Rosca de Pascua: Argentinian Easter Cake with Jordan Almonds
In my Brooklyn neighborhood, I’ve noticed the windows of Italian bakeries steadily filling with Easter cakes and breads during the past few weeks. While the marzipan lambs and braided loaves stuffed with dyed eggs are lovely eye candy, they only reminded me how badly I wanted to make my own Argentinian rosca de pascua this year. The brioche-like bread that is shaped into a ring, covered in pastry cream and topped with candied cherries or almonds is traditionally sold in Argentinian bakeries in the week leading up to Easter. Like the Italian version, hard-boiled eggs are sometimes baked into the bread, but chocolate eggs have become a popular substitute.
I decided to keep this recipe simple by brushing the loaf with a light glaze and then covering it with toasted almonds. Instead of dyed eggs, I added a few Jordan almonds for their shape and color. To ensure an even layer of rich cream throughout, I used pastry cream as the bread’s filling. If the Latin American rosca de reyes marks the end of the winter holiday season and its cousin the Mardi Gras Louisiana king cake signals the beginning of Lent, then the Argentinian rosca de pascua lets you pick up right where the others left off.
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and at room temperature
Prepare the dough. Combine the milk, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let it stand until it begins to foam, about 10 minutes.
Using the paddle attachment, add the eggs, rum, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest and lemon zest to the yeast mixture, and stir at low speed until well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, alternating with the butter, until both are well incorporated, about 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until the dough begins to pull away from sides of the bowl, about 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be smooth but still sticky. Pour the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place. Allow the dough to rise until it doubles in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Refrigerate the dough until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Prepare the pastry cream. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat until it thickens slightly and registers 200 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Combine the milk, egg yolks, cornstarch and salt in a mixing bowl, and whisk until the mixture is well combined and there are no visible yolks. Pass the milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a separate 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Whisk in the cooled syrup and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. It will continue to thicken as it cools. If not using immediately, cover the surface of the cream with parchment paper and refrigerate until chilled, up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a nonstick liner or parchment paper.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a large log shape, then join the ends to create a ring with a hole in the middle. Place a large cookie cutter in the center to maintain the opening while it bakes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Allow to rest until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Brush the dough with the egg wash. Place in the preheated oven. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Prepare the glaze. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, and bring to a steady simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the orange juice. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Assemble the rosca. Carefully halve the bread horizontally with a serrated knife. Spread the bottom layer with pastry cream and replace the top of the rosca. Brush the top of the rosca with the glaze and cover in toasted almonds. Decorate with sugared almonds, if using, or decorative sugar.
Ana Sofia Peláez covers the spectrum of Spanish and Latin American cuisine on her blog, hungrysofia.com. From the rich smells and flavors of the Cuban food she grew up with to modern Peruvian causas, hearty Brazilian feijodas and delicate Mexican flor de calabaza soup, she’s always looking for her next great meal.