Time for Roscas de Reyes on King’s Day

GARY LONG | STAFF WRITER

The holiday is celebrated on Jan. 6, the day of the epiphamy, which this year falls on Sunday.

The Friday before “is like our Black Friday,” said Marlene Popoca, who with her husband Esteban has operated the Fiber Plus bakery for the past 4 1/2 years on the stretch of Paredes Line Road just north of Boca Chica Boulevard. Esteban hails from the Mexican state of Puebla and takes great pride in preparing flavorful, high-quality breads that bring satisfaction to his customers, he said Thursday morning while taking a break from preparing orders.

The Fiber Plus is like most bakeries but different in that it uses whole-wheat flour exclusively. It also sells breads made specifically for diabetics, and others that are vegetarian.

Esteban said the whole-wheat dough, along with flax seed, oats and other ingredients has health benefits and helps with digestion. The roscas at Fiber Plus also include a filling made from cream cheese with chopped dates, figs, apple and pineapple and pieces of crystallized fruit.

The cakes symbolize the king’s crown and include strips of red, green and white candied fruit, the red for rubies, green for emeralds and white for diamonds. Importantly, they also include one or several plastic baby Jesus figurines.

By tradition people at rosca parties on the epiphamy whose cake contains one of the tiny figurines are then obligated to host a dinner on Feb. 2, Candlemas Day, and provide tamales and atole to the guests.

At the Popoca bakery there are three sizes of roscas: small with two babies, medium with four and large or family-sized with six. Prices are $22, $27 and $50, Marlene said, explaining that more-expensive ingredients add cost.

“One family special ordered an extra grande because the whole family was here from Louisiana and Mexico and they were barely fitting into the same house,” Marlene said. “They all wanted to have one big celebration before they all split up and went home.”

Recently, Marlene has been busy fine-tuning a line of vegetarian products to complement the pastry shop’s regular fare. She said the bakery has a group of regular clients who are Zumba enthusiasts, weight-lifters, doctors and nurses who appreciate the healthy vegan offerings.