Chicken Avocado Fiesta Salad

For some of us, the best part of salads is everything but the greens! I have always had a hard time digesting lettuce so I’m never drawn to it when we get to salad season.

The idea of a full meal (lettuce-less) salad has always appealed to me. Of course there are many of these using a variety of ingredients. Probably one of the most popular was the taco salad. The earliest record of it dates back to the 1960’s with its predecessor being the small teacup-sized ‘Tacup’. It consisted of beef, beans, sour cream and cheese, served in a small ‘bowl’ made entirely of a Fritos tortilla.

The taco in a Tacup was invented by Charles Elmer Doolin, the founder of Fritos (tortilla chips). He created a device that looked like tongs but with two tart molds at the end of each tong. One mold would fit within the other mold with a tortilla sandwiched between them. The scalloped-edged shell was the dipped into hot oil. Holes in the bottom mold exposed the tortilla to the hot oil, enabling it to cook evenly.

Tacups were first served in Dallas, Texas in the early 1950’s and by 1955, he was selling them in Fritos’ flagship restaurant, ‘Casa de Fritos’, at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It became popular enough that the Tacup was made bigger and served as a full, main-dish sized salad bowl.

Today’s salad is a satisfying meal (without a shred of lettuce) served in an edible tortilla bowl.

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Chicken Avocado Fiesta Salad
Instructions
Marinade
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients. In a large resealable plastic bag, pour marinade. Add sliced chicken; seal & turn to coat. Refrigerate for 1-4 hours. When finished marinating, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat & set aside.
Salad
  1. Cook corn cobs in a pot of boiling, salted water, covered for 5-7 minutes. When cool enough to handle, hold the corncob vertically on a slip-proof cutting board & cut corn kernels from top to bottom around the sides with a sharp knife. Leave corn in bite-sized pieces.
  2. Fry bacon slices until brown & crispy. Chop into small pieces.
  3. Peel, pit & cube avocados. Sprinkle with a bit of lime or lemon juice to keep from turning brown. Dice Roma tomato. Slice green onions, chives & dill. Drain sliced black olives. Cube Gouda cheese.
Tortilla Bowls
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush the inside of 2 heat-resistant glass bowls with oil. Place one tortilla in each bowl so that the shape more or less adheres to the bowl. Line each tortilla with cheddar cheese slices & then place the second tortilla on top.
  2. Place the bowls with the layered tortillas in the oven & bake for 7 minutes. Remove the bowls from the oven & allow to cool before removing the 'edible tortilla bowls'.
Assembly
  1. Place tortilla bowls on serving plates. Place cooked chicken on the bottom, top with corn, avocados, tomato, onions, olives Gouda & herbs. Drizzle with Ranch dressing (or dressing of choice). If you wish, before putting the dressing on, give it 30 seconds in the microwave to warm it slightly again.

Salmon & Zucchini Enchiladas

Salmon and zucchini have always been a great pairing, but have you tried this combo in some enchiladas?

Wild canned salmon doesn’t have to just mean sandwiches. This high quality protein makes for an incredible pantry staple that is ready when you need it. Add it to just about any plate … over top a green salad, in a wrap, served over rice, pasta, zucchini noodles, potatoes or squash etc., etc.

When I originally developed this recipe, it served as a filling for some jumbo pasta shells. After a few modifications, it became an enchilada meal.

As their original form as Mexican street food, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings. There are now so many varieties, which are distinguished primarily by their sauces, fillings or form. Here are a few examples:

Enchiladas suizas are topped with a milk or cream based white sauce such as bechamel.

Enfrijoladas are topped with refried beans.

Enchiladas verdes are sauced with salsa verde and typically made with white corn tortillas, poached chicken breast and cheese.

Entomatadas are made with tomato sauce.

Enchiladas montadas are a stacked variation.

Always on the quest for something different!!

