like many of you out there, we add our own special twists to appeal to the people we are giving them to, or the time of year, or depending on what is available.

I´ve made these Festive Cantuccini for the last few years at this time of year because there are so many beautiful dried fruits available and the spices, to me, evoke Christmas smells.  Of course, the fruits, nuts and spices can be changed to please you and your loved ones.

Delicious served with frothy coffee or Vin Santo for dipping.  Buon Appetito!

Ingredients

  • Heat oven to 180º or Gas 4 and line 2 flat baking trays with silicon or greaseproof paper
  • 350g plain flour plus 2tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 3tsp mixed spice
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Grated zest of one large orange and one large lemon
  • About 200g of dried fruit (I used candied peel and dried cherries)
  • 100g nuts (I used whole blanched almonds)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl with the zest and then stir in the beaten egg with a broad knife initially and then your hands. Keep kneading even though it seems dry, it will come together.

Now add in the fruit and nuts and mix in well.  Divide the mixture into four and make a sausage shape out of each piece, about 30-40cm long. Put two on each baking sheet and bake for about 30 mins until firm.  It will spread out slightly but still be pale.

Leave them to cool slightly for about 10 mins, reduce the oven temperature to 120º/Gas 1. Cut diagonally into slices and put back on trays and into oven.  Continue to bake for about 30 minutes, turning half way through.

Can be stored in an airtight tin for up to one month (like they´ll last that long!).

All that remains for me to say on this last day of the year is, Health and Happiness to you all in 2012!

Light Christmas Pudding

It will look prettier on the Big Day on a Christmas Plate!

With the forthcoming arrival of my parents, I´m getting into the swing of Christmas food preparations.  Traditional Christmas cakes and puddings in the UK can be made ages ahead of time (even a year) to allow them to mature.  Of course, I am nowhere near as organised as all that, and none of us is mad keen on the heavier traditional pudding.

For many years I have made a lighter version based on a recipe from my trusty Delia Smith´s Christmas Cookbook.  In fact, looking back, I made it the first year I was in sole charge of Christmas lunch for 10 people.  My beloved grandfather had died in the November, and this was 21 years ago.  Of course, we were all still in a state of shock and sadness, especially my darling grandmother, but we still wanted to celebrate.  I lived up the road from my parents in a little flat, and it was decided that we would change things a little so that memories of sitting in my parents´ dining room with Grandad at the head of the table would be a little less vivid.

My parents cooked the turkey in their oven as I just didn´t have room, but everything else was done in my little kitchen.  All my wobbly hand me down tables and chairs were pressed into service, and the family walked up the road carrying girft and fold up chairs.  Plates were borrowed – I was a 25 year old in her first flat as a non sharer, so I was still building my collection.  Tears were shed, but much there was fun and laughter too.  It was emotional but happy and we all ate and drank far too much.  The meal ended with this pudding – made initially as my grandfather would probably have grumbled about there not being “proper” pudding and this made us all chuckle.  Since then it´s become a new kind of family tradition whenever I am the Christmas lunch fairy, and my parents requested it this year.

I haven´t changed the recipe much at all, so I hope Saint Delia won´t mind.  It can be frozen once made, and then warmed through in a steamer or Bain Marie on Christmas Day while you are eating lunch.

Ingredients

  • 175g sifted self raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110g softened butter
  • 110g brown sugar
  • 1 medium apple chopped or grated
  • 2 large eggs beaten gently
  • 3 rounded tablespoons of mincemeat
  • 2 pinches ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Grated zest of one lemon and one orange
  • 2 large tbsp of candied peel

Put half the peel in the base of a 1.2 litre buttered pudding basin. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and then add 1tbsp of egg and flour and mix in, continuing until both egg and flour have all been incorporated.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir in, then spoon the mixture into the basin.

Cover with a double layer of pleated foil and tie a string around to keep the foil tight and give yourself a handle to lift it out.

Mucky Cooker – oops, don´t let it boil over!

Place it in a steamer or saucepan half filled with boiling water and steam gently covered with a lid for 2 ½ hours.  Keep a kettle of boiling water to hand to top up the water when needed.

When the time is up, let it cool completely and you can then turn it out and wrap well in cling film to freeze until needed.  If making ahead and reheating on Christmas Day, slide it back into the pudding basin and cover again with foil to do this.

Delicious with custard or brandy sauce, boozy fruits, ice cream….whatever takes your fancy!

PS. Stir Up Sunday (the last Sunday before Advent) is when Christmas Puddings were traditionally made to allow them to mature.  Of course, I missed that date, but never mind!  I was also always told that every member of the family needed to give the cake or pudding a stir and make a wish – so we did this too…