Gâteau des Rois (© Mara Yamauchi)
When I was running 100-plus miles per week as an elite marathon runner, it’s fair to say I was often hungry! Nothing burns off calories quite like marathon training.
One of my favourite snacks was fruit bread – slightly sweet bread with dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas. I found it easy to digest and a handy, quick source of energy if I had to train before the next proper meal. Fruit bread comes in various guises. Hot cross buns, traditionally eaten at Easter, are one of my favourites, as is my home-made fruity tea bread.
During a training camp in Lanzarote a few years ago, I happened to walk into a local bakery on the sixth of January – the festival of Epiphany. Being a fruit bread devotee, I was thrilled to find the bakery filled with what I discovered were Roscón de Reyes. This is a ring-shaped, slightly sweet bread similar to brioche. It is colourfully decorated with candied fruits to represent the crowns of the three kings who, according to Christian tradition, visited baby Jesus on the sixth of January. Having completed a long run that morning, I had to try my new discovery, and it was delicious! Sweet, fruit breads are all variations on a theme but I was excited to find a Spanish version of my favourite running snack.
When I discover a new food, I always have to try making it. After researching Roscón de Reyes, I was amazed to find that variations of it are eaten all over the world. Latin America (Rosca de Reyes), German-speaking countries (Dreikönigskuchen), Portugal (Bolo Rei), France (Gâteau des Rois) and the US Gulf Coast (King Cake) all have slightly different versions of this famous bread. They all, however, have the common feature of hidden ‘treasure’ – traditionally a bean or figurine, which is a special treat for the lucky person who finds it in their slice!
My recipe is one for the French Gâteau des Rois, which is a tradition in southern France. I have chosen to hide a Euro coin as my treasure to celebrate being European!
I hope I have enticed you to try making this delicious bread, which is the perfect food before or after a training run.
10g dried yeast
50ml milk, slightly warmed
600g strong white bread flour
2 eggs, beaten
180ml milk, slightly warmed
10g butter at room temperature, chopped into small pieces
Grated zest of one orange or one lemon
100g dried cranberries
Treasure: a dried bean or coin
1 egg, beaten well, for glazing
Decoration of your choice: candied fruits eg crystalised citrus and glacé cherries, crystalised sugar, flaked almonds, a gold paper crown
• Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Mix together the yeast, 50ml milk and 100g of the flour and set aside for one hour.
• Mix the remaining dough ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, mix well and knead on a floured surface for 15 mins. Leave in a warm place to rest for two hours.
• Turn out the dough and knead again for five minutes. Form the dough into a ring shape. You can either do this by rolling it into a sausage and joining the ends, or rolling it into a disc shape and creating a hole in the middle with your hands.
• Wrap your treasure in foil if necessary, and bury it inside the dough.
• Place the dough ring on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, and leave to rise for two hours (I use an inverted ramekin in the centre of the dough to help keep its ring shape).
• Brush the dough all over with the beaten egg to glaze it. Decorate as you wish with the candied fruits and, if using, crystallised sugar.
• Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes until golden (if you hear a hollow sound when you tap the bottom, it is done). Leave to cool on a wire rack.
• When still slightly warm, transfer to a serving plate. If you have not used crystallised sugar, sprinkle icing sugar on top, and add any further decorations.
Bonne année et bonne santé!
Mara Yamauchi for World Athletics