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Salmon & Zucchini Enchiladas
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword enchiladas
Servings
ENCHILADAS
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword enchiladas
Servings
ENCHILADAS
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion, zucchini & mushrooms until tender-crisp; place in a large bowl & set aside.
  2. In saucepan, melt butter & remove from heat. Stir in water & sauce mix. Return to heat & bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat & simmer 3 minutes.
  3. To bowl of sauteed vegetables add drained salmon chunks & a small amount of cooked 'dill sauce'. Lay out tortilla shells on a work surface & divide mixture between them. Blend together remaining dill sauce, reserved salmon juice & soup.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread some sauce over the bottom. Lay filled, rolled tortillas single file in baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with grated cheese combo. Bake about 30-40 minutes.

Avocado Dinner Buns w/ Major Grey’s Mango Chutney

Although, avocados are most traditionally used as a main ingredient in guacamole or to top a salad or sandwich, used in baking they are amazing.

When adding them into yeast bread recipes, you can replace all the butter with equal amounts of room temperature, mashed, ripe avocado. The ripeness of the avocado is very important as it needs to be very soft for it to work perfectly.

In addition to their creamy texture and mild flavor, avocados have a high water content so they can help to make baking softer, chewier and less likely to crumble.

You can freeze mashed, fresh, ripe avocados if you want to have an ’emergency supply’ on hand. To freeze, mash the avocados with a fork or blender. Add some lime juice and mix well. For every avocado use about 1 tablespoon of lime juice to prevent them from browning. Fill a freezer weight zip-lock bag with this puree. Remove the air from the bag, then zip closed and freeze. Best to use frozen avocados within 4-5 months of freezing.

I thought some Major Grey’s mango chutney would be a perfect compliment to these avocado rolls. Major Grey’s chutney is a style of chutney not a brand. The ingredients in Major Grey’s chutney vary both across commercial brands and recipes, but a few elements seem to remain constant like mangoes, raisins, citrus, onions, a sugar of some sort, and warm spices. The chutney is sweet and tangy with a nice ‘kick’ of heat at the end that’s enough to compliment the different layers of flavor without consuming them. You will often see it served with curried dishes or as a compliment to meats and cheeses.

Major Grey’s chutney is considered by many the gold standard of all chutneys. Complete with its own legend of a 19th Century British Army officer who presumably lived in British India and created this unique condiment.

The great part about making your own chutney is that you can tailor the ‘sweet & heat’ balance to your own preferences. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just picking up a jar at the supermarket!!

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Avocado Dinner Buns w/ Major Grey's Mango Chutney
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Servings
ROLLS
Servings
ROLLS
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Instructions
Avocado Rolls
  1. In a small bowl, place yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 tsp sugar. Stir; cover & set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, mashed avocado, eggs. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  3. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture gradually, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  4. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least an hour in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in volume.
  5. Punch dough down. Divide into 18 equal pieces in shape into balls. Place into a greased baking dish & cover with plastic wrap/towel. Allow to rise until doubled in volume, about an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake rolls about 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven; cool for just a few minutes then brush with the Tbsp of butter. Serve with Mango Chutney.
Mango Chutney
  1. In a saucepan, combine all chutney ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring, until reduced & thick. Refrigerate any not used on rolls.

Ham & Cheese Cornbread Roll

If you like corn, chances are you are also a big fan of cornbread in its many interesting forms. I used to think that cornbread was so good it didn’t need anything extra thrown in the ‘mix’.

Cornbread appeals to all of our senses, a pop and sizzle as batter pours onto a hot griddle, the earthy fragrance that fills the kitchen when its baking. Then there’s the taste …. !! We love what makes us feel good, especially comfort foods that are warm, simple and delicious.

The beauty of cornbread is that it can take on so many different flavors. It can be sweet, savory or as spicy as you would like. Thanks to its simplicity, there are very few food items it wouldn’t pair with, so the limits to cornbread-based culinary creations are endless.

While this isn’t necessarily your classic cornbread it makes a very interesting meal served with a baked potato and some Parmesan zucchini fries.

