MEXICO CITY – A Mexican bakery is banking on doing things the traditional way when it comes to making its “rosca” – a ring-shaped pastry hailing from Spain that is eaten during Epiphany celebrations.
Commercial alternatives have hit the market in recent years including ingredients like chocolate and factory-made biscuits. These are sold by supermarkets months ahead of Three Kings Day on Jan. 6.
But the flavor of tradition lives on at Pasteleria Ideal, one of Mexico City’s most emblematic bakeries, where 80,000 rings are made between Jan. 2-6, according to its production manager, Jose Piña.
“We’re using the same recipe as 93 years ago. The same materials, the same quality that we’ve employed all along,” Piña told EFE.
The rosca, known in Spain as the “roscon,” is a circular sweet bread decorated with fruits to look like the crown of the three wise men – Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar – who visited Baby Jesus in Biblical times.
The European tradition of consuming this bread around Epiphany has been mixed with indigenous traditions.
In Mexico, it is customary for hot chocolate and a sweet corn drink called “atole” to accompany it, and to split it with family to mark the end of the holiday season that kicked off on Dec. 12 with the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
“So really we’re selling tradition. They’re gifts, people see them like that. From the moment they come into our bakery, people go back in time, childhood memories come back and this is part of the reason for the bakery’s success,” Piña told EFE.
The market has been flooded with roscas made with hazelnut cream, chocolate, international brand cookies – and even versions that include taco meat.
But Piña believes that consumers want to hold onto their traditions, with many of them visiting the bakery with memories of their parents and grandparents doing the same.
“We’re still in the market as we always have been. I would even say that we sell more. Every year there are more people, we make more,” he said.
“We really see our bread, and in this case our rosca, as a success.”
A traditional rosca is made with butter and fruits, such as quince, figs, orange peel and cherries, said Maximiliano Diaz, who has been working at the bakery for eight years.
The key, besides the quality of the butter, is in the design and finish, the baker said, adding that each rosca takes up to five hours to make.
“You have to watch that it’s right, that the dough’s well distributed, the fruit well placed and that it’s the right size. Then there are details to take care of,” added Diaz.
A small plastic figure of Baby Jesus is hidden in each rosca, and, according to Mexican tradition, the person who ends up with the slice containing the figure has to buy the tamales on Candlemass Day on Feb. 2.
The store has over 150 bakers, who work from five in the morning to keep up with demand.
Diaz said he was proud of the teamwork that helps Mexican families celebrate one of the first holidays of the year.
“It’s a great satisfaction. A joy. It’s tradition. The taste and all that make us be here working all day,” he said.