Most Viewed Stories
Sweetbread in demand from baker during Dia de Reyes celebration
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — Paula Ramos will leave the debate to the scholars about who started the tradition of serving sweet bread or cake during the Christian celebration of Three Kings' Day, or Dia de Reyes.
For Ramos, a San Luis baker, what's important is keeping the tradition alive and serving customers who want the bread, or rosca, for the occasion.
Three Kings' Day, which falls on Jan. 6, commemorates the three wise men who traveled from afar bearing gifts for baby Jesus. In some households in Mexico and along the border, gifts are exchanged on this day in lieu of Christmas Day.
And Ramos, owner of Pau's Bakery in San Luis, Ariz., has been busy in recent days filling about 400 orders for the rosca for today's celebration.
“Fortunately it's one of the seasonal breads that many people ask us for, and that means we are keeping up the tradition,” she said.
Dried and candied fruit, sugar and cinnamon toppings are the typical ingredients of the circular loaves of rosca, she said, but recipes for the bread vary, depending on the tastes of customers.
“There are some who ask for bread filled with cream cheese, and others who prefer it without fruit.”
The rosca is prepared in similar fashion as “conchitas,” a Mexican sweetbread with hard, shell-shaped crusts and sweet and soft interiors, although rosca is often garnished on top with dried and candied fruit.
In Mexico and in the Southwest, the tradition has evolved into the custom of baking inside the bread a small plastic figure of a child, symbolizing Biblical story of the baby Jesus being hidden from King Herod, who had plotted the infant's death. As part of the tradition, the person who finds one of the figures in his or her slice of bread must pay for the tamales that are served the following Feb. 2 during the celebration of Candlemas Day.
“I believe what is important is that families and friends get together to share the rosca, and that they maintain those bonds,” said Ramos, whose parents instilled in her the tradition of the serving and eating rosca on Three Kings' Day years ago in San Luis Rio Colorado, Son.
While a variety of fruit and other toppings can be used to adorn the sweetbread, the secret of its popularity lies in the careful preparation of the flour, Ramos said.
This year's customer orders for the bread are on par with last year's, when more than 400 people called in orders, among them people who drove from the Foothills to Ramos' bakery in San Luis to pick up the bread.
“For us, this is something special,” she said. “It's one of those breads for special occasions that are most requested, and that helps to maintain the tradition.”