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Ham & Cheese Cornbread Roll
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slices
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Instructions
Cornbread Roll
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a 15 X 10 X 1-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar & baking powder; set aside. With a hand mixer, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff but not dry. Alternately fold in cornmeal mixture & oil; fold in cheddar cheese saving some to sprinkle on top of roll before placing in the oven.
  3. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan & bake for 5-6 minutes (top should spring back when lightly touched with finger; do NOT over bake). Remove from oven & turn bread onto a towel that has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Remove & discard parchment paper. Starting at narrow end, roll bread with towel; set on a wire rack & allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Filling
  1. In a small bowl, mash together butter, mustard, onion & Worcestershire sauce until combined & thick. Unroll bread, remove towel & top with ham slices; spread filling mixture over ham & sprinkle with shredded Swiss cheese. Reroll bread & place, seam side down on lined jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese & bake until cheese is melted, about 5-6 minutes.

Mexican Sweet Buns or ‘Conchas’

The quintessential Mexican ‘Conchas’ are a type of sweet roll topped with a cookie crust, shaped for it’s namesake, a seashell. Though its precise origin is not known, all conchas are made from an enriched, yeasted dough similar to brioche or challah. What isn’t really clear, is the point at which a baker decided to cover a small round of sweet dough with a thin layer of cookie dough and then bake it.

Traditionally, the bread roll itself is not flavored, but the cookie dough topping has either a vanilla or chocolate flavor. This topping is an essential element on the sweet roll but the color or the way it is scored or decorated can be done in many different ways. Sometimes, brown or white sugar or even colorful sprinkles are dusted over the topping.

Conchas are sometimes split in half horizontally and filled with anything from whipped cream, custard or even refried beans. Some bakeries have been experimenting with new concha flavors. Cinnamon, walnut, agave nectar with golden raisins and pecan flavor are some that have been introduced.

It seems that conchas are at their best when eaten fresh which makes good sense being made from a yeast dough. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can create some of these little conchas with such a mysterious past.

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Mexican Sweet Buns or 'Conchas'
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Ingredients
Sweet Buns
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Buns
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Instructions
Sweet Dough
  1. In a dish, add yeast to lukewarm WATER & allow to sit for 5 minutes so yeast can activate. In a large bowl, whisk together lukewarm MILK, sugar, butter, salt & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine. Add flour, about a 1/3 at a time, combining after each addition. Once all the flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes. The dough should be elastic & slightly sticky but easy to handle.
  2. Place dough in a large greased bowl & turn the dough over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Topping
  1. In a bowl, beat the sugar, margarine & vanilla together until light & fluffy. Stir in flour & mix until a thick dough forms. Add additional flour if needed. Divide dough into 3 or 4 even pieces & tint each with food color. If the dough becomes sticky from the food color, add more flour. Cover pieces with plastic wrap until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. When dough is ready, turn out on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces ( press dough into a 14 x 14-inch rectangle; with a sharp knife cut into 4 strips in each direction). Shape each dough piece into a ball by tucking the corners under ( don't roll between your palms, this will just deflate the dough & make it tough). Place dough buns on a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  2. Roll out the topping pieces on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter or pastry ring. Use the pastry ring to score lines into the dough to resemble the ridges on a seashell (concha). Transfer the scored topping dough rounds to the buns using an offset spatula. If the topping doesn't adhere naturally, use a pastry brush to apply a few dots of water on the underside before applying to the buns.
  3. Allow the buns to rise for about 40 minutes. Before its time to bake, preheat oven to 375 F. Bake buns for 18-20 minutes or until they are just lightly browned on the bottom.
Recipe Notes
  • The topping is made with margarine as it will yield a crunchy & flaky texture.

Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles

Despite having a fairly short history, Mexican fajitas are one of the most popular dishes in the world today. Apart from the fact that fajitas are incredibly tasty, they are actually very healthy not to mention the ease in cooking and assembling them.

As with many foods, time has changed the contents of the fajita and has evolved slightly from the original simplicity of the ranch worker’s dish, with different cuts of meat being chosen such as chicken or seafood. The vegetables have not changed as much as the meat, with peppers, onions & chilies still being predominant ingredients in the dish.

