Some time ago, the Rosca da Rainha had an exclusive audience in Brazil; the scrumptious sweet bread belonged to the upper-class individuals with refined taste and pedigree. Its name accounted for its attitude: the queen’s biscuit.
In present-day Brazil, we are all entitled to the exquisite delights intended for queens. The imported flour of the colonial times is now produced in abundance, and individuals of all classes have refined their tastes and pedigree.
Most Brazilians imagine that the sweet braided bread originated in Portugal. because it is there that our history finds direct associations with royalty. But in truth, the eggy sweet bread is a successful hybrid of the Italian panettone and the celebrated Jewish challah.
The Brazilian queen’s biscuit is essentially the history of its creation. It evolved to represent unified strength when weaved into a straight braid, and infinity, when its ends are connected and baked in the form of a circle.
One of my sisters is a self-proclaimed “queen of the rosca da rainha”; out of her oven comes the quintessential samplings of the delicacy. She says that the sophisticated sweet bread started to infiltrate the masses through a grassroots movement of churchgoers during the ’60s. On Sunday afternoons, the parishioners held small bazaars on church yards, where the local auctioneer sold baked goods donated by the women from the neighborhood.
In those years of unabashedly striving to breakdown social barriers, the homemakers, disguised with philanthropic good intentions, bid high prices on the Rosca da Rainha placed into the auction by the mayor’s wife. And after a while, even the widow letter-writer of the small village had had the chance to deconstruct the celebrated Queen’s Biscuit recipe. A few queen’s biscuits of anonymous origin were auctioned in the bazaars. And shortly after that, all the baked-good offerings regained a level playing field to raise funds for the church.
I have tweaked several recipes to come up with my perfect Rosca da Rainha; but to date, I have to concede that my sister’s creations are worthy of the title “best ever.” And because the royal guards protect my sister’s recipe as if it was her kingdom, I offer here, the first runner-up.
Follow every step carefully and you will be pleased with your Queen’s Biscuit.
3 tablespoons dry yeast
2 cups whole milk, warm
2 sticks butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup grated mild cheese
12 cups flour
1 egg beaten (for egg-wash)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
Dissolve the yeast into the warm milk and set it aside
In a large bowl, cream the eggs, butter, sugar, oil, salt, and cheese.
Add the reserved yeast and milk to the egg mixture and blend well
Add the flour and mix it by hand (until it is no longer sticking to your hands) to make a soft smooth dough.
Move the dough to a smooth surface and knead for about 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 5 parts and each part into 3 smaller portions. Roll each small part into a 1-inch strand and braid them to form your bread. It will make 5 braided loaves.
Place the loaves on a greased baking sheet. Cover them with a clean dishtowel until it rises (30 to 45 min).
Carefully brush the egg wash onto each loaf and sprinkle it with turbinado sugar.
Bake it in a 350-degree preheated oven until golden (20 to 30 minutes).