Fresh Rosca de Reyes for Three Kings’ Day


Nice box, even nicer bread
Today is Three Kings’ Day, otherwise known as Epiphany, or the day that the three kings brought all those nice presents to baby Jesus. Lots of cultures around the world celebrate this day with various feasts and sweets.

In Mexico, it’s traditional to gather around a rosca de reyes, which literally means ring-shaped bread of the kings. It’s a sweetish bread into which a baby Jesus figure is baked. (Similar sweet breads with little Jesuses lurking inside are also traditional in France, and elsewhere in Europe.) I was walking past Lopez Bakery today when I spotted a sign in the window advertising freshly baked rosca de reyes for Three Kings’ Day. I know I recently wrote about this place’s excellent tamales and empanadas, but the rosca de reyes seemed too interesting to pass up.

So I went in and bought the “small” version for $25, which might seem steep, but even the small bread is about the diameter of a hubcap. While the owner was putting the gigantic, homemade bread in its customized box, I noticed his wife in the back, tending a cauldron of oil, in which she was frying empanadas. “Focus!” I said to myself.

Rosca de reyes is apparently often decorated and filled with candied fruits and citrus peel, but Lopez Bakery’s version is simply adorned with multi-colored sprinkles and the crumbly flour-sugar-butter topping found on some Mexican sweet breads. Inside, the bread is mildly sweet, yeasty, fluffy and tender crumbed, and is shot through with a small amount of orange zest.

I tore off a piece to try it…

And in the first bite, I found the (slightly creepy) little Jesus figure! This apparently means I have to throw a tamale party for Candlemas on Feburary 2nd for all those present, but the only one there to witness the find was my dog, and I don’t think he’ll hold me to it.

Lopez Bakery: 645 5th Avenue, 718-965-0289