Probably, the most important thing when making fajitas is the marinade. It not only makes the ingredients incredibly tender but very flavorful.

Fajitas usually require some tortillas. While they are wonderful tasting, using zucchini noodles (or zoodles) as a base for the fajita chicken gives this meal an amazing flavor. Zucchini is perhaps the most popular choice for vegetable noodles. It’s long, thin shape makes it easy to spiralize and its neutral flavor allows it to pair well with almost any sauce or topping. This meal has such eye appeal along with a great taste.

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Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine oil, lemon juice & seasonings (RESERVE a small bit of seasoning for zucchini noodles); add chicken, seal & turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Wash zucchini & trim off ends. Using a spiralizer, cut zucchini into 'noodles'. Set aside. Prepare peppers & green onion.
  3. When chicken has finished marinating, Add 1 Tbsp oil to a griddle & saute peppers & onion until just tender crisp. set aside & keep warm. Add another Tbsp oil to griddle. Saute zucchini noodles for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with reserved seasoning & keep warm.
  4. Grill marinated chicken strips until cooked through. Divide zucchini between serving plates. Top with peppers, onions & grilled chicken. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Stuffed Onion Rings w/ Guacamole & Cheese

Before I get off the topic of Merida, Mexico adventures, I thought our readers would find this interesting.

Last year when we arrived in Merida, it became clear to Brion that a cap would not suffice in the 33 degree temperature. Our goal was to find a traditional ‘Jipijapa’ Panama hat. This is a soft, pliable hat made from the fibers of the jipijapa palm in several towns south of Merida.

Jipijapa requires a fair amount of water to grow to about 5-8 ft (1.5 – 2.5 m) tall. This evergreen is not a true palm. Each plant is a cluster of about 1-inch thick stalks topped by a dark umbrella-like leaf nearly 3 feet wide. Young leaves and shoot tips are edible and said to taste like asparagus. The plants need 2-3 years to mature before its youngest and most delicate light colored leaves can be harvested to make the famous white/cream hats. Older, tougher parts of the plants can be used to make brooms, mats, purses, baskets, small ornaments or earrings, ie. things that do not need the flexibility of hats.

Jilipapa is a Mexican version of the Ecuadorian ‘treasure’ called the panama hat. About the same time the hats were made famous in Ecuador, a priest introduced a wide variety of Guatemala palms to Becal, a village that is the center of the panama hat trade in Mexico.

The Mayas of the area quickly started weaving hats, the main difference was they were working in a much drier environment and had to devise a way to keep the fibers moist and cool. They started working in caves in their backyards. The cave environment allows the weavers to interlace the pattern more tightly without fear of tearing or cracking the ‘straw’. It also prevents sweat from the weavers’ hands to stain the fiber.

Hats can take anywhere from a couple of days to six months to make. To begin with, there is the picker of the young unopened palm leaves. The best strips are boiled, dried and whitened with a sulfur in a special ‘oven’. Next the brim’s edge is made by back weaving the straw. This prevents the hat from unraveling. It is then tightened. For some hats that takes 3 full circles around the hat, or finer work, 5 circles. This prevents the brim from puckering. The hat is then washed and bleached, then beaten with a special mallet or shell to soften its fibers. Now it is trimmed of any excess, ironed and blocked. The blocking process can take up to 2 weeks. Finally, a sweat band is stitched inside the hat and a decorative band applied on the outside.

Like most popular wardrobe staples, the demand for these hats has led to the industrialization of the hat making process. The process of hand weaving is a dying art that is worth appreciation. In 2012, it was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Although the price was a bit steep, you get what you pay for. After being worn on 2 holidays and packed in a suitcase to travel back and forth to Mexico, Brion’s hat still looks great.

I realize I got quite far removed from the food aspect of the blog. Who knew there was so much to know about the Jipijapa hat! These onion rings really kick up the basic burger a notch. Well worth a try!

