Decline and fall of the roscón de Reyes
Among all the moments I like about Christmas - I'm sorry, I'm not one of those intellectuals who hate them for kids, consumers and other topics - one of my favorites has always been the breakfast of the 6th. I never forgive the roscón de Reyes, for several reasons. Have some exciting childhood adventure, when you longed for the king to touch you and were afraid to find the bean. It is one of the few products that, when eaten only on this date, still retains its temporality against wind and tide, which increases its enjoyment. And if it is well done, for me it is one of the most delicious buns that exist, capable of taking you to nirvana if you accompany it with a hot chocolate.
If it's well done, of course. That is, if it has been prepared with honesty, respecting its essence and using good ingredients: flour, milk, butter, sugar, egg, orange blossom water and, from there, the personal touch that you want to give the dough with Citrus, rum, cinnamon or lemon. Letting it ferment long enough and baking it. It doesn't seem complicated, right? Well, it must be, considering the very low level of most of the roscones I have tried in recent years, bought in all kinds of patisseries, bakeries and Spanish stores.
These roscones do not have much relation with my childhood memories, nor with the decent versions that I have rarely had the opportunity to try. They are nothing more than zafios buns that stay dry in a matter of hours, whose mass must be made by the man who does everything in Spain that Astrud was talking about in his song. Everyone tastes exactly the same: a standard industrial pastry dough. Well, I lie: there are slight variations depending on the liters of "aromatizing" chemical essences that may have been used to camouflage the insipidity of the bun itself. Of course, most carry their good kilos of sugar and candied fruit over the millennia, which must keep up the tradition.
More than once I have wondered if the chungo roscón was an obsession of mine or my family, very complaining about pastries in general. That's why yesterday I asked my followers on Twitter if it happened to them too. The response was overwhelming.
It seems that there are enough people out there with the deplorable quality of many roscones. And with its extravagant price considering the tricks they give you in return. It almost seems more reasonable to me what the big supermarkets offer you: chemical flavor threads without any resemblance to the original, overflowing with essences and hydrogenated fats and with a list of laboratory ingredients longer than the distribution of The Miserables, but after all, cheap.
The decline of the roscón de Reyes is not breaking news. I would say that it has been taking place since the massive introduction of industrial bakery in the Spain of the eighties. There is a fact that marks a before and after: the appearance of cream as a filling. As in so many other cakes, whipped cream meets the function of masking deficiencies. It doesn't matter if the bun stays drier than a pumice stone and it tastes like nothing more absolute: a good dose of cream will make the fat and sugar flood your palate and make you "rich". That the cream does not strain anymore? It's okay, man, that's why we have the chocolate cream, the sprig that the roscón needed to take for dead. By the way, the issue of cream also ignited passions on Twitter.
There are places where good roscones are still made. The gastronomic critic of this newspaper, José Carlos Capel, published yesterday a list of 10 patisseries in which the honor of this Christmas classic is not tainted. Those who for economic or geographical reasons cannot access the products of this class of establishments have no choice but to prepare it at home. That is not a bad plan either: it is not the easiest dish to make and some skill and patience is required so that you do not get a wheel of reinforced cement, but there are good recipes on the internet that pave the way.
I imagine that this entry will raise protests in the guild of alluded, with the usual usual criticism: "You are hurting the sector." It seems to me that what hurts the sector is the lack of self-criticism and conformity, undoubtedly fueled by the low demand of consumers abhorred by years and years of shabby pastry. With the roscón the same thing happened to us as with the bread, the muffins or the croissants: we have forgotten how they really were.
Do you know any place where good roscones are sold? Have you tried to make them at home? Tell your experience in the comments.