Here's how I know a recipe will be a success: It's when Guillermo is lingering around while I'm taking photos of the food! When this came out of the oven, I was skeptical, as I often am in my half-Argentinean kitchen--many recipes are so foreign to me!
But in this case, Guillermo was practically pacing the living room floor.
Finally, I was done shooting. He looked at me. He looked at the rosca and the cup of coffee. He looked back at me, and said "OK! Can I eat that now, and drink the cup of coffee that's with it?"
He said that the flavor was just right--yeasty, sweet bread complimented by the pastry cream on top, with a little sweet touch from the cherries and sugar.
Rosca is the name for any ring-shaped cookie or bread--this slice started out as part of a larger ring. Rosca de Pascua is served at Easter and is very similar to a King's Cake (Rosca de Reyes) served at Mardi Gras/Epiphany. It's sweet bread, rather than cake. I mention this because my taste buds were hoping for a lemon cake with pastry cream filling! Alas.
The tradition of Rosca de Pascua comes from Spain, where the cake is called 'Mona de Pascua'. The cake is eaten family-style with coffee or yerba mate (of course) on Easter day. I topped mine with powdered sugar and sliced maraschino cherries, but some people bake hard-boiled eggs into the top of the dough, or top it with chopped almonds, and some pastry shops decorate the rosca with chocolate eggs that have a small prize inside! There are as many recipes and ways to decorate it as there are cooks making the bread.
This is sure to become an Easter tradition in our house, and maybe next year I'll even try decorating with the hard-boiled eggs! Enjoy, and a happy holiday to all.
More photos available on my flickr photostream, From Argentina With Love.
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Rosca de Pascua
Easter Bread Ring
For the Bread:
3 tablespoons yeast
3/4 cup warm water
pinch of sugar
1 lemon, zested
1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
4 cups flour
1 egg, beaten, to paint the top of the bread
For the pastry cream:
2 egg yolks
1 cup warm water
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
a dash of vanilla
In the bowl of a stand mixer, swish around some warm water to warm the bowl. Dump the water, then add in the 3/4 cup water, the yeast and the sugar and dissolve. Let sit for about 15 minutes, until the yeast is risen and bubbling. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the lemon zest, butter, vanilla, 1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk, egg, and beat together. Add to the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on low speed for 5 minutes. Add in the flour a cup at a time, mixing to incorporate, until you have added all 4 cups. You will be left with a sticky, dense dough. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, set in a warm place covered with a towel, and let rise for 1 hour.
After the hour is up, punch down the dough and remove it from the bowl. Put it on a floured and oiled counter top and roll in to a long, even cylinder. I found it easier to do two smaller cylinders and connect them at either end to make the ring, but you can do it either way. You can use a buttered and floured ring pan, a bundt pan, or (as we did) a rimmed round pizza pan with an empty 28 oz. can in the center. (Empty the contents of the can first, clean out, remove both ends and the label. Butter and flour the part of the can that will touch the dough) Lay the cylinders of dough out on the pan to form a ring. Cover with a towel, set in a warm place, and let rise 2 hours more.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Start the pastry cream--heat the egg yolks, water, sweetened condensed milk and corn starch in a small sauce pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. As the mixture gets hotter and comes to a boiling point, stir more rapidly. As it starts to thicken, remove it from heat. The consistency should be like a pudding, not thick enough to stand on its own. Stir in the vanilla.
Spoon the pastry cream onto the top of the ring of bread. It will ooze over the edges, that's ok. Paint the remaining space of the bread with the beaten egg. Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the bread is a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. Decorate with confectioner's sugar and sliced Maraschino cherries.