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Stuffed Onion Rings w/ Guacamole & Cheese
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Guacamole
  1. In a large bowl, mash avocados into a chunky paste. Add red onion, tomato, lime juice & cilantro; stir until well combined. Set aside.
Onion Rings
  1. Cut large onions into 1-inch thick slices, pull out 15 - 20 rings & place onto a flat tray lined with parchment paper. Fill the inside of each onion ring using about 3 Tbsp of guacamole. Insert a cube of cheese into each ring & freeze for at least 30 minutes, or until solid.
  2. In a shallow dish, whisk together flour & spices. In another shallow dish, whisk eggs & in a third dish combine breadcrumbs & crushed tortilla chips. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  3. One at a time, dip frozen onion rings into flour, then eggs & finally breadcrumb mixture. Spread onion rings in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Coat with a baking spray or drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Place into oven & bake until golden brown & crispy, about 15 - 20 minutes. Serve with lime wedges & a dipping sauce or do what we did & put inside of burgers for a full meal deal!

Marquesitas

Yucatan food is markedly different from Mexican food as most of us know it. One reason is, of course, the pronounced Mayan influence, but numerous other cultures have left their mark on the cuisine as well. From the British and Spanish to the Lebanese and even the Dutch with their Edam cheese. No one knows for sure how the Dutch cheese got to this part of Mexico … some attribute it to Caribbean trade routes, others claim wealthy Yucatan hacienda owners who grew ‘henequen’, (a fiber used to make rope), brought it back from their European travels.

Like many desserts and culinary traditions around the world, the invention of ‘marquesitas’ has its own unique story. Legend has it that the marquesita was invented in the city of Merida, Mexico. During one cold (??) winter when ice cream sales were down, an ice cream vendor started experimenting with ideas to use the waffle cone in a different way. It was then that the marquesita began to take shape.

Marquesitas are like crunchy crepes: a batter is poured into what looks like a waffle maker, sweet or savory add-ins are tossed in, then the whole thing is rolled up once its crispy. The crepe itself tastes like a waffle cone with hints of vanilla and almond … but its all about what sweet and savory fillings you choose. Traditionally, Dutch Edam cheese was shaved right into the crepe.

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Marquesitas
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Course dessert, Lunch
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert, Lunch
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a blender, place all ingredients EXCEPT cheese & puree until smooth. Set aside for 10 minutes or cover & refrigerate up to 12 hours. Stir before using.
  2. If a marquesita iron is not available a 10-inch crepe pan or even just a flat bottomed non-stick skillet will do just fine. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, pour about 1/4 cup batter out in a 10-inch circular shape. You want to create a very thin layer. Once the bottom begins to become toasted & golden , loosen the edges with a spatula & flip to toast the other side.
  3. Sprinkle the marquesita with some grated cheese while it is still pliable. Roll up into a big, wide roll. Finish with some gated cheese on top. You can add whatever filling you choose ... sweet or savory!

Mexican Lasagna

Having just returned from Merida, Mexico and holiday memories are still fresh in our minds, we wanted to share a few of the city’s highlights.

Merida is the cultural heart and soul of the Yucatan with multiple museums, art galleries, restaurants, theaters and stores. Brion and I have made a point of staying in hotels which are a close walk to Paseo de Montejo. This main avenue of the city was named after the founder of Merida, Francisco de Montejo. Built at the end of the 19th century and inspired by the boulevards of France, Paseo de Montejo used to be the site of mega mansions belonging to the well-to-do families in the city. While many of them now are the headquarters of national and international banks and companies, they still retain the heritage of the city.

Music and dancing play an important role in the day to day life of Merida’s residents. Outdoor, live performances can be seen frequently around the city. Cultural activities are plentiful on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The main road is closed off to traffic on Sundays for ‘Family Bike Day’, a day when families are encouraged to get out and ride their bikes along Montejo avenue. This historic city offers a wonderful insight into its rich culture, incredible cuisine and friendly people.

If you care to read about some of the tours we took last year while we were in Merida, check out my blog articles on this site from February 2019.

Today’s blog recipe is called Mexican ‘lasagna’ due to the layering of tortillas in place of lasagna pasta noodles.

