Monday, 2 May 2011

Roscón de Reyes (Out of season cooking 2)

For the Three Wise Men celebration in Spain it's the tradition to share a ring shaped cake, the roscón de reyes, with a small figurine or a bean in side. Who ever finds it is crowned king for the day (at least within the family and as long as they don't break their teeth) but will also have to pay for the cake next year (no one ever seems to remember this though). As the cake can be quite expensive for what they are, I thought I'd dabble with it myself and found the home-made version far superior to any one I'd ever tried. So here goes:

650g Bread flour (high percentage of gluten)
250 ml. milk
25-30 gr. fresh yeast
120 gr. sugar
120 gr. soft butter
2 eggs
1 extra egg yolk (Keep whites for brushing the roscón at the end)
2.5 tbsp. orange blossom water (the secret ingredient which gives the roscón its special taste)
3 tbsp. contreau or rum
Shredded peel of 1 lemon and 1 orange (not the white part, only the outside)
Candies fruit
1 egg
A heat resistant figurine or bean
Whipping cream

In a bowl, add 50 ml of lukewarm milk, 3 tbsp flour and the crumbled fresh yeast. Cover it and set aside for 1 hour for the yeast to get going.

After an hour, add the rest of the ingredients with the soft butter at the end.

Knead well, and by well I mean 10 minutes. Add a little flour if too sticky, but remember it should be rather wet and just slipping off your fingers. I've used a dough hook on my mixer with great results. This allows the dough to be wetter and ultimately more humid.

Place it in the bowl, cover and set aside to rise for 2 hours. It should have doubled by them. Punch the dough down lightly, but don't let it deflate completely. Separate it in two.

Make a ring by making a whole in the middle. Carefully stretch it out evenly and and tuck it under itself to stretch the surface. Remember to make the centre whole big as it will keep growing during the final rise and baking. Stick the figurine in some where from underneath so it isn't seen. Cover for 1 more hour to rise. Beat the extra egg whites with a bit of milk and brush it on the cake. Decorate with candied fruit and sugar.

Place a bowl with water at the base of the oven for humidity and bake the cake in the middle of the oven at 180ºC for 20-25 minutes or until it's golden brown on the outside. Take it out and place it on a cooling rack for at least 20-30 minutes. The cake is still baking on the inside so don't overbake it.

Whip some cream with some sugar and vanilla. Cut the roscón open and add the cream.

Panna Cotta with blueberries

Almost as easy as going out to buy a dessert. Panna Cotta (which sounds a lot more appetizing in Italian than when translated to 'cooked cream') is really dead simple. You just need to boil some cream, add sugar, vanilla and gelatin. The hardest part is waiting for it to set. It's often accompanied by fruit or berries but can easily be enjoyed on its own. I had some frozen blueberries left over and thought I'd add them to the mix. I also used a siphon to make the mixture a little lighter and more like a mousse, but it's absolutely dispensable. Give it a try, you can thank me later...


300 ml cream (I used whipping cream)
200 ml semi skimmed milk (you can vary the amounts according to your diet)
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 sheets of gelatin
1 handful of frozen blueberries (optional)

Start by leaving the gelatin in cold water to soak while preparing the rest. This allows it to 'bloom', i.e. absorb some water and become malleable. Mix the milk and cream, heat it to a light simmer (I use the microwave, but you can use a pot). Add the vanilla and sugar. Stir it in until dissolved. Remove the excess water from the gelatin, which by now should be soft, and add a bit of the hot cream. Stir till it dissolves and add it to the rest of the cream. Stir it in well. Set aside to cool down a bit.

To make a layer of blueberries, I put the frozen berries at the bottom of a bread form and pour just enough cream over to almost cover them. As they are frozen they will make the cream set faster. Put them in the freezer to speed the process up a bit further. If you just pour all the cream over they will float to the top and when turned out on a plate they will be at the bottom.

When the blueberry part has become all stiff after 5-10 minutes pour the rest of the cream on top. I used a siphon to make it a little more like a mousse, but I know that only the kitchen freaks have one of those, so don't worry. Let it set in the fridge for about 4 hours.

The final panna cotta with a blueberry layer on top. Great dessert when you've got a lot of other things to do...