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Mexican Lasagna
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, scramble-fry ground beef with celery, onion & green pepper. Add tomatoes, enchilada sauce, olives salt & pepper; simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in skillet. Cut 2 tortillas into quarters; cook remaining 6 tortillas & the quarters in oil till crisp & golden. Drain on paper towels. Set aside quartered tortillas & break up remaining six. In a bowl, combine cheddar, cottage cheese & slightly beaten egg.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 9 X 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of meat mixture. Top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture then 1/2 of the BROKEN tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with meat mixture. Top with quartered tortillas.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes then allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.

Rosca de Reyes

The tradition of a New Year’s Cake is one that spans countless cultures and is meant to symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. The cake or bread usually contains symbolic items baked inside which is believed to give good luck to the receiver.

Most of the cakes are consumed at midnight on new year’s eve … though some cultures cut their cake on Christmas or the Epiphany on January 6th.

In January of 2019, Brion and I spent some vacation time in Merida, Mexico. We stayed at a wonderful boutique hotel called Hotel Del Peregrino. On the morning of January 6th we were served some Rosca de Reyes (cake/bread) at breakfast. This was the first time either of us had tasted this traditional bread. It was absolutely delicious and yes, you might have known, I would not only have to make some, but learn the history behind it.

January the 6th is a special day in Mexico, known as ‘Three Kings Day’, which represents the height of the Christmas season. This date marks the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men who traveled from afar, bearing gifts for the infant baby Jesus. The day when the wise men found the baby Jesus is known as Epiphany which is the event represented by the Rosca de Reyes.

The circular form of the rosca represents God’s eternal love which has no beginning or end. The dried candied fruits that adorn the bread symbolize the King’s crown, while the traditional figurines placed inside the bread represent the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is obligated to host an upcoming party on the occasion of ‘Candlemas Day’, a Christian holiday which occurs each year on February 2nd. The traditional menu for this event would be tamales and hot chocolate.

In researching the internet for a traditional recipe for the cake/bread it seems orange and vanilla were usually in the actual dough but as for the decorations, there were a lot of fruit and nut choices. Apart from the circular shape it looked like personal preference dictated your decoration design. Here’s my best interpretation of Rosca de Reyes!

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Rosca de Reyes
Instructions
Bread Dough
  1. In a small bowl, combine lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir with a fork until dissolved. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes in a warm place until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, salt, anise seed & cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the flour & add eggs, yolk, cooled butter, orange zest & vanilla. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry; using a wooden spoon, mix until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
  3. Place on a lightly floured work surface & start kneading until you have a smooth dough. It will take about 10 minutes to get good results. Be careful not to add to much flour to your work area, the texture should be soft, smooth & holds a ball shape.
  4. Place in an buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 -2 hours.
Bread Decoration
  1. In a bowl, cream butter with sugar; add egg yolk & mix until combined. Add flour & continue to mix until a soft dough forms. Refrigerate if your not quite ready to use it yet.
Assembly
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When dough has doubled in size, turn onto a lightly floured surface & knead a few times. Shape the dough into a large ring & place it on the prepared baking sheet. Seal the ends to close the ring. Loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or more until almost doubled in volume.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small dish, whisk together egg wash. Divide the 'decoration dough' into 4-6 equal sections. Roll each with your hands until you get a strip long enough to decorate the ring. Brush dough with egg wash.
  3. Place the 'decoration dough' strips around the ring, try to place them facing one another, then decorate the ring with candied or dry fruit such as mango, pineapple, cherries, figs, citron, orange or lemon peel or quince paste strips or any personal choice you wish. Once the ring is decorated, sprinkle it with sugar & sliced almonds.
  4. Bake the bread for 20 minutes or until the bread is a nice golden brown color. Ovens vary so it may take a bit longer. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool. After bread has cooled insert the plastic baby dolls from the bottom of bread. Some times the plastic dolls are inserted into the bread before baking, personally I think inserting them afterwards